Top-seeded Florida didn’t show any signs of a 20-day break since winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament title on April 21 during its dominating 4-0 win against Marist in the first round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championships played at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex on Saturday afternoon.
Florida advances to the second round and will play No. 23-ranked Georgia Tech (15-9) on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Yellow Jackets earned a thrilling 4-3 win against Yale in their opening round bout.
The Gators didn’t lose a game in any of the completed matches against the Red Foxes (11-8), who were making their fourth appearance in the NCAA Championships.
Florida earned the doubles point in 40 minutes with its No. 11-ranked pair of Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Sofie Oyen (Leopoldsburg, Belgium) downed Karly Pang and Joana Sun, 8-0, before the rookie tandem of Danielle Collins (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Brianna Morgan (Beverly Hills, Calif.) notched an 8-0 decision against Melissa Carlay and Kaye Eastman on court three.
“I thought we did a really good job. I told the team after doubles that I was very pleased with our court positioning inside the service box in our doubles play, said UF head coach Roland Thornqvist, who won the 299th match of his 11-year Gator tenure. “We spent many hours on that over this two week layoff and I thought we really saw the fruits of that labor today. We did a really good job closing and we were able to find their feet almost every time in our volleys.”
The Gators (23-2), who won their 120th consecutive home match, continued their precision on the singles courts, where Alexandra Cercone (Seminole, Fla.), Embree and Morgan each won their matches, 6-0, 6-0, on courts three, one and four, respectively.
Embree’s wins on the singles and doubles courts moved her into sole possession of first on the Gator’s all-time NCAA dual match wins chart, now sporting a 29-2 combine record in postseason team play. Last year’s lone senior Joanna Mather held the record with 28 wins from 2009-12.
“I think the girls were really anxious to start playing again because we have had such a long break so Sofie and I came out really focused in doubles and just excited to play and we just continued that over in singles,” shared Embree, who tallied her 19th consecutive singles win, as well as her 37th straight singles victory in dual match competition. “I think everybody was pretty happy with their play today.”
Cercone’s singles win was her 12th straight victory overall, as she improved to 10-0 all-time in NCAA singles dual matches. The double-bagel decision was the Gator junior’s first this year and the second of her career.
“I think the most challenging part of these types of matches is staying disciplined, staying patient and staying focused,” Cercone shared. “It is difficult to get into a rhythm so that is where the patience and discipline comes in. It is very easy to lose focus when you are up 6-0, 3-0 and you just start watching matches next to you. I think that if you pay attention to those things then these types of matches are much easier.”
Morgan provided the clinching dual match singles win on court four, which was her 25th singles victory of the season, and helped the Gators improve to 15-0 all-time in NCAA round of 64 matches, as well as 42-5 in NCAA home contests.
Embree and fellow senior Caroline Hitimana (Waterloo, Belgium) lead the Gators on Sunday in what will be the final home match of their distinguished careers. The pair has helped Florida compile a 54-0 home record during their four-year tenure in Gainesville and will be aiming to become just the sixth senior class to conclude their dual match careers undefeated at home.
UF Head Coach Roland Thornqvist
“I thought we did a really good job. I told the team after doubles that I was very pleased with our court positioning inside the service box in our doubles play. We spent many hours on that over this two week layoff and I thought we really saw the fruits of that labor today. We did a really good job closing and we were able to find their feet almost every time in our volleys. Some of the things that we have been paying attention to over the break I think we have done a really good job improving on and I am hoping to see some more of that tomorrow.”
On playing Georgia Tech in the second round
“That was a fantastic match before our match. They are very well coached. Rodney has seen his fair share of tennis balls so he is certainly going to know how to prepare his team tonight. They have one player that I know very well that we tried to recruit, the No. 2 player and she is very powerful. They have a very good No. 1 doubles team so looking in the NCAA tournament everybody is good now. We have to make sure we hydrate and are going to prepare the best we can for Georgia Tech and hopefully that will be good enough.”
UF senior Lauren Embree
On getting the tournament started
“I think the girls were really anxious to start playing again because we have had such a long break so Sofie and I came out really focused in doubles and just excited to play and we just continued that over in singles. I think everybody was pretty happy with their play today.”
