Sunday May 12, 2013Top-Seeded Florida Blanks Georgia Tech in NCAA Women's Tennis Second Round
Seniors Lauren Embree (pictured) and Caroline Hitimana helped UF to a 55-0 home record during their career.
Gator seniors Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) and Caroline Hitimana (Waterloo, Belgium) made their final home appearance a memorable one, as they helped Florida earn a 4-0 win against No. 23 Georgia Tech in the second round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Championships played at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex on Sunday afternoon.
Florida advances to NCAA Round of 16 and plays No. 15 Duke (16-9) on Friday, May 17 at 10 a.m.ET/9 a.m. CT, in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. The Blue Devils knocked off host Texas Tech, 4-3, in their second-round match.
VIDEO – 2Ways2Watch
Highlights and Postmatch interviews with Coach Thornqvist, Lauren Embree, Caroline Hitimana and Sofie Oyen:
GatorVision Online: http://www.gatorvision.tv/mediaPortal/player.dbml?id=2424513&db_oem_id=6500
Embree and Hitmana were on the two doubles teams that captured wins and ultimately the doubles point to begin the match, before Embree’s 6-0, 6-0 singles victory gave Florida a 2-0 lead in the team scoring.
Freshman Brianna Morgan (Beverly Hills, Calif.) and junior Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay, Fla.) provided the final two singles wins that helped the Gators win their 17th consecutive match and march into the NCAA Round of 16 for the 30th time in the 32-year history of the event.
“I thought we played excellent doubles,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “One doubles was really fun to watch because they have a really quality one doubles team. I like the momentum that carried us into the beginning part of singles after that and I just don’t think we every really looked back. We looked fit. We moved well. The crowd really helped us also, so I was very pleased with pretty much everything today.”
Embree’s win against Elizabeth Kilborn was her 20th consecutive singles victory, as well as her 38th straight in dual match competition, as she improved to 116-14 in her overall singles career, including a 14-0 record in NCAA dual matches.
Hitimana, who held a 6-1, 3-3 lead in her singles match when play was abandoned, paired with junior Alexandra Cercone (Seminole, Fla.) at the No. 2 doubles position, where the tandem posted an impressive 8-2 win for the first individual victory of the afternoon. That decision proved to be an important one, as Georgia Tech claimed the outcome on court three, before Embree and junior Sofie Oyen (Leopoldsburg, Belgium) provided the clinching 8-6 win for the doubles point.
Hitimana, who improved to 12-1 in her NCAA doubles dual match career, and Embree capped their collegiate home career leading the Gators to a perfect 55-0 record at the Ring Tennis Complex and became just the sixth Gator senior class to finish with an undefeated home mark.
“It is bittersweet to not be able to play another match here at home,” Embree shared. “Our fans were great today, a lot of people showed up for our match. It was good to play in front of the fans. It is always good to play in front of them. Their support means a lot to us. We are not done yet. We are still going to go to Champaign and hopefully continue this year and see how it goes.”
Florida (24-2), which hasn’t been as dominating on the doubles court as in recent years, battled and won the doubles point for the 16th time this season.
Cercone and Hitimana jumped out to a 4-1 lead on court two against Jasmine Minor and Natasha Prokhnevska, who earned a break in the sixth game, but lost serve in the seventh, as Hitimana held for a 6-2 Gator lead, fighting off three break points. The UF tandem then broke at love and Cercone served out for the 8-2 win.
Georgia Tech (15-10) followed by taking the decision on court three, leaving the doubles point outcome to court one, where Embree and Oyen were playing long, exciting rallies against Megan Kurey and Kendal Woodard. Embree held for a 5-3 lead and the Gators capitalized on their fifth break point on Woodard in the ninth game for a 6-3 advantage. Oyen went to the baseline and held double-game point, but could not close it out as the Yellow Jacket pair swatted away three game points and got the break o their first opportunity. Kurey then held, as did Embree, who gave the Gators a 7-5 lead. Oyen later served out for the 8-6 win and the doubles point.
On the singles court, Embree posted a double-bagel decision for the second straight match and the fifth time in her career, downing Elizabeth Kilborn in 59 minutes.
