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Caroline Hitimana (left) and Alexandra Cercone celebrate after winning the clinching doubles match.

Saturday May 19, 2012Women's Tennis Rides Doubles Momentum into NCAA Semifinals after 4-0 Win vs. Miami

Athens, GA

Caroline Hitimana (left) and Alexandra Cercone celebrate after winning the clinching doubles match.

Second-seeded Florida advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships after outlasting Miami on the doubles court and then carrying that momentum onto the singles courts where the Gators earned a 4-0 victory and their third consecutive trip to the final four on Saturday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

 

After the teams split the doubles results on courts one and two, Alexandra Cercone (Seminole, Fla.) and Caroline Hitimana (Waterloo, Belgium) clinched the doubles point with an 8-6 victory that lasted one hour and 46 minutes.

 

Cercone and Hitimana were up a break at 4-1 before Anna Bartenstein and Brittany Dubins were able to get the match back on-serve with the break in the seventh game and held for 4-all. Cercone then held at love and it stayed that way through the 13th game, which proved to be a pivotal one for the Gators, who took turned away five break points and capitalized on their second game-point in the 18-point game for a 7-6 lead. Bartenstein then held a game-point on her serve, but the UF pair fought that off, as well as another and captured the doubles point on their third match point.

 

Florida (25-1) fed off the momentum and needed just one hour and 39 minutes to get singles wins from Cercone, Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay, Fla.) and Joanna Mather (Duluth, Ga.) to advance to the NCAA Semifinals for the 22nd time in the last 26 years and produce the 900th win in program history.

 

"I think winning the doubles point was huge,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “I think it really quieted down the Miami players. I thought we were the better team on all six singles courts, so I wasn't terribly afraid that losing the doubles point would let the match slip out of our hands. However, it makes a big difference when we can come through with great courage like we did at three doubles to win it. I certainly felt like that set the tone in the beginning of singles."

 

"We were up 4-1 and then it went to 4-4, and I think at that point the other matches were close to being finished and it was not even close on our court,” Cercone shared. “I knew we had a long ways to go, so at that point Caroline (Hitimana) and I were focused on trying to win every game that we could, trying to do the right thing and really play the opponents weaknesses and our strengths. It got really tight, there were some close calls, and we tried to not let that bother us. Once we got through that, we got really hyped, we were able to close it out and it was very relieving."

 

Cercone showed no signs of being tired after her drama-filled doubles win, as she was the first off the singles court with a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Liat Zimmerman in one hour and 22 minutes. The Gator sophomore, who improved to 7-0 all-time in NCAA singles dual matches, earned the 65th overall singles win of her career.

 

“I tried to play a consistent tennis game and hit the balls deep and in the corners,” Cercone said. “My opponent wasn't extremely consistent, so I tried to just make one more ball, one more ball, and if I got the opportunity to be aggressive, I would do so. I tried to have a good first serve percentage."

 

Janowicz, who also collected her second singles win at the 2012 NCAA Championships site, followed Cercone with a 6-3, 6-2 victory against Dubins and earned her ninth consecutive singles victory.

 

Mather polished off the NCAA quarterfinal win with a 6-2, 6-4 decision on court three against No. 71 Lina Lileikite and earned her 17th consecutive singles win, tying her with Hitimana for team’s longest active win streak. The Gator’s lone senior won her team-best 32 singles match this season, as well as the 103rd of her career.

 

"It's great,” Mather said of reaching the semifinals. “I couldn't imagine doing it with a better group of girls. We enjoy working together every single day and we're just excited to get to play another match. We're fighting hard and it's just amazing."

 

Florida improved its record in the all-time series against Miami (21-5) to 37-21, including 5-2 record in NCAA matches. Saturday marked the third consecutive season the two teams met in the NCAA quarterfinal round. Florida earned the 4-1 victory in last year’s event and the 4-0 win in the 2010 NCAA Championships. Prior to those victories, the Hurricanes stunned the Gators with a 4-3 decision in the 2004 NCAA round of 32 played in Gainesville.

 

"This one was very much like every other time we've played Miami; it was a dog fight,” Thornqvist said. “They have great athletes who can run, and they have great ball tolerance. The doubles came down three, and I thought we showed great composure and great communication. We were by far the most aggressive team at the end, and that's why we won. It took a lot of courage from our two players, who had an opening lead and then it got close, to continue to want the ball and to want it at the net. I was very happy to see that. I thought that took a little bit of the edge off of Miami, but they still did a great job. They tried to slow down the pace on virtually every court between points and during points, and I thought that was a good strategy against us.

 

“Like I told the team after, I don't know that this team can be out-grinded, frankly,” Thornqvist continued. “I felt good about it, I felt good that we're fit enough to go the distance. I was happy to see that we were fairly quick at winning some straight set matches."

 

The Gators will play No. 3 Duke (20-2) in the NCAA semifinals on Monday at 1 p.m. The Blue Devils knocked off host Georgia, 4-2, in their quarterfinal contest. Duke lost the doubles point for the third time in its last five matches, but rallied to win each dual match on the singles court.

 

Florida will ride a 20-match winning streak into Monday’s NCAA Semifinal match against Duke, which has an 18-match win streak, tying for the second-longest in program history with the 2009 team which won the program’s first national championship.

 

Miami (21-5) held the early lead after taking the 8-4 decision on the doubles court two against UF’s Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Mather, who entered the contest with a 23-match winning streak and were 48-1 all-time in dual match competition, including a 23-0 record this year in team play.

