Sunday May 15, 2011Women's Tennis Blanks South Carolina to Reach NCAA Round of 16
Joanna Mather posted wins on the singles and doubles courts.
The second-seeded University of Florida women’s tennis team shutout South Carolina for the third time this season and earned a spot in the NCAA Championships Round of 16 with Sunday’s 4-0 second-round victory at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex.
Florida, the No. 2 seed in the 64-team event, will play 15th-seeded Clemson on Fri., May 20 at 3 p.m. ET/Noon PT, in the NCAA Round of 16 at Stanford, Calif.
The weather couldn’t have been more different for the Gators’ second-round match on Sunday than the six-hour rain-delayed opening-round outing, as a cloud-free sky set the tone for Florida’s dominating performance where the team capped its 2010-11 home slate with its 21st undefeated mark (13-0) and extended its program-record home winning streak to 95.
The Gators (27-1) won the doubles point and collected singles victories from Allie Will (Boca Raton, Fla.), Joanna Mather (Duluth, Ga.) and Alex Cercone (Seminole, Fla.) to earn their 28th trip to the NCAA Round of 16 in the 30-year history of the event.
“This feels good. I thought we were very sharp. We knew we had to be because South Carolina fights really hard. They have great players,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “At the top of the lineup, I was really happy to see Allie’s performance. I thought she was outstanding today. She beat a really, really good player, 6-0, 6-0. That’s really difficult to do. Overall I’m just really pleased. We were a little rusty yesterday, but today we showed great hunger. We really wanted to play. That goes a long way at the end of the season. I’m very pleased to advance. I think we’ll be ready for whomever we play right now. I’m just really pleased overall.”
Will collected her third double-bagel singles victory of the season and was the first off the court as she posted an impressive 6-0, 6-0 win against 44th-ranked Anya Morgina on court one. The Gator sophomore polished off her 13th consecutive singles victory by serving out at love, as she posted four love games during the dominating 60-minute win that gave Florida a 2-0 lead. Will improved to 79-8 overall in her career, including 31-3 this year, with a 22-1 dual match record during her second collegiate campaign.
“Our whole team has a pretty good win streak going, but as for myself, I thought I played really well today and I got lucky because I didn’t have to play two full sets yesterday, so I was fresh today,” Will said. “I am just ready for the next match, looking forward to playing Clemson.”
Mather, the lone junior in the lineup, followed 15 minutes later with a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Dominika Kanakova, moments before Cercone polished off Adriana Pereira, 6-0, 6-3, to seal the team win.
Mather raced to a 4-0 lead in the opening set of her match on court four, where Kanakova finally got on the board with a break in the fifth game and held to close within 4-2. Mather returned by holding serve and captured the first set on double-break point. The two traded breaks to begin the second, which was then on-serve until Mather broke again in the sixth game and held for a 5-2 lead and one game later the victory.
Cercone zipped through the first five games of her match against Adriana Pereira, who put up a big fight on her serve in the sixth game, but the Gator rookie emerged with her third break of the frame. Cercone rode that momentum into the second set, where she won the first three points and eventually the first game, as she took a 3-0 lead thanks to holding at love on her second trip to the baseline. Pereira held in the next game, but Cercone lost just one point on her powerful serve and took a 4-1 lead. Pererira again held and broke Cercone, but couldn’t get the set back on-serve because Cercone broke right back and served out for the clinching dual match win. The victory was Cercone’s team-leading 33rd of the season and her 10th consecutive.
After breaking UF’s serve and cutting the deficit on court two to 2-1, the Gator’s number two tandem of Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Sofie Oyen (Leopoldsburg, Belgium) won eight of the next nine points to take a 4-1 lead and jumped out early on Katerina Popova’s serve en route to another break and a 5-1 advantage. There were several duces in the next game, but the Gators won a strong volley point at the net for a 6-1 lead. Another break and Florida took a 7-1 advantage, before the Gamecocks halted the five-game run with a break and the score stood at 7-2. The Gators game right back and broke again for the match, as Oyen’s backhand winner down the line secured the 8-2 victory and the first win of the afternoon. Embree and Oyen improved to 5-0 together, while Embree continued her dual-match mastery and moved to 23-0 this year.
On court three South Carolina took a 3-1 lead with one break against Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay, Fla.) and Joanna Mather, before Janowicz held at love that sparked an eight-point run, as Mather later held and got the match back on-serve at 4-3 Florida. The Gators took that momentum into the next game, where the pair lost just one point for a 5-3 lead. Janowicz then held at love and the Gators fought off a game point on Adriana Pereira’s serve and captured another break for 7-3. Mather started her service game impressively and jumped out to a 40-15 advantage. South Carolina turned away two match points and forced duce, where it fought off another match point and even held a break point, but couldn’t capitalize and the Gator duo polished off the 8-3 decision when a Gamecock stroke hit the net and Florida earned the doubles point.
