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Olivia Janowicz and the Gators begin their SEC schedule at Missouri on Friday.

Thursday February 28, 2013Florida Opens SEC Schedule Friday at League-Newcomer Missouri

Columbia, MO

Olivia Janowicz and the Gators begin their SEC schedule at Missouri on Friday.

Florida officially launches its defense of the Southeastern Conference regular season championship on Friday, when the Gators travel to Columbia, Mo., for the first time to play league newcomer Missouri at the Green Tennis Center beginning at 6 p.m. ET (5 p.m. CT).    


The Gators then continue their conference-opening road trip playing sixth-ranked Texas A&M at the Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station at 1 p.m. ET (noon CT).


“This weekend will be interesting because we’ll play indoors on an ice hockey rink surface at Missouri and then go to Texas A&M and play in 40-degree weather with blowing winds,” said head coach Roland Thornqvist, who has guided the Gators to eight SEC titles during his 11 years. “We’ll have to be ready for a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”


Friday will be the first-ever meeting between Florida (6-1) and SEC newcomer Missouri (5-1), which has won five consecutive dual matches.


“Missouri is an indoor team, they’ve played every match so far inside,” Thornqvist said. “They had a snow storm up there recently so we’ll definitely be indoors. They have four courts, we’ll play at night and it’s really fast. It’s sort of a bubble facility so we have to play fast tennis, probably shorter points. Then we’ll play Texas A&M which is on the opposite end of that spectrum. They have clay-court kind of players. They roll the ball, defend. So, we’ll have to play fast on Friday and be ready to play long points on Sunday. That’s definitely a great challenge. These are two great teams and great institutions that are going to add a lot to our league over the long haul. Texas A&M is already one of the best three or four teams in the conference.”


The Gators are coming off an emotional and thrilling 4-2 win against national rival Stanford on Sun., Feb. 24 at the Ring Tennis Complex.


“We’re coming off a huge win against Stanford and it’s going to be happy, happy, joy, joy around here for a couple days,” Thornqvist said on Monday. “That’s human nature. We’ll have to find a way on Wednesday to start getting back to work. This is a big weekend. It’s the first weekend in the SEC and you have to start out well, otherwise you’re playing from behind if you’re trying to win the title and that’s really difficult with the quality of teams we have in the league.”


Florida has won 36 consecutive regular-season SEC matches, which includes an 11-0 record in 2011-12, in 2010-11 and 2009-10, as well as the final three matches of the 2008-09 campaign.


Florida is an incredible 399-25 all-time against the SEC, including a 337-16 record in regular-season matches (11-0 in 2011-12).


The Gators have captured the SEC regular-season title 26 times in the 33 years the league has sponsored women’s tennis. Florida has won 24 of those 26 titles outright, sharing the crown in 1990 and 2007. The 2012 championship was Florida’s third consecutive season posting an undefeated league record (11-0), as well as the 21st time in program history.


Florida’s 2012 SEC regular-season championship is the program’s 26th of a possible 33 SEC titles, as well as its third consecutive conference crown. The Gators have won more SEC women’s championships than any other women’s team at any school in any sport.


The Florida Gators were picked by the league coaches as the overall champion for the fourth consecutive year. Last season, the Gators went 27-1, 11-0 in the SEC. They won the regular season SEC title as well as the SEC Tournament title.  The Gators also won their second consecutive women’s tennis title by defeating Michigan in the Round of 16, 4-0; Miami, 4-0 in the quarterfinals; and Duke 4-3 in the semifinals before finally defeating UCLA, 4-0 for the Gator’s sixth title.


Florida was also voted as Eastern Division Champion with 98 points. Georgia was second (83 points) with Vanderbilt coming in at third (62 points).  The remainder of the East was: 4. Tennessee (61 points), 5. South Carolina (44 points), 6. Kentucky (23 points) and Missouri (21 points).


In the West, Texas A&M was voted as Division Champion with 94 points.  Alabama was voted second (88 points) with Ole Miss third (66 points). The remainder of the West was: 4. Arkansas (47 points), 5. Auburn (46 points), 6. LSU (34 points) and Mississippi State (17 points).


“It’s a very tough conference again this year. Almost every team is better than they were last year and almost every team can beat you if you’re not ready,” Thornqvist said. “Just like in every other sport in the SEC, you better be ready every week or somebody is going to run you down.”


In the most recent ITA national rankings released on Tuesday, Florida was ranked No. 4, followed by No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Texas A&M, No. 7 Georgia, No. 12 Vanderbilt and No. 17 Auburn. Also earning recognition was No. 42 Ole Miss, No. 43 South Carolina, No. 50 Arkansas, No. 53 Kentucky, No. 57 Tennessee, No. 63 LSU and No. 71 Missouri


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