Gators take regular-season SEC title
Will gets 75th career singles victory
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Top-ranked Florida blanked South Carolina, 7-0, in its regular-season finale and secured the outright Southeastern Conference regular-season title on Saturday afternoon.
The win was the Gators’ 25th consecutive regular-season victory against SEC teams, as Florida (22-1) compiled a perfect 11-0 league record for the second straight year. This is the 19th time in the team’s 25 SEC championships it has posted an undefeated conference ledger.
“Going 11-0 in the SEC, I’m really proud of them,” Gators head coach Roland Thornqvist said, who has guided the Gators to seven SEC titles in his 10 years at UF. “You can’t take winning for granted. It’s very important that we celebrate it and I’m very proud of them. They’ve worked really hard all year long. Every day, these guys come to work and it’s a pleasure to be around them.”
The Gators extended their impressive home streaks. Florida has now won 102 regular-season matches in a row at home and 93 overall consecutive home victories.
With the win, Florida earned the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in next week’s SEC Tournament, held April 21-24 in Knoxville, Tenn.
Florida began the match winning the doubles point, thanks to victories on courts one and two. The Gators then came out firing on the singles court, racing out to big leads early at several positions.
Sofie Oyen continued her impressive rookie campaign by defeating Katerina Popova, 6-4, 6-0. It was Oyen's 10th consecutive win. In her first season, the Florida freshman compiled a 9-0 singles record against league foes. Oyen and Popova traded serves twice during the first set before Oyen held and earned another break in the 10th game to take the opening frame. Oyen then cruised through the second en route to giving the Gators a 2-0 lead.
Allie Will was the next off the court, winning her 75th career singles match by downing Anya Morgina, 6-2, 6-1, at the No. 1 position. The victory was Will’s ninth consecutive. She improved to 20-0 versus SEC competition in dual match play in her two-year career. The Gator sophomore, who has an impressive 75-8 singles record, broke Morgina in the fourth game after holding at love in the first set, before earning one final break in the eighth game to punctuate a strong first set. Will also cruised in her second set, jumping out to a 5-0 lead before serving for the win that gave Florida a 3-0 lead.
Joanna Mather provided the clinching dual match victory by defeating Dominika Kanakova, 6-2, 6-2, on court four. Mather claimed both breaks in the first set. She began the match with one and then took the other in the seventh game that helped her serve out for the set. Kanakova was broken to start the second and Mather earned another in the fifth game for a 4-1 advantage. The Florida junior would go on to serve out the match.
Lauren Embree defeated Dijana Stojic, 6-0, 6-3, in the fourth match to earn her 50th singles match of her career, while improving to 18-0 this season. Her two-year record in SEC regular-season dual matches stands at 19-0 following Saturday’s win where Embree held serve throughout. After blanking Stojic in the first set, the second was much tighter, as the frame remained on-serve through the six games before Embree broke and held for a 5-3 lead. She then broke again to end the match and give the Gators a 5-0 lead.
South Carolina (12-9, 4-7 SEC) elected to default the other two matches still in action, giving victories to Alex Cercone and Olivia Janowicz. Cercone led her number five singles match against Jiljana Jocic, 6-4, 3-2, while Janowicz held a 7-6 (2), 0-1 advantage over Madeleine Saari-Bystrom when play was called. The Gator freshmen capped their SEC dual match records at 10-1 and 10-0, respectively.
On the doubles court, the number two team of Embree and Oyen posted an 8-3 victory, before Cercone and Will provided the clinching doubles point win with an 8-4 decision on court one. Janowicz and Mather dropped the other doubles match on court three, 8-4.
“I thought we played very well. We played disciplined,” Thornqvist said. “We lost at [the position] three doubles, but I thought we got out played, frankly, so it’s easier to take. I think we’re still on track at three doubles. South Carolina played a really, really good match there and you have to give them a lot of credit there.
"One and two doubles were very clean. I thought we were very disciplined and cleaned in singles. It was very windy and I read Buddy Alexander’s quote in the newspaper today from the SEC golf tournament and he said it was really windy and 'when you play in weather like that you’re never as bad as you think you are.' That’s the same in tennis. When the winds kick up you’re going to make some mistakes and it’s all about how you handle those mistakes. I thought we did a great job today.”