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The Gators race toward Lauren Embree after she clinches the NCAA title! (Don Feria)

Tuesday May 24, 2011NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!!! Women's Tennis Wins Fifth National Championship

Stanford, CA

The Gators race toward Lauren Embree after she clinches the NCAA title! (Don Feria)

Sophomore Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the third set, forced a tiebreaker, where she overcame a 2-0 hole and earned an epic 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) victory and provided the clinching decision in the 4-3 win against top-seeded Stanford and helped Florida win the 2011 NCAA Championship on Tuesday at Taube Tennis Stadium on the campus of Stanford University.

 

Embree, who was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Performer, is the first to clinch the NCAA team title with a third-set tie-breaker victory in the final match on the courts since the collegiate tennis began the doubles-followed-by-singles format in 2001.

 

The second-seeded Gators (31-1) earned their fifth national team title, while ending top-seeded Stanford’s (28-1) NCAA-record 184 consecutive home-match win streak and its 47-match overall win streak. Stanford had not lost at home since Feb. 27, 1999 in a 5-4 loss to Cal and had not dropped a decision since a loss at UCLA on Feb. 26, 2010.

 

The title is the Florida athletics program 26th national team championship and second this season with the men’s track and field team winning the NCAA Indoor title.

 

·         WATCH the official postmatch press conference with Coach Thornqvist, Lauren Embree and Alex Cercone

·         WATCH GatorVision’s recap of the NCAA Championship match – a court-by-court view

·         Exclusive postmatch Interviews with Coach Thornqvist, Joanna Mather, Allie Will, Olivia Janowicz, Sofie Oyen and Caroline Hitimana

 

 

“I don’t know what it looked like on TV or in the stands, that took about 10 years off my life,” said head coach Roland Thornqvist, who guided the Gators to his second national championship in his 10-year tenure at UF. “We played phenomenal doubles that really set the tone. Today we really found out how Stanford has a 10-year winning streak. It’s really difficult to win here. It took a gutsy performance and everything we had to push us through to victory. Thankfully we had the superstar (Lauren Embree) at the end who has the best wheels in the game. She’s the toughest player I’ve ever coached.

 

“We knew this was going to be very difficult,” Thornqvist said. “Playing in front of 2,000 fans screaming against you, it was tough. Our freshmen were outstanding this week. That proved to be the difference. Alex Cercone went 4-0 this week and that’s tough to do.”

 

Thornqvist also led the Gators to the 2003 NCAA title played in Gainesville.

 

“My first one, it was just my second year at Florida and my head was still spinning,” Thornqvist shared. “I was just so excited to be at Florida, I don’t know if I enjoyed it that much. This one is certainly very special. To be able to do it here at Stanford in front of 2,000 hostile fans with probably the hardest-working team I’ve ever had is very, very rewarding.”

 

On Tuesday, the Gators won the doubles point with impressive play at all three positions and took a 1-0 team lead.

 

The Cardinal quickly regrouped on the singles court, where the hosts jumped out and won the first set on five of the six courts.

 

Stanford senior and third-ranked Hilary Barte was the first to finish, as she defeated Gator sophomore and seventh-ranked Allie Will (Boca Raton, Fla.), 6-2, 6-4, and evened the team scoring at 1-all. The loss snapped Will’s 15-match win streak and marked only her second dual match singles loss this season. There were seven breaks in the second set, and Barte managed the last to break Will in the final game to take the straight-set decision.

 

Stanford then took a 2-1 lead when 18th-ranked Nicole Gibbs defeated 91st-ranked Sofie Oyen, 6-4, 7-5 on court three. The Gator rookie had a break for 4-3 in the second set, but Gibbs broke and held for a 5-4 lead. Oyen held, as did Gibbs, but the Cardinal earned one final break to win the match.

 

Alex Cercone (Seminole, Fla.) provided the Gators with a singles victory, as she rallied for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 win against Veroncia Li and her 14th consecutive decision. The win, which closed the gap to 3-2 in the team score, was her team-best 37th singles victory. Cercone opened the final set with a break and held for a 2-0 lead. Li broke and held before Cercone also held and the set was even at 3-all. Cercone collected another break and aced on game point to a 5-3 lead. The then broke again and held for the win. Cercone has won her singles match in the last five NCAA matches, the only Gator to do so.

 

Stanford then put itself one step closer to the title, when Stacey Tan found a way to take out Gator captain Joanna Mather (Duluth, Ga.), 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, on court four and take a 3-1 lead I the team score.

 

Attention then turned to court two, where Lauren Embree was battling 22nd-ranked Mallory Burdette and hero of last year’s 4-3 Stanford win, as well as a vocal and hostile Cardinal crowd. Embree trailed 4-0 in the third set, before ripping off the next four games to even the frame and headed to the baseline to serve, where she lost just one point to take a miraculous 5-4 lead.

