May 14, 2010

The third-seeded University of Florida women's tennis team earned an impressive 4-0 victory against South Carolina State in the first round of the NCAA Championships on Friday afternoon at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex.

The Gators (25-2) started slow in doubles, but quickly turned things around, winning the doubles point and capturing the first 34 games played on the singles courts en route to earning a second-round matchup against Washington on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Huskies (12-6) swept Utah, 4-0, in their first-round match.

Florida, which improved to 12-0 all-time in NCAA Round of 64 matches, lost its serve on two of the three doubles courts to begin play before regrouping. The No. 2 tandem of Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Joanna Mather (Duluth, Ga.) held to start their match against the team of Laura Bosneag and Beate Valdmane, which also held to even the match. The Gators proved too tough and ripped off the final seven games, needing just 38 minutes to give UF its first win of the NCAA Championships.

Marrit Boonstra (The Netherlands) and Allie Will (Boca Raton, Fla.) traded breaks to start their match against Daria Sekerina and Maria Craciun on the showcase court. Boonstra held in the third game and the Gators were off and running, as Will capped the 8-1 victory by holding at love in the final game to clinch the doubles point.

Florida didn't duplicate its slow start when singles action began, as the Gators combined to win the first 34 games played, before South Carolina State (13-6) got on the board by winning the sixth game on court No. 3. By the time the Bulldogs won that first game, Will, Mather and Claire Bartlett (Chattanooga, Tenn.) had wrapped up their respective first sets, 6-0, en route to notching a trio of double-bagel victories and securing the Gators' 18th consecutive dual match win.

"We fought, we focused and we were able to win those games and that just shows you how focused we were," UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. "If we continue to play focused like that, then we'll be a tough team to beat."

The on-court temperature at the start of the match was 93 degrees and the South Carolina State head coach Hardeep Judge said his team felt the affects of the heat.

"Our girls felt it after the doubles. Movement-wise, we knew they couldn't move coming into the tournament," Hardeep said. "Every single girl out there was injured, and we barely got through the conference championships. It took a lot of heart just to win the conference championship. It's been a tough year for us, and it really showed out there. We played a little bit more competitive in doubles, but you don't have to move as much in doubles. In singles, after two balls the point was over. I have to give a lot of credit to the University of Florida for playing as strong as they did."

For Will, her 6-0, 6-0 victory on court No. 2 against Fanni Fricska was her 24th straight singles win, as she improved to 24-0 in dual matches, as well as 44-3 overall.

Mather tallied her first double-bagel singles win of the season, as she earned the shutout over Sarai Torres in 49-minutes on the No. 4 court.

Barlett faced I-Chun Amy Chen at the No. 6 spot and posted her second double-bagel victory, while needing just 46 minutes to win her 11th consecutive singles match.

Embree, Anastasia Revzina (Moscow, Russia) and Caroline Hitimana (Waterloo, Belgium) led their respective singles matches on courts No. 1, 3 and 5, with all holding a 3-1 lead in the second set when play was abandoned.

For the second time this season, Florida will play a team coached by a former Gator great. Jill (Hetherington) Hultquist, who on Friday earned her 50th win in her fifth year as the Huskies head coach, was one of the all-time great letterwinners in Gator history, playing from 1984-87. She earned All-America honors each of her four years and was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999. On Jan. 27, Florida battled UCF, coached by Stephanie Nickitas (1996-99), earning a 6-1 victory. Hultquist's 91.1-career doubles winning percentage (113-11) remains the all-time standard in UF history, followed by Nickitas' 89.5-winning percentage (128-15). Her 113 doubles wins, which were the most in program history when she graduated, currently rank as the sixth most on the career chart.