Friday May 11, 2012Women's Tennis Blanks South Carolina State in NCAA First Round, 4-0
Alexandra Cercone (left) and Caroline Hitimana produced the first win of the day on the doubles court.
The second-seeded University of Florida women’s tennis team overwhelmed South Carolina State, 4-0, in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships held at Linder Stadium at the Ring Tennis Complex on Friday.
The Gators (22-1), who improved to 14-0 all-time in NCAA Round of 64 matches, set the tone from the start of doubles play where Florida won 24 of the 25 games played, posting scores of 8-1, 8-0 and 8-0 to earn the 1-0 lead in the team scoring 31 minutes into the match.
South Carolina State (19-1), which has lost to Florida 4-0 in the NCAA first round each of the last three years, came out stronger on the singles courts, but the Gators proved to be too much, as senior Joanna Mather (Duluth, Ga.) won her 15th consecutive singles match and collected the 101st victory of her career with a 6-0, 6-0 decision against Victoria Khatcei on court three. The win also was Mather’s team-leading 30th of the year. Mather has helped the Gators to a 53-0 all-time home record at the Ring Tennis Complex, where Florida has won 106 consecutive matches.
Florida plays Washington State (19-6) in the NCAA Second Round on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Cougars defeated Florida State, 4-3, to advance to the second round for the second time in program history and the first time since 2001. Saturday will be the first meeting between the Gators and Cougars.
Junior Caroline Hitimana (Waterloo, Belgium) gave Florida a 3-0 lead after she tallied her third double-bagel win of the season and captured her team-leading 17th straight singles victory.
Sofie Oyen (Leopoldsburg, Belgium) polished off the opening round win with a 6-1, 6-0 victory against Laura Bosneag on court four, where the Bulldog junior held serve on her first trip to the baseline before the Gator sophomore won the final 11 games to clinch the team victory.
“I thought we played very well,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “I thought we played very well in doubles, made a lot of first serves, played aggressively when we needed to, made pretty much every single return. If you make serves and returns and approach when you’re supposed to you’re going to be successful a majority of the time when you play doubles. I thought we continued that good play in singles too. I was very happy from start to finish today. We got it done fairly quickly. We’re going to hydrate and rest and then look forward to tomorrow.”
Included among the wins was the doubles victory by the Gator tandem of Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Mather, which earned its 21st consecutive decision, a run tied for the fourth longest in program history.
Florida Head Coach Roland Thornqvist
“I thought we played very well. I thought we played very well in doubles, made a lot of first serves, played aggressively when we needed to, made pretty much every single return. If you make serves and returns and approach when you’re supposed to you’re going to be successful a majority of the time when you play doubles. I thought we continued that good play in singles too. I was very happy from start to finish today. We got it done fairly quickly. We’re going to hydrate and rest and then look forward to tomorrow.”
On Joanna Mather…
“When Joanna is on top of her game there aren’t a lot of people who can play with her and certainly today her ball was excellent.”
On if he has empathy for South Carolina State having to play UF the last three years…
“I’m sure it is difficult for them because they have a good team. Obviously they went undefeated, but at the same time our job is to care about our business. If we had lost today our players would have been devastated. As much as I feel empathy for South Carolina State my primary responsibility and care is for this team and I’m very happy for them.”
On why he thinks South Carolina State keeps showing up in the Florida regional…
“That’s a great question. I don’t know if it’s geographical. I mean three years in a row it has to be something. I don’t do the draw and I don’t know who does either. There has to be a reason for it because purely statistically it shouldn’t be possible. Maybe it’s the old US Open fixed draw thing.”
On what he saw from Washington State…
“It looks like they’re playing well. Obviously, we’ve got to do the same things that we’ve been doing all year. We’ve got to be physical, hit a lot of balls with good depth and make them move. If we can be aggressive in doubles, I think that we have a lot of opportunity to be aggressive in doubles, and then hopefully the heat will be an ally for us. Clearly they aren’t used to it so if we do what we’re supposed to do tomorrow then the ally can be like a seventh player for us.”