 

While the hoards of fans moved to the stadium courts to watch what it felt would be the clinching decision with Burdette’s large lead, Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay, Fla.) was quietly leading her third set against Carolyn McVeigh, 5-0.

 

Embree then drew up double-match point against Burdette’s serve, but couldn’t finish either, as the Cardinal won four straight points to win the game and keep the match alive. Embree then lost just one point on her serve for a 6-5 lead.

 

She then won the first two points of Burdette’s service game, as Janowicz drew up double-match point on court six.

 

Burdette rallied to win the next three points, with the third clipping the net-cord and falling into open space and later the fourth point to force a tiebreak.

 

At the start of the tiebreak, Janowicz polished off her 6-7, 6-3, 6-1 victory and tied the team match at 3-all. The win was the Gator rookie’s 19th consecutive victory.

 

“This is honestly better than anything I could have ever dreamed,” said Janowicz of winning the national championship. “I don’t even know how to describe how I’m feeling.”

 

Embree fell behind 2-0 in the tiebreak but won four straight points and took control. Burdette held her next serve for 4-3 and then evened the match at 4-all. Embree won the next two and set up double-match point, but Burdette fought off both and tied the breaker at 6-all. Embree then dug deep and won the next two points for the 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) victory and the championship.

 

Embree actually jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first set, but Burdette ripped off the next six games and whipped the Stanford crowd into a frenzy, as it propelled her to a 3-1 lead in the second behind a pair of breaks. Embree calmed and wore down the hard-hitting Cardinal and she broke in the seventh game en route to taking the second set and forcing a third.

 

“It was so up and down,” Embree shared about her match. “I got off to a really good start. Mallory just started to play better and better as the match went on. In the second set I knew if I hung in there and could get a break and that’s what happened. I got off to a really slow start in the third. Honestly, I really just wanted to stay out there and fight for my team. Joanna (Mather) was down a set and 5-0 (in Monday’s NCAA Semifinal match) and I knew that if she could do it, I could do it. I wanted to fight as long as I could and I came out with the win.

 

“I had different thoughts racing through my mind when I was down 4-0 in the third,” Embree shared. “I kept fighting. I knew I still had a chance no matter what the score was.”

 

Embree, who was named the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Performer, completed the dual match portion of the season with a perfect 24-0 singles record, as she will continue action on Wednesday in the first round of the NCAA Singles Championships.

 

“Lauren is one of the players who you can always depend on,” Cercone said. “Sometimes you don’t want to depend on a player and put pressure on anybody, but it came down to that today. We knew, I knew that Lauren was going to pull it out because the heart that she has. I had incredible faith in her and I’m proud that she did what she did today.”

 

Florida was very impressive on the doubles court, where all three teams earned early breaks and held comfortable leads throughout play.

 

UF’s National Championship Teams

Sport

Year

Championship

Men's Golf

1968

NCAA Championship

Men's Golf

1973

NCAA Championship

Women's Swimming

1979

AIAW Championship

Gymnastics

1982

AIAW Championship

Women's Swimming

1982

NCAA Championship

Men's Swimming

1983

NCAA Championship

Men's Swimming

1984

NCAA Championship

Women's Golf

1985

NCAA Championship

Women's Golf

1986

NCAA Championship

Women's Track

1992

NCAA Indoor Championship

Women's Tennis

1992

NCAA Championship

Men's Golf

1993

NCAA Championship

Women's Tennis

1996

NCAA Championship

Football

1996

Associated Press/Coaches'

Women's Tennis

1998

NCAA Championship

Soccer

1998

NCAA Championship

Men's Golf

2001

NCAA Championship

Women's Tennis

2003

NCAA Championship

Men's Basketball

2006

NCAA Championship

Football

2006

BCS/Associated Press

Men's Basketball

2007

NCAA Championship

Football

2008

BCS/Associated Press

Men's Track & Field

2010

NCAA Indoor Championship

Women's Swimming & Diving

2010

NCAA Championship

Men's Indoor Track & Field

2011

NCAA Indoor Championship

Women’s Tennis

2011

NCAA Championship

 

The Gator’s number two team of Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Sofie Oyen (Leopoldsburg, Belgium) continued its quick work as it provided the first win of the championship with an 8-3 victory against Nicole Gibbs and Veronica Li in 37 minutes. Embree and Oyen capped their inaugural season together with a 9-0 record, netting a win in each of the last five NCAA matches for the Gators.

 

Florida’s number three tandem of Caroline Hitimana (Waterloo, Belgium) and Joanna Mather (Duluth, Ga.) provided the clinching doubles point for the third consecutive match, this time downing Carolyn McVeigh and Stacey Tan, 8-3. The pair had not played together since November, but reunited in the NCAA Quarterfinal round and has been a key to Florida’s doubles success at the championship site.