 

The Gators even doubles play with a decisive 8-3 win on court one, where top-ranked Allie Will (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Sofie Oyen (Leopoldsburg, Belgium) downed No. 20 Melissa Bolivar and Zimmerman. The Florida pair jumped out to a 5-0 lead en route to the victory and set the stage for the thriller on court three.

 

Florida Head Coach Roland Thornqvist
Opening statement...
“This one was very much like every other time we’ve played Miami; it was a dog fight. They have great athletes who can run, and they have great ball tolerance. The doubles came down three, and I thought we showed great composure and great communication. We were by far the most aggressive team at the end, and that’s why we won. It took a lot of courage from our two players, who had an opening lead and then it got close, to continue to want the ball and to want it at the net. I was very happy to see that. I thought that took a little bit of the edge off of Miami, but they still did a great job. They tried to slow down the pace on virtually every court between points and during points, and I thought that was a good strategy against us. Like I told the team after, I don’t know that this team can be out-grinded, frankly. I felt good about it, I felt good that we’re fit enough to go the distance. I was happy to see that we were fairly quick at winning some straight set matches.”

 

On being happy with how quickly the singles matches went...
“I think winning the doubles point was huge. I think it really quieted down the Miami players. I thought we were the better team on all six singles courts, so I wasn’t terribly afraid that losing the doubles point would let the match slip out of our hands. However, it makes a big difference when we can come through with great courage like we did at three doubles to win it. I certainly felt like that set the tone in the beginning of singles.”

 

Florida’s Joanna Mather
On clinching the singles feeling old...
“I knew there were a lot of courts around me who were about to clinch too, so it didn’t really feel like a clinch as much. It’s definitely not getting old at all.”

 

On getting to the semifinals for the third straight year...
“It’s great. I couldn’t imagine doing it with a better group of girls. We enjoy working together every single day and we’re just excited to get to play another match. We’re fighting hard and it’s just amazing.”

 

Florida’s Alexandra Cercone
On
the third doubles match...
“We were up 4-1 and then it went to 4-4, and I think at that point the other matches were close to being finished and it was not even close on our court. I knew we had a long ways to go, so at that point Caroline Hitimana and I were focused on trying to win every game that we could, trying to do the right thing and really play the opponents weaknesses and our strengths. It got really tight, there were some close calls, and we tried to not let that bother us. Once we got through that, we got really hyped, we were able to close it out and it was very relieving.”

 

On her singles play...
“I tried to play a consistent tennis game and hit the balls deep and in the corners. My opponent wasn’t extremely consistent, so I tried to just make one more ball, one more ball, and if I got the opportunity to be aggressive, I would do so. I tried to have a good first serve percentage.”

 

Miami Head Coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews
“I think Florida played an amazing match today >They made it physical. They played the big points well. They deserved the victory. It’s always upsetting when a season ends, but I think the better team won today.”

 

On the marathon doubles point...
“It was a tough one to lose. I was proud of the way my team played doubles. At No. 1 , we were a little injured, I knew that was going to be tough. No. 2 played absolutely amazing. And No. 3 has just been playing better as the season progressed. I cant be upset with the way that they played. I think they played one of their better doubles of the season. It happens. You can’t get caught up in winning or losing the doubles point.”

 

On playing Florida...
“We’ve been going on six players this entire season. To be sitting in the quarterfinals of the tournament against Florida, I would have welcomed that in February headed into this season. I’m never going to complain about being in the quarterfinals and playing anybody. I don’t care who it is. We learned. Florida is one of the toughest physically teams in the country. The more we play them, the more I learn, the more our kids learn. I think it’s good for us to see them.”

 

On playing late into the night Thursday...
“I think the girls were a little tired yesterday. They looked tired. But, no. I think once we woke up this morning we were fine and good to go. I don’t think it affected our match at all today.”

 

Miami’s Anna Bartenstein
“Brittany and I started out the season and we progressed during the season and played better and better. Florida is a very tough team and you can’t make any stupid mistakes and decisions. We competed very hard and gave our best. But we came up a little bit short.”

 

 

NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships Quarterfinals

Dan Magill Tennis Complex * Athens, Ga.

 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

 

Complete Team Results

(1) UCLA d. (9) California, 4-1

(5) Southern California d. (4) Stanford, 4-2

(3) Duke d. (6) Georgia, 4-2

(2) Florida d. (10) Miami (FL), 4-0

 

 

UF Complete Results

 

Final Score: Florida d. Miami-FL, 4-0

 

Doubles (order of finish: 2, 1, 3*)

1. Sofie Oyen/Allie Will (1), UF d. Melissa Bolivar/Liat Zimmerman (20), UM, 8-3

2. Lina Lileikite/Gabriela Mejia (76), UM d. Lauren Embree/Joanna Mather (22), UF, 8-4

3. Alexandra Cercone/Caroline Hitimana, UF d. Anna Bartenstein/Brittany Dubins, UM, 8-6*

 

Singles (order of finish: 5, 6, 3*)

1. Allie Will (1), UF led Anna Bartenstein (18), UM, 6-3, 4-2 DNF

2. Lauren Embree (9), UF led Gabriela Mejia (27), UM, 7-6 (2), 1-3 DNF

3. Joanna Mather (21), UF d. Lina Lileikite (71), UM, 6-2, 6-4*

4. Sofie Oyen (61), UF led Melissa Bolivar, UM, 6-3, 5-3 DNF

5. Alexandra Cercone (79), UF d. Liat Zimmerman, UM, 6-2, 6-2

6. Olivia Janowicz, UF d. Brittany Dubins, UM, 6-3, 6-2

 

*indicates clinching doubles point/dual match win

 

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