Embree powers Florida past Georgia
Gators’ junior erases deficit, leads Gators past rival Bulldogs
ATHENS, Ga. -- Like she’s done several times before when the team outcome in a big match was on the line, Lauren Embree stepped up and won a thrilling three-set singles match and helped 15th-ranked Florida earn a 4-3 victory against No. 5 Georgia on Sunday.
“This was a big win against a really, really good Georgia team,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “I thought we played excellent doubles because they are a really talented and aggressive doubles teams. We’ve played good doubles for a couple weeks now and our one and two doubles teams played at a really high level today. Overall, it was a really good, well played match. I thought Georgia outplayed us at three singles spots where they were just too good and then the three matches where we got our teeth into it I thought we played really well. We managed ourselves well. There was a good crowd. I was very pleased because it was a tough environment to play.”
Florida began the match by winning the doubles point, but not before Georgia captured the opening doubles match and forced the Gators (8-1, 2-0 SEC) to win the remaining two on court, including the showdown on court one, where UF’s No. 13-ranked pair of Sofie Oyen and Allie Will upset No. 6 Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist 8-4. The Gator tandem of Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather then earned an 8-6 clinching victory against Kate Fuller and Lauren Herring to take the doubles point.
The first five singles matches all were straight-set decisions, as Georgia (11-2, 1-1 SEC) evened the team scoring when Maho Kowase defeated Alexandra Cercone 6-0, 6-3. Florida came back with a win on court five, where Sofie Oyen downed Kate Fuller, 6-2, 6-2, but Chelsey Gillickson handed Allie Will her first singles loss of the year, 6-1, 6-4, and evened the team scoring again.
Joanna Mather added another Gator victory when she upended Nadia Gulchrist, 6-3, 6-3 on court three, but the Bulldogs answered with the win on court six, where Lilly Kimbell defeated Olivia Janowicz, 6-3, 6-2. That set the stage for Embree’s clinching heroics.
With the team scoring even at 3-all, the Gator junior rallied to force a third set after losing the first set and then overcame a 2-1 deficit in the final frame by winning five of the next six games en route to the 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win against Lauren Herring.
“We’ve seen that before,” Thornqvist said. “She manages herself exceptionally well when it comes to pressure time. That’s one of her strengths, clearly. She’s tough, she puts the ball where it needs to be, she doesn’t beat herself. That experience she got last year being the last match on at the NCAA Championships really helped her. She has the confidence to know that she can get it done.”