“The last game I was thinking about it,” said Embree of knowing that this would be the final home match of her career. “Before the game I knew I wanted to finish my match for the last time so the last game I was thinking about it that my chances were pretty high to finish. The last point when I was done I was thinking I am never going to play here. But we still have this year and hopefully a couple more matches to go so I’m not too sad yet. I haven’t really thought about it yet.”
Morgan followed with a 6-1, 6-2 win against Megan Kurey on court four, as the Gator rookie won her 11th consecutive singles match.
Janowicz provided the clinching dual match victory, a 6-2, 6-3 win over Muriel Wacker that helped the Gators cap their home slate with a 14-0 record, the 23rd undefeated home record in program history and extend their overall home win streak to 121, the longest active run of any NCAA Division I women’s team in any sport.
Sunday’s victory also was the 300th win for Thornqvist, who is 300-33 in 12 years with the Gators.
“I have been blessed with players like this,” said Thornqvist of the milestone victory. “That makes it much easier to reach that number.”
NCAA Division I Women’s Tennis Second Round
No. 23 Georgia Tech vs. No. 1 Florida
Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Final: Florida 4, Georgia Tech 0
Doubles (order of finish: 2, 3, 1*)
1. #11 Lauren Embree/Sofie Oyen, FLORIDA d. #60 Megan Kurey/Kendal Woodard, GEORGIA TECH, 8-6*
2. Alexandra Cercone/Caroline Hitimana, FLORIDA d. Jasmine Minor/Natasha Prokhnevska, GEORGIA TECH, 8-2
3. Elizabeth Kilborn/Muriel Wacker, GEORGIA TECH d. Danielle Collins/Brianna Morgan, FLORIDA, 8-4
Singles (order of finish: 1, 4, 5*)
1. #1 Lauren Embree, FLORIDA d. #98 Elizabeth Kilborn, GEORGIA TECH, 6-0, 6-0
2. #17 Sofie Oyen, FLORIDA vs. #88 Kendal Woodard, GEORGIA TECH6-4, 3-4 DNF
3. #51 Alexandra Cercone, FLORIDA vs. Natasha Prokhnevska, GEORGIA TECH 3-6, 4-1 DNF
4. #89 Brianna Morgan, FLORIDA d. Megan Kurey, GEORGIA TECH, 6-1, 6-2
5. #123 Olivia Janowicz, FLORIDA d. Muriel Wacker, GEORGIA TECH, 6-2, 6-3*
6. #116 Caroline Hitimana, FLORIDA vs. Jasmine Minor, GEORGIA TECH, 6-1, 3-3 DNF
RECORDS: Florida 24-2; Georgia Tech 15-10
NCAA Seeding: Florida 1; Georgia Tech 17-32
*indicates clinching doubles point/dual match win
Florida Head Coach Roland Thornqvist
“Very pleased, very happy. I thought we played excellent doubles. One doubles was really fun to watch because they have a really quality one doubles team. I like the momentum that carried us into the beginning part of singles after that and I just don’t think we every really looked back. We looked fit. We moved well. The crowd really helped us also, so I was very pleased with pretty much everything today.”
On how the two freshmen handled the pressure of playing in the NCAA Tournament
“Brianna has been exceptional all year long I think. She is still getting used to the doubles game, there is clearly a little bit of lag there but her singles game is just phenomenal. She is fast, she has great racket speed and she makes good decisions now so she is very difficult to beat. I think both of them have progressed nicely. It is a big stage here so sometimes the freshmen can be a little nervous on the first time on the big stage but I feel pretty good about heading up to Champaign with these two.”
On getting his 300th win at Florida
“Well I would say I have been blessed with players like this. That makes it much easier to reach that number.”
On what it means to have been here so long and been successful
“The one thing today I was thinking while I was watching singles, I was trying to soak it in. Just to have Lauren right there. The last few games I was sitting on Alex’s (Cercone) court but I was probably watching one-singles just as much. Both Caroline and Lauren have done nothing but have great attitudes and win here. It has just been a privilege to have them on our team. If you have players like that on your team it makes my job so much easier. It makes my job not feel like a job and that is very rewarding.”
