TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- In what would be one of the closest matches all season, Alabama beat No. 5 Florida 4-3 at the Alabama Tennis Stadium. The win was the first in program history for the Crimson Tide against the Gators as Florida came in with a 37-match winning streak versus Alabama.
“We made history today,” Alabama head coach Jenny Mainz said. “I’m not sure words can describe the feeling. This is a testament to all that have played here. I am so proud of this team and the way they stepped it up and took the match.”
With the win, the Tide improves to 15-2 overall and 6-0 in Southeastern Conference play, while the loss drops the Gators to 13-4 on the season and 5-2 against league opponents.
The match began with singles in the proposed experimental format for USTA College MatchDay. Florida took a 1-0 lead as eighth-ranked Olivia Janowicz beat No. 113 Danielle Spielmann 6-1, 6-3 on court No. 2. A 6-3, 6-2 win for Emily Zabor on court No. 5 against 78th-ranked Belinda Woolcock tied the match at 1-1, but the Gators would again take the lead as No. 22 Alexandra Cercone topped No. 64 Maya Jansen 6-1, 6-3, while No. 23 Brianna Morgan posted a 7-5, 6-2 win against 58th-ranked Mary Anne Daines on court No. 1. The Tide needed wins on the remaining two courts to stay alive, and it would get just that as No. 59 Erin Routliffe battled to a 6-3, 7-6(6) victory versus 38th-ranked Sofie Oyen, and Luicelena Perez fought for more than four hours to top 44th-ranked Kourtney Keegan 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(3).
With the match tied at 3-3, doubles would be played only this time in a sudden death-style format in a 10-point super tiebreaker. Florida wasted no time getting the win on court No. 2 as it cruised to a 10-0 victory. Zabor and Perez evened the count with a 10-5 win on court three, leaving the match up to court No. 1. Jansen and Routliffe fell behind early and then trailed 9-7, but came back to win five of the last six points for the 12-10 victory.
“We believed in what we were doing and executed plays,” Mainz said. “No. 1 and No. 3 doubles really stepped up, and you have to credit Luicelena for having the confidence and courage to finish. The experimental format really created a lot of excitement for both the teams and fans, and this was a well-fought match both ways.”