Senior All-American Lauren Embree won her 98th career singles match and posted her 99th doubles win to help top-ranked Florida win its 29th consecutive season-opener with a 7-0 victory against South Florida on Tuesday at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex.
“Of all the positives I’ll take from our match [on Tuesday], our play in doubles is what I’m most pleased with,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “Another big difference in our program this year is Tyler Stuart, our new strength and conditioning coach. We look stronger than we ever have and a lot of credit goes to him. You can tell in our core and our shoulders, the way we’re coming in. This is the best and strongest we’ve ever looked.”
Playing for the first time as the nation’s top-ranked singles player, Sofie Oyen was impressive in her 6-1, 6-2 victory against Danielle Mills on court 2, she needed 61 minutes to give Florida a 2-0 lead in the team scoring. Oyen held serve throughout the first set, earning breaks in the second and fifth games to close out the frame in 26 minutes. The two began the second trading breaks before Oyen collected her fourth of the match and held for a 3-1 lead. Mills won the next two games, but Oyen broke again and served out at love for the victory.
Fifth-ranked Embree held serve throughout her match en route to a 6-1, 6-1 win against No. 50 Lereto Alonso Martinez, as she improved to 98-14 in her singles career. Embree’s winning percentage ranks as the third best in UF history. She held at love to begin the match and lost just one point against Alonso Martinez’s serve in the second game en route to a quick 3-0 lead. The Bull held in the fourth game, but Embree took charge of the next seven games as she took the first set and a 4-0 lead in the second. The fifth game was a long one, but Alonso Martinez finally held. Then Embree charged right back and lost just one point on her next serve before capitalizing on her third match point in the ensuing game to earn the win.
Danielle Collins won her collegiate dual match debut with a 7-5, 6-0 victory against Fanny Fracassi on court three. She was in a battle throughout her first set that featured seven service breaks. Collins came out with the final and most important one in the 12th game as she broke to capture the first frame. She carried that momentum into the second set, where she won the first three games before Fracassi called for a medical timeout. She returned to the court but wasn’t the same, as Collins bageled the set and provided the clinching dual-match victory.
Caroline Hitmana was the next off the court, as she provided a 6-4, 6-0 win against Kate Parker. Similar to Collins’ match, Hitimana’s first set also had seven breaks and the Gator senior emerged with the final one in the 10th game where she broke at love and took that energy into the second set, blanking Parker en route to the victory.
Brianna Morgan notched her first collegiate dual match singles win with a 6-2, 6-2 decision against Alessandra Bonte on court five. There were several deuce games throughout the match, including the second one of the set that kept the match on-serve early. Morgan held a 5-1 lead in the opening frame, but Bonte held and fought off her serve. Morgan held steady and broke in the next game to take the first set. The two competitors exchanged serves to begin the second and Morgan earned the first break to take a 4-1 lead after holding. She broke again for the 5-1 lead and later took Bonte’s serve one last time in the final game for the match.
Olivia Janowicz was the last off the court, as she rallied from a slow start for the 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory against Paula Montoya. She lost her serve to open the match and couldn’t quite take the lead despite earning two breaks. Janowicz returned the court after dropping that first set and marched out to a 4-0 lead and eventually the second set to force a deciding third, where she again took a 4-0 lead. Montoya prevented the third-set shutout by holding in the fifth game, as Janowicz won the final two games to cap the team sweep.
“We had some nerves but were able to play our way out of that,” Thornqvist said. “Most of our players have been there with the ESPN camera on their court, in their face and the tension of a match and they’ve learned to play through it. Our two freshmen did a good job of that today. It’s their first time wearing the Gator uniform and it’s going to take a bit to play through those nerves. They did a good job.”
Florida took the doubles point by winning the matches on courts one and two and was leading 7-3 on court three when play was abandoned.
The pair of Collins and Janowicz was efficient in their 8-1 victory against Bonte and Alonso Martinez, as the pair needed just 35 minutes to improve to 9-2 overall as a tandem. The Bulls held to begin the match, before Collins, who did not lose a point on either of her service games, won an impressive game and helped the Gators win the next eight games to capture the win, one that marked the 49th career doubles victory for Janowicz.
Embree and Oyen provided the second win of the dual match with an 8-4 victory against Kayla Rizzolo and Mills on court one and captured the doubles point for the Gators. The pair held double-match point in the 10th game of the eight-game pro-set but couldn’t close out the win, as the Bulls held and forced Embree to serve out for the victory, which she did and secured the 99th doubles win of her distinguished career. Embree, whose career record stands at 99-18, aims to become the 13th Gator to reach the 100-win mark for doubles.
Embree is now tied with current Gator volunteer assistant coach Anastasia Revzina for 14th in UF history for career doubles wins.
“The pace of our [court one] doubles team was extraordinary,” Thornqvist said. “The South Florida team did a great job of hitting the ball hard and tried to be creative. I thought [Embree] and [Oyen] were excellent. They handled the pace and top it at times and were the more creative team.”
Alexandra Cercone and Brianna Morgan jumped out to a 4-1 lead on court three against Fanny Fracassi and Paula Montoya, who held and got a break. The Gators, however, came right back with a break and Morgan held for the 6-3 lead. UF earned another break but play was halted once Embree and Oyen closed out the doubles point win.
“I thought Alex and Brianna were creative, as well,” Thornqvist said. “That’s the key for us in playing good doubles, we have to be creative. We have to have a purpose with our play and we did that.”