Florida earns tough 4-2 victory against Cal, advances to semifinal round
URBANA, Ill. -- Florida seniors Lauren Embree and Caroline Hitimana stepped up and led the Gators to a hard-fought 4-2 win against California and advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA championships on Sunday afternoon.
Embree and Hitimana have helped the Gators reach the semifinals each of their four years. Florida will be playing the NCAA semifinals for the 23rd time in the last 27 years.
“It feels great to be back in the semifinals,” Embree said, who produced wins on the singles and doubles courts and improved to 34-2 in NCAA dual-match singles and doubles play. “Cal is a really tough team and played great. There were some close doubles matches and we were fortunate to pull it out.”
After the Golden Bears (19-6) captured the doubles win on court two for the first individual result of the dual match, the freshman pair of Danielle Collins and Brianna Morgan earned an 8-4 win on court three before the pair of Embree and junior Sofie Oyen clinched the doubles point with an 8-4 decision.
The Gators then won the first set on four of the six courts in singles play and seemed in control. The Bears, however, battled back and evened the team scoring when fifth-ranked Zsofi Susanyi handed No. 51 Alexandra Cercone a 6-1, 6-1 setback that halted her 12-match win streak.
“I thought we played very well in doubles and I was pleased with that,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “Other than court three, where Zsofi Susanyi played out of her mind, we started off well. The momentum switched a little bit and it was nice to see our seniors carry the load for us [Sunday].”
Embree gave Florida the 2-1 lead when she took down eighth-ranked Anett Schutting 6-2, 6-0. The nation’s top-ranked singles player opened the match with a break and never lost her serve throughout the match en route to her 21st consecutive singles victory.
Junior Olivia Janowicz defeated Tayler Davis 6-1, 6-1 on court five in one hour and 40 minutes. She earned her 15th consecutive singles victory and improved to a team-best 36-6 this season.
“Olivia [Janowicz ]’s really hitting on all cylinders right now,” Thornqvist said. “She’s been automatic in her play. She manages herself really well and keeps great composure. She’s almost like a senior in her play, she’s very steady. She doesn’t get enough credit for her play like some of the players in the other positions. The way she’s playing and staying focused in her play is very helpful for the Gators.”
One minute later, Cal struck with a 7-5, 6-4 win on court two where Klara Fabikova defeated Oyen and the Gator’s lead was trimmed to 3-2.
On court four, Hitimana won the first set 6-3 and found herself down 2-0 to begin the second. She held at love to get on the board and earned the break in a long fourth game that featured deuce six times. Hitimana then held at love for the second time in the match and lost just one point in the next game for the break and a 4-2 lead. Her service game in the seventh also went to deuce, but Hitimana held for 5-2 and won the first three points on Annie Groansson’s serve en route to the 6-3, 6-2 dual-match clinching victory.
Top-seeded Florida (26-2) will play No. 12 Stanford (20-4) in the semifinals on Monday. The Cardinal upset No. 4 Georgia 4-1 in its quarterfinal match.