Florida lost the doubles point but put on an impressive showing on the singles courts and marched into the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Championship after a 4-1 win against No. 18 Vanderbilt on a fridge and windy Friday evening at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre.
With matches several hours behind schedule due to the competitive play of the three earlier contests, the Gators (20-2) didn’t finish their match until just after midnight (Eastern time zone) and the temperature dipping into the upper 30s.
The team from the Sunshine State didn’t let the cold weather effect their play on the singles courts, where the Gators received straight-set wins from Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay, Fla.), Alexandra Cercone (Seminole, Fla.), Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Caroline Hitimana (Waterloo, Belgium) and Florida improved to 26-0 all-time in SEC quarterfinal round matches.
The Gators dropped a tough doubles points to begin the match, similar to how the regular-season finale started on April 14 in Nashville, where Florida rebounded with four victories on the singles courts to earn the 4-1 team win.
The Commodore’s Ashleigh Antal and Marie Casares opened with an 8-3 win on court two against Alexandra Cercone (Seminole, Fla.) and Caroline Hitimana (Waterloo, Belgium) in 44 minutes, before Danielle Collins (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay, Fla.) came back five minutes later with an 8-2 victory over Frances Altick and Georgina Sellyn at the number three position.
The doubles point came down to court one, where Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Sofie Oyen (Leopoldsburg, Belgium) found themselves down 3-1 early to No. 10 Courtney Colton and Lauren Mira. The Gator pair was able to get the break in the 10th game and Embree held to get the match back on serve at 6-5. The Vandy pair, however, held and broke for a 7-6 lead. The Commodores won the first three points and the Gators were able to fight off two match points but not a third, as Vanderbilt captured the doubles point and the 1-0 lead in the team scoring 65 minutes into the match.
“We got outplayed at doubles, Vanderbilt played really good doubles,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “We had our chances at one, but I felt like the Vanderbilt players were a little more aggressive at the end and that made a difference.”
It was the eighth time this season Florida had dropped the doubles point.
“Just like we’ve been doing all year, we regrouped really quickly and played excellent tennis from start to finish in singles,” Thornqvist said. “Olivia was again the first one off the court and Alex was right behind her. I was happy to see Caroline racked up a win because she was hitting match point last Sunday against Vanderbilt when we abandoned the match. Overall, I was pleased.”
Janowicz collected her second individual win of the day and was the first Gator off the singles court when she posted a 6-1, 6-2 victory against Antal on court five, as the Gator junior won her team-leading 31st singles victory. Janowicz won the first two games of the match and Antal earned a break in the third game, but the Janowicz quickly regrouped and won four straight games to take the first set. The second set was nearly identical to the first and Janowicz won her 10th consecutive match and evened the team scoring at 1-all.
Cercone was the next off the court, as she earned a 6-3, 6-2 win against Georgina Sellyn on court three and gave Florida a 2-1 lead. Cercone jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first set en route to the opening frame win. The two competitors traded breaks early and Cercone earned her second break of the frame in the sixth game and held for a 5-2 lead as she broke one more time to earn her 10th straight victory, as well as the 90th of her career.
Embree gave Florida a 3-1 lead in the team scoring as she topped Lauren Mira, 6-2, 6-2, on court one. The Gator All-American earned breaks in the fourth and eighth games to take the first set and then jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second. There were three straight breaks early in the second and Embree came out ahead, as she held for a 4-2 lead en route to her 17th straight singles victory which also was her 35th consecutive win in dual match singles action.
Embree’s fellow senior, Hitimana polished off the dual match victory with her 6-4, 6-3 win against Altick on court six, where jumped out to a 3-0 lead to start the match and held a 4-1 advantage. Altick came back with a late break and was serving to try and get the set back on serve, but Hitimana came up with the break and took the frame. She again won the first three games of the second before Altick earn breaks in the fifth and seven games. Hitimana broke right back for a 5-3 lead and served out for the clinching win. The victory marked the Gator senior’s 33rd consecutive singles win in dual match pay, as well as her ninth straight victory overall.
Florida plays fourth-ranked and second-seeded Texas A&M in the semifinals on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m. CT. The Aggies (21-2) handed the Gators their only SEC setback and one of their two regular season losses, winning the doubles point before taking three singles matches for the 4-3 decision in College Station on March 3.
“It’s going to be a fun match,” said Thornqvist of the rematch against Texas A&M. “They have a really good team and they have a new player in the lineup that did not play against us in the regular season. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to have to motivate anybody to play tomorrow.”
The other semifinal match features top-seeded and third-ranked Georgia (20-2) against fourth-seeded and eighth-ranked Alabama (19-4) beginning at 11 a.m. ET/10 a.m. CT.
2013 SEC Women’s Tennis Tournament
A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre
Friday, April 19, 2013
SEC Quarterfinal Team Results
 Georgia (3) d.  Ole Miss (39), 4-0
 Alabama (8) d.  Tennessee, 4-3
 Texas A&M (4) d.  Auburn (19), 4-0
 Florida (2) d.  Vanderbilt (18), 4-1
UF Individual Results
FINAL: Florida 4, Vanderbilt 1
Doubles (order of finish: 2, 3, 1*)
1. Courtney Colton/Lauren Mira (10), VU d. Lauren Embree/Sofie Oyen (22), UF, 8-6*
2. Ashleigh Antal/Marie Casares, VU d. Alexandra Cercone/Caroline Hitimana, UF, 8-3
3. Danielle Collins/Olivia Janowicz, UF d. Frances Altick/Georgina Sellyn, VU, 8-2
Singles (order of finish: 5, 3, 1, 6*)
1. Lauren Embree (1), UF d. Lauren Mira (59), VU, 6-2, 6-2
2. Sofie Oyen (15), UF vs. Courtney Colton, VU, 6-2, 3-6, 1-1 DNF
3. Alexandra Cercone (54), UF d. Georgina Sellyn (91), VU, 6-3, 6-2
4. Brianna Morgan (95), UF vs. Marie Casares, VU, 6-2, 4-6, 2-1 DNF
5. Olivia Janowicz, UF d. Ashleigh Antal, VU, 6-1, 6-2
6. Caroline Hitimana (123), UF d. Frances Altick, VU, 6-4, 6-3*
RECORDS: Florida 20-2; Vanderbilt 15-11
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