Florida held a 7-3 lead and was three points away from the win on court one when play was abandoned.
NCAA Women’s Tennis Second Round Results
(1) Stanford d. Pepperdine, 4-0
(16) Northwestern d. Notre Dame, 4-0
(8) Georgia d. Alabama 4-0
(9) California d. Southern California, 4-1
(4) North Carolina d. Washington, 4-1
Vanderbilt d. (13) Tennessee, 4-3
(5) Baylor d. Oklahoma, 4-0
SMU d. (12) Florida State, 4-3
(11) Virginia d. NC State, 4-2
(6) UCLA d. San Diego, 4-0
(14) Georgia Tech d. Arizona State, 4-1
(3) Duke d. Yale, 4-0
(10) Michigan d. Tulsa, 4-1
(7) Miami (FL) d. Texas, 4-1
(15) Clemson d. Arkansas, 4-2
(2) Florida d. South Carolina, 4-0
NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships Second Round
#35 South Carolina (33-38 seed) at #1 Florida (2 seed)
Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex * Gainesville, Fla.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Final Score: Florida d. South Carolina, 4-0
1. #2 Alex Cercone/Allie Will, UF led #40 Anya Morgina/Dominika Kanakova, SC, 7-3 DNF
2. #45 Lauren Embree/Sofie Oyen, UF d. Miljana Jocic/Katerina Popova, SC, 8-2
3. Olivia Janowicz/Joanna Mather, UF d. Dijana Stojic/Adriana Pereira, SC, 8-3*
Order of Finish: 2, 3*
1. #7 Allie Will, UF d. #44 Anya Morgina, SC, 6-0, 6-0
2. #17 Lauren Embree, UF led. #96 Dijana Stojic, SC 6-3, 2-1 DNF
3. #91 Sofie Oyen, UF led. Katerina Popova, SC 6-2, 3-1 DNF
4. #42 Joanna Mather, UF d. Dominika Kanakova, SC, 6-2, 6-2
5. #54 Alex Cercone, UF d. Adriana Pereira, SC 6-0, 6-3*
6. #53 Olivia Janowicz, UF and Miljana Jocic, SC Tied 6-6 DNF
Order of Finish: 1, 4, 5*
Updated Records: Florida (27-1), South Carolina (14-11)
*indicates clinching doubles/dual match point
Postmatch Press Conference
Florida Head Coach Roland Thornqvist
“This feels good. I thought we were very sharp. We knew we had to be because South Carolina fights really hard. They have great players. At the top of the lineup, I was really happy to see Allie’s performance. I thought she was outstanding today. She beat a really, really good player, 6-0, 6-0. That’s really difficult to see. Overall I’m just really pleased. We were a little rusty yesterday, but today we showed great hunger. We really wanted to play. That goes a long way at the end of the season. I’m very pleased to advance. I think we’ll be ready for whomever we play right now. I’m just really pleased overall.”
On playing either Arkansas or Clemson in the NCAA Round of 16:
“We’ve seen Arkansas because they’re in the league (SEC), and we saw Clemson at Indoor’s. Clemson’s very good in doubles; I do know that. They have an outstanding doubles team at No. 1. I think they changed their doubles pairings – they’re a little stronger at No. 3 than when we played them. In doubles, we’ll be challenged for sure vs. Clemson. They’re good at one and two and have a grinder at three, and I think we’re better at four, five and six. Overall, they’ve got great players and tradition. Arkansas hits the ball hard. They like short and fast points. If we play Arkansas, we have to run and defend, which is something we’ve been able to do as of late.”
On the team playing its best tennis:
“I still think we have a ways to go for all six of us to play at the top of our game. I think we’ll get better match by match. Some players will be challenged, more than others, in the first few rounds of this event. By the time you get to the quarterfinals or final 16, you play teams that are balanced more up-and-down. I think hopefully our players will be even better on Friday when we play than they were today. The atmosphere (at NCAA’s) makes our players play a little better and focus even more because of the people in the stands, the environment and the cameras everywhere. We did well with that at the indoors, so hopefully we’ll continue to improve. I really do think we played well today. If we can improve from today then I have great hope.”
On the three freshmen:
“Olivia didn’t get to finish. I didn’t get to see much today so I can’t comment on her. Leading up to today, she has been striking the ball really, really well. She’s going to be one of those players who will continue to improve every match. Alex did an outstanding job. She made good decisions with the ball. She had a 4-0 lead it was in the second set. All of a sudden it was 4-3. That’s where she’s been a little shaky in momentum shifts. Then the next thing you know it was 6-3, so I was real happy to see that. Sofie hasn’t practiced a lot; she had a little tweaked back, but I thought she was outstanding today. She’s gotten better. The team has improved and matured. They handled the momentum shifts better now than they did earlier in the season. They’re going to need to if we’re going to win this event. We obviously have three really good, tough and dependable upperclassmen, but we’re not going to be able to reach our goals if our freshmen don’t help us out.”