On if this is the best doubles he has seen from the team this season…
“Fundamentally we played really good. First serves, returns and approach at the right time was very good. We’ve been talking about that for a few weeks here and I thought that it was clinical. It will be tougher tomorrow, clearly, but we’re going to try and do the same things.”
Florida Senior Joanna Mather
On playing her final collegiate matches…
‘I’m trying not to think about that too much but I was excited about playing again. We hadn’t played in a long time. I think I was just ready to play more than anything.”
On not playing in 19 days…
“I feel like it went by slowly because we also had exams. So that was slow, studying. We’ve been hitting a lot so that helped us get through the day but it really did feel like a long time since the last match we played, especially at home.”
Florida Junior Caroline Hitimana
On her match against South Carolina State…
“I think today was a good match. I tried to get off the court as fast as I could while still playing some good tennis so it feels good.”
On winning 17 straight singles matches…
“I think I’ve been playing pretty well and I’ve been playing a lot of matches so that helps my confidence. I don’t think about it too much but when I’m on the court I think it helps me.”
South Carolina State Assistant Coach Suzanna Mansour
On Akilah James…
“She played her heart out. She did very well. She’s been very consistent the entire year. She goes out there and she fights. She’s our number one player and there’s not too much pressure on her. I told her, ‘Just go out there, you have nothing to lose. You’re the best player out there and just go out there and play.’ And she did. She played well. I think she started feeling a little bit of pressure when she started losing a couple games. Other than that, I’m pretty happy with it.”
On her team’s effort compared to previous years’ NCAA first rounds against Florida…
“Our effort every year is pretty much consistent. We don’t like to pull Florida every year. It’s hard for them because they work so hard during the season and we were undefeated this season and had two player make history that were undefeated. We were excited thinking that we would pull maybe an eight seed or something but when they saw Florida again they weren’t too happy. Again, we just have to go out there and just play. There’s not too much to say about that because we have to that every single year. But I’m happy with it. Our lineup was a little bit different. I didn’t have two players who last minute had an emergency and had to go back to Spain which kind of threw everything off because I had to throw everybody up and use two players that we hadn’t used all season. That kind of threw us off a little bit but I’m still happy with our effort and they didn’t let that get to them.”
On drawing Florida again in the first round…
“We expect it. We kind of hoped that maybe they’ll put us somewhere else but when it popped up I felt bad for the girls who are just kind of like, “Uh, not again.” And then they don’t want to come out to practice. You kind of lose a lot of faith. But like I’ve told them every single year, “You have to go there and you have to fight. If you’re going to lose, at least make them fight. And I think they did that today, especially in Akilah’s match today. She made her work so I’m very happy with it across the lineup.”
NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships First Round
No. 2 Florida vs. South Carolina State
Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex * Gainesville, Fla.
Friday, May 11, 2012
Final Score: Florida d. South Carolina State, 4-0
Doubles (order of finish: 3, 1, 2)
1. Sofie Oyen/Allie Will (1), UF d. Akilah James/Maria Craciun, SCSU, 8-1*
2. Lauren Embree/Joanna Mather (22), UF vs. Victoria Khatcei/Laura Bosneag, SCSU, 8-0
3. Alexandra Cercone/Caroline Hitimana, UF vs. Katarina Barborikova/Valerina Savina, SCSU, 8-0
Singles (order of finish: 3, 5, 4)
1. Allie Will (1), UF led Akilah James, SCSU, 6-3, 2-0 DNF
2. Lauren Embree (9), UF led Maria Craciun (t-120), SCSU 6-1, 3-0 DNF
3. Joanna Mather (21), UF d. Victoria Khatcei, SCSU, 6-0, 6-0
4. Sofie Oyen (61), UF d. Laura Bosneag, SCSU, 6-1, 6-0*
5. Caroline Hitimana (115), UF d. Katarina Barborikova, SCSU, 6-0, 6-0
6. Olivia Janowicz, UF led Valerina Savina, SCSU, 6-0 DNF
Updated Records: Florida (22-1); South Carolina State (19-1)
NCAA Seeding: Florida – 2; South Carolina State – 49-64
ITA National Ranking: Florida – 2; South Carolina State - none
*indicates clinching doubles/dual match point