 

Alex Cercone (Seminole, Fla.) and Allie Will (Boca Raton, Fla.) were leading their match against Hilary Barte and Mallory Burdette when play was abandoned.

 

Florida also won the doubles point at last year’s NCAA Final, before the Cardinal rallied to collect four singles victories en route to the 4-3 decision.

 

The Gators had not lost a dual match this year when winning the doubles point.

 

The 2011 event marked the eighth time Florida and Stanford squared off in the NCAA Final, with the Cardinal winning five of those matches and the Gators capturing the title in 1996, 2003 and now 2011.

 

Florida, which ended the year on a 21-match winning streak, posted the 875th win in the program’s 39th season of varsity action, taking the all-time record to an impressive 875-128.

 

 

2011 NCAA Women's All-Tournament Team 

Most Outstanding Player: Lauren Embree, FLORIDA 

 

No. 1 Singles: Hilary Barte, Stanford 

No. 2 Singles: Lauren Embree, FLORIDA 

No. 3 Singles: Nicole Gibbs, Stanford 

No. 4 Singles: Jelena Staivuk, Baylor 

No. 5 Singles: Alex Cercone, FLORIDA 

No. 6 Singles: Carolyn McVeigh, Stanford 

No. 1 Doubles: Hilary Barte/Mallory Burdette, Stanford 

No. 2 Doubles: Lauren Embree/Sofie Oyen, FLORIDA 

No. 3 Doubles: Diana Nakic/Sona Novakova, Baylor 

 

 

 

NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships Final

#2 Seed Florida at #1 Seed Stanford

Taube Tennis Stadium * Stanford, Calif.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

 

Final Score: Florida 4, Stanford 3

 

Doubles (ranking)
1. (2) Alex Cercone/Allie Will, UF led (3) Hilary Barte/Mallory Burdette, SU, 6-3 DNF
2. (45) Lauren Embree/Sofie Oyen, UF d. Nicole Gibbs/Veronica Li, SU, 8-3
3. (37) Caroline Hitimana/Joanna Mather, UF d. (74) Carolyn McVeigh/Stacey Tan, SU, 8-3*
Order of Finish: 2, 3*

 

Singles

1. (3) Hilary Barte, SU d. (7) Allie Will, UF, 6-2, 6-4

2. (17) Lauren Embree, UF d. (22) Mallory Burdette, SU, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (6)*

3. (18) Nicole Gibbs, SU d. (91) Sofie Oyen, UF, 6-4, 7-5

4. (43) Stacey Tan, SU d. (42) Joanna Mather, UF, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4

5. (54) Alex Cercone, UF d. Veroncia Li, SU, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4

6. (53) Olivia Janowicz, UF d. Carolyn McVeigh, SU, 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1

Order of Finish: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 2*

 

Updated records: Florida 31-1, Stanford 28-1

 

 

Additional Notes:

·         The Women’s Tennis team won the school’s 26 National Title (24 NCAA and 2 AIAW)

·         It was the fifth national title for the women’s tennis program, the most of any team in the Gator program. It was the second national title for current Head Coach Roland Thornqvist (also won 2003 title)

·         The Gator victory snapped Stanford’s NCAA record 184 consecutive home match win streak (Stanford had not lost at home since 1999).

·         Florida has won a league-high eight national championships since 2006 (Georgia 7, Auburn 6).

·         Florida has now won multiple national titles in the same year for the fifth time in school history

·         It was the 17th National title under the direction of Athletic Director Jeremy Foley

·         10 of the national titles have come under the current Gator coaching staff.

·         Florida ends its season on a 21-match win streak, tied for the 10th-longest in program history

·         Florida made its 12th appearance in the NCAA Final, now with a 5-7 record

·         Stanford had not lost at home since Feb. 27, 1999 in a 5-4 loss to Cal

·         Stanford had won 47 straight matches since a loss at UCLA on Feb. 26, 2010

·         The title victory was the 875th win in program history (875-128 in 39 years)

·         Lauren Embree is the first to clinch the NCAA team title with a third-set tie-breaker victory in the final match on the courts since the collegiate tennis began the doubles-followed-by-singles format in 2001.

·         Embree’s win was her 24th consecutive victory, ending the dual match year with a 24-0 record; the streak is the 10th-longest in UF history

·         Embree also went 26-0 in dual match doubles this season

·         Olivia Janowicz won her 19th consecutive singles match

·         Alex Cercone won her team-leading 37th singles match and her 14th straight

·         UF was 30-0 when winning the doubles point; 0-1 when losing the doubles point

·         UF finished a combined 49-3 at the No. 1 and No. 2 singles positions and 27-1 at No. 6 spot

 

 

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