Thursday May 10, 2012Women's Tennis Begins Defense of NCAA Championship on Friday vs. South Carolina State
Florida officially begins defense of its national championship on Friday, when the Gators play host to the first round of the 2012 NCAA Championship at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex.
The Gators, ranked No. 2 in the country with a 21-1 overall record, received the No. 2 seed in the 64-team draw. Florida faces Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) champion South Carolina State (19-0) for the third consecutive year in its NCAA First Round contest on Friday, May 11 at 2 p.m. ET.
The other NCAA Womenís First Round match played in Gainesville features 36th-ranked Florida State (13-10) versus 31st-ranked Washington State (18-5) on Friday at 11 a.m. The winning teams from those first-round matches meet in the second round on Saturday, May 12 at 3 p.m.
Fridayís first-round match will be the fourth-ever meeting between Florida and the South Carolina State Lady Bulldogs, which met in the first round of the 2006, 2010 and 2011 NCAA Championships with the Gators taking the 4-0 victory in Gainesville in all three outings.
Florida at the NCAA Championships - at a Glance
*Florida is making its 30th appearance in the 31-year history of the NCAA Championships, missing only the 1986 event.
*Entering the first round, the Gators boast an 88-24 all-time record in the NCAA Championships.
*The Gators have won NCAA team titles in 1992, 1996, 1998, 2003 & 2011
*Florida has advanced to at least the NCAA Semifinals 21 times in the last 25 years - including in 2011
*Since the NCAA expanded the field to 64 teams, Florida has been a perfect 13-0 in first-round matches. The Gators are 12-1 in the round of 32, 25-3 in round of 16 contests, 21-4 in the quarterfinals, 12-9 in the semifinals and 5-7 in the title match.
The SCSU has won eight consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic titles and enters the NCAA Championships with a perfect 19-0 record Ė its last loss was against Florida in the first round of last yearís NCAA Championships.
Washington State is ranked No. 31 in the country and received a #17-32 seed. The Cougars are making their sixth appearance in the NCAA Championships and their first since 2008, when the team lost to LSU in the first round. WSU reached the second round in 2001 for the lone postseason win in program history. Florida and Washington State have never met on the tennis court.
Florida State is ranked No. 36 in the nation and is seeded #33-48. The Seminoles are making their 15th NCAA appearance as well as their sixth straight. The 2010 squad reached the round of 16 for the first time in program history. The Gators are 52-1 all-time against Florida State, with the last meeting a 7-0 UF win on February 29 in Gainesville. Florida also is 2-0 in NCAA action against the Seminoles, downing its instate foe 4-2 in the 2009 NCAA Round of 32 and 5-0 in the 2000 NCAA Round of 32.
When the Gators and Bulldogs square off on Friday, 19 days will have passed between Floridaís 4-1 win against Georgia in the SEC Tournament final on April 22 and the Gators return to the court on May 11 versus South Carolina State in the first round of the NCAA Championships.
Florida is 10-0 at home this year and sports an overall program-record home winning streak of 105, which includes 17 wins in postseason play (SEC and NCAA Tournament). The Gators set a new standard with their 6-1 victory over Mississippi State on March 29, 2009, passing the previous record of 60. The last time the Gators fell at home was on May 15, 2004, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Miami (Fla.), 4-3.
Joanna Mather is the lone senior on the 2011-12 Gator squad will be playing the final home matches of her career this weekend. Mather has helped Florida compiled a 52-0 record in Gainesville.
If the seedings hold true and Florida is able to win both matches this weekend, Mather could join an elite group of four-year players who complete their collegiate tenure having never lost a home dual match! The Florida senior classes of 1998, 2008, 2009 & 2010 never endured a home loss - which includes any postseason matches held at the Ring Tennis Complex. There werenít any seniors on the 2011 team, but if there had been they also would have finished their four-year careers with an unblemished home slate.
Mather enters the NCAA Championships with 206 combined singles (100) and doubles (106) wins. She became the 16th Gator to reach the 200-victory plateau. With her 6-4, 6-4 victory on court three during the SEC Tournament final, Mather won her 100th career singles and became only the seventh Gator to have ever won 100 singles and 100 doubles matches in their career (Nicole Arendt, Dawn Buth, Stephanie Nickitas, Jessica Lehnhoff, Nina Suvak & Zerene Reyes).
When junior Lauren Embree was voted the 2012 SEC Player of the Year, she became the second player in the 20-year history of the award to receive the SECís top individual honor twice in a career, joining Gator great Jill Craybas, who was honored in 1995 and 1996. Embree also was voted the SEC Player of the Year in 2010, when she became the first ever freshman to collect the award.
Embree and Mather have won a team-leading 20 consecutive doubles matches together. It is a career-best streak as a tandem, passing the 16-match run set last season. The 20-match win streak, which is tied for the fifth longest in program history, is part of the tandemís overall record of 49-7, which includes a career 45-1 mark in dual match action.
Junior All-American Allie Will, who is the nationís top-ranked singles player and part of the No. 1-ranked doubles team, is 21-1 overall in the singles court this year and her career singles winning percentage is a staggering 90.4 percent (104-11), second only to Gator legend Lisa Raymond, who won 95.4 percent (84-4) during her two-her collegiate career.
Florida also plays host to the opening two rounds of the menís NCAA Championships, May 12-13.
Tickets may be purchased in advance or on each day of the tournament at the Ticket Booth at the entrance to the Ring Tennis Complex. An ALL-SESSION Pass that includes the menís and womenís matches is $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for senior citizens, college students and children under 17. SINGLE DAY tickets for Friday and Saturday are $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for senior citizens, college students and children under 17. SINGLE DAY tickets for Sunday are $3.00 for everyone.