On the NCAA format having men and women at the same finals site:
“That (the NCAA Tournament) is the cool thing about it. You have the men and women together. The cameras are there. It’s the big leagues for college tennis. It’s really cool. If you have a team that is use to play for championships and players playing or going deep in tournaments, then you are at an advantage. Your players won’t be in awe. If you arrive with a first-time team and the players aren’t use to winning, then it can be tricky. Then you have kids taking pictures and posing with a banner. I don’t think this team is like that. I’m anticipating that this team will keep their eyes on the ball and do the things they’re supposed to. They’ll stretch what their supposed to and ice what’s hurting and focus on our immediate and first challenge on Friday. It’s really cool. That’s what we trained for. On August 25, we laced it up. Making this trip out West is why we do what we do every week.”
On sophomore Allie Will:
“If she (Allie) plays anything like she did today, she’ll be a handful for whomever. She is wickedly competitive. She is as fit as she’s been and moves as well as she has. Her forehead has improved. It was her best shot last year but I think it’s way better now than it was last year.”
On the giant head of yourself that fans had in the crowd:
“That (the big heads) is fun stuff.”
Florida Player Quotes
Junior Joanna Mather
On going to Palo Alto:
“We are so excited. It’s great to get to the Sweet 16 and we’re excited to play the first match out there. I’m excited that everything we’ve been working on all year is coming together and we’re helping each other out, we’re playing well.”
On leading the team:
“The three freshmen have done a great job, they really didn’t need much leadership. They came in determined and willing to work just as hard as anyone else has worked on this team, but I’m sure they’re very excited to be there and I’m excited to have our team there.”
On playing in Athens last year:
“Knowing that we can play in an environment that isn’t our home court and still play as well as we did last year (helps). Hopefully we can play just as well this year, that gives us some confidence too.”
On her doubles partnership with Olivia Janowicz:
“We are playing better and better each time we step on the court and we now know exactly what we should be doing and what our strengths are. I think every time we go out, that’s what we do.”
On being down early in the doubles match:
“I think we just knew we were going for the right balls but we were just missing by a little bit. We knew we had to keep doing what we were doing and we just turned it around.”
On being more focused in doubles play today:
“We hadn’t played a match in so long coming in to today’s match, so I think that may have had something to do with the slower start yesterday, because today we got out there and we were ready to play.”
On if it was difficult to get up for the third time playing for South Carolina:
“It wasn’t tough, we are excited to play every match and Roland (Thornqvist) had actually switched the lineup since the last time we played, so we each played new people today. I think it was nice not playing the same person all three times.”
On separating herself in today’s second set:
“I just felt like, early on I made a few more mistakes than I had been making in the previous set, and she started playing really well at the beginning of the second set, so I kind of had to pick up my game a little bit, too. Then it just turned around and I was feeling the ball perfectly and came out with the win.”
UF Sophomore Allie Will
On going to Palo Alto:
“I’m equally as excited (as Joanna). I think we did a good job this weekend and I can’t wait to get to Stanford and play there. Hopefully we play just as well as we did this weekend.”
On the team’s confidence:
“I think we’re all very confident. We’re all pretty confident playing in front of our home crowd. I thought they helped us a lot this weekend, so it will be a challenge without as many fans there, but we’ll have our family and we’ll have each other and I think we’ll do great.”
On being from California originally:
“(I’m from about) 15 minutes away from Stanford, so I’ll have a lot of my family there, so hopefully it will be like a home crowd.”
On playing in Athens last year:
“Last year I played in my first NCAAs and I thought we did a good job in the three weeks we had to prepare for that. We did just as well this time around and we are very excited to go to California.”
On playing Clemson previously this season:
“They are a very tough team, especially in doubles. Their number one team is very tough, they have a really strong team and they fight really hard and it will probably be a really good match. We played them inside, but I feel like our team is ready for the challenge.”
On her singles win streak:
“Our whole team has a pretty good win streak going, but as for myself, I thought I played really well today and I got lucky because I didn’t have to play two full sets yesterday, so I was fresh today. I am just ready for the next match, looking forward to playing Clemson.”
On being more focused in doubles play today than in the first round match:
“I think the rain maybe had a little bit to do with that as well, we kind of sat around all day anticipating not knowing if we were going to play or not, and maybe being a little antsy and too ready, almost, to play yesterday that we didn’t come out and play our best. I thought we did a really good job today of coming out and playing really well.”
On if it was difficult to get up for the third time playing for South Carolina:
“They’re a tough team and Roland (Thornqvist) knows that, so he tells us before we go in that they’re going to be a tough team and to be ready for anything. I thought they fought hard, but we did a really good job and the crowd really helped us.”
On thinking about playing Stanford in the finals:
“We try to take it one match at a time and try not to look ahead. You have to deal with what you’re dealt with the match in front of you, so we don’t want to look that far ahead. We just want to get ready for Clemson.”