On if it’s easier to focus now that classes are over
“Definitely. After finals everyone was more relaxed and we had more time to practice and do fitness so that definitely helped and it carried over to our matches today.”
On tomorrow being the last her last home match
“It is kind of weird that it is tomorrow, I sort of that it would never happen so soon but it is tomorrow. I am just going to go out there and keep playing like I have been these last four years and not think about it too much. Just have fun and compete, fight really hard and hopefully everything will be good for us.”
UF junior Alexandra Cercone
On finishing first
“I did notice that Lauren was pretty close to finishing, but once I got the 5-0 lead (in second set) I knew I had a pretty good chance to finish my match. Earlier I wasn’t quite sure. I was very happy to get the win today. Obviously I want to win every match, but it was good.”
On any challenges from opponents
“I think the most challenging part of these types of matches is staying disciplined, staying patient and staying focused. It is difficult to get into a rhythm so that is where the patience and discipline comes in. It is very easy to lose focus when you are up 6-0, 3-0 and you just start watching matches next to you. I think that if you pay attention to those things then these types of matches are much easier.”
Marist Head Coach Roge Nesbitt
"It's been a real privilege for us to come here. This is my fourth time here, but this group I have here is mostly freshmen. It's a great experience for us. First, to play the No. 1 seed. As I told the girls before we came I said, 'How many times do you get to say you played the No. 1 seed?' You don't get to say that very often. We knew it was going to be a very tough match, but everybody played hard anyway. I am very happy with everybody's performances today. It's just great to be here, really. It's a privilege. We are happy to be here. The University of Florida was very kind to us, very helpful, and everything. We appreciate being here and the experience."
NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis First Round
Marist vs. No. 1 Florida
Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Final: Florida d. Marist, 4-0
Doubles (order of finish: 1, 3*)
1. #11 Lauren Embree/Sofie Oyen, FLORIDA d. Karly Pang/Joana Sun, MARIST, 8-0
2. Alexandra Cercone/Caroline Hitimana, FLORIDA led Kelsey Raynor/Sabrina Tahir, MARIST, 6-2 DNF
3. Danielle Collins/Brianna Morgan, FLORIDA d. Melissa Carlay/Kaye Eastman, MARIST, 8-0*
Singles (order of finish: 3, 1, 4*)
1. #1 Lauren Embree, FLORIDA d. Kelsey Raynor, MARIST, 6-0, 6-0
2. #17 Sofie Oyen, FLORIDA led Karly Pang, MARIST, 6-0, 4-1 DNF
3. #51 Alexandra Cercone, FLORIDA d. Joana Sun, MARIST, 6-0, 6-0
4. #89 Brianna Morgan, FLORIDA d. Marielle Campbell, MARIST, 6-0, 6-0*
5. #123 Olivia Janowicz, FLORIDA led Lisa Ventimiglia, MARIST, 6-1, 3-2 DNF
6. #116 Caroline Hitimana, FLORIDA led Sabrina Tahir, MARIST, 6-0, 5-0 DNF
Records: Florida 23-2; Marist 11-8
NCAA Seeding: Florida 1; Marist 49-64
*indicates clinching doubles point/dual match win
*First meeting between in Florida and Marist in women’s tennis
*on-court temperature at start of doubles was 95; Heat index at start of singles was 105 degrees
*Gators improve to 15-0 in NCAA Round of 64 matches and 42-5 in NCAA home matches
*UF wins its 120th consecutive home match – the longest active home win streak of any NCAA Division I women’s team in any sport
*Win is head coach Roland Thornqvist’s 299th in 12 years at Florida, as well as his 374th in 17 years overall
*Lauren Embree’s became UF’s all-time leader for NCAA dual match singles and doubles wins, ending the match with 29 (13-0 record in NCAA dual match singles play)
*Embree won her 19th consecutive overall singles match and her 37th straight dual match singles contest
*Embree’s doubles win was her 16th in NCAA dual match competition and tied her for the most in UF history with Joanna Mather (2009-12); Embree improved to 16-2 in NCAA dual match doubles play in her career
*Alexandra Cercone won her 12th straight overall singles match and improved to 10-0 in NCAA singles dual matches
*Brianna Morgan won her 10th straight overall singles match
*Gators won the doubles point for the 15th time this season
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