On if thought would be this successful when first got here
“When I got here I was 31 years old and I thought I knew everything, which clearly wasn’t the case. The older you get the smarter you get and now I figure that I am pretty blessed to have had players like this. Florida is a great place so if you work hard here and have a great attitude as a coach you should be able to recruit quality players. That is just how I see it, especially in tennis.”
On how the mentality will change playing on the road now
“First of all we have to figure out who we are going to play on Friday. We will probably follow the same protocol that we have run here for 12 years. We are going to hit and run tomorrow, travel day Tuesday and then Wednesday is our practice day at Illinois on the real courts so we have to get all of our work in tomorrow. We are going to do some doubles stuff and run a little bit and then I think we are ready. I really think we are hitting the ball very well, so at this point I feel like we have done everything we should have. That is always what we preach, once we get here you want to feel like you have covered everything then you can live with whatever result happens the rest of the summer. The worst feeling in the world is when you roll in here and feel like you should have done this or should have done that then you lose and have the whole summer to reflect on what you should have done. No matter what happens now I will be the first guy to shake these players’ hands because they have worked really hard with great attitudes and we are rolling up there with seven players ready to go and that is a great feeling.”
On Texas Tech or Duke (next round opponent)
“One of our losses this year was to Duke. Their roster has sort of decimated with injuries so they are forfeiting one spot and playing a soccer player at another so obviously it is not the same Duke team we faced in February. We know very little about Texas Tech so we will find stuff out and watch them hit when we get up to Illinois. By the time we play Friday we will be ready.”
Senior Lauren Embree
On playing final home match as a Gator
“It is bittersweet to not be able to play another match here at home. Our fans were great today, a lot of people showed up for our match. It was good to play in front of the fans. It is always good to play in front of them. Their support means a lot to us. We are not done yet. We are still going to go to Champaign and hopefully continue this year and see how it goes.”
On thinking about it being the last match while you were playing
“The last game I was thinking about it. Before the game I knew I wanted to finish my match for the last time so the last game I was thinking about it that my chances were pretty high to finish. The last point when I was done I was thinking I am never going to play here. But we still have this year and hopefully a couple more matches to go so I’m not too sad yet. I haven’t really thought about it yet.”
On challenge that the doubles match brought
“We knew that Kendall had a really big serve so we thought that hang in there in the service games with her and maybe we could get lucky enough to play a good game and she would miss a couple of first serves but we knew we had to hold our serves or we would be in trouble. We got up 6-3 and had some great points. I think we broke her to get up 6-3 and then we said to ourselves let’s back this up with a good service game and we did not do that, so that’s when it got closer and a little dicey. We thought we played well. We had a lot of fun and played really well the last couple of games.”
On challenges you saw in the singles match today
“She had a big forehand so I switched and started playing her backhand and that got me more not on defense. Then I was able to get more in a rhythm and play the points that I wanted to play.”
On if weather will make a difference going to Illinois
“I think it is supposed to be warm so we are pretty used to that training here every day.”
On most cherished moment being here
“One thing that I have said before is having people together on your team that want you to do well and want you to win. In tennis that is not very common, so that is definitely something I am going to miss from college. It makes it a lot easier to want to win for your team, want to work hard, want to practice every single day when you have such a close group in the locker room and such great coaches who are just fun to be around. That is definitely something that I will miss when I am done.”
On if it ever got emotional this year
“It definitely did. We had a team banquet and got a little emotional there giving our speeches. It is hard not to get emotional. When you do get emotional it is happier then sad looking back.”
Senior Caroline Hitimana
On playing final home match as a Gator
“As Lauren said its mixed feelings. I don’t think it has really hit me yet because we still have matches to play so we are just trying to get ready for the next one.”
On thinking about it being the last match while you were playing
“Well I didn’t get to finish so I was trying to focus on my match and then I heard the slow clapping for the clinch and I was kind of sad because I knew I didn’t have any more matches to play at home, but as we said we still have matches to come so we are focusing on that.”
On winning doubles match pretty easily
“The first few games are always tough because you are trying to see how your opponents play and trying to find their weaknesses. We got better once we got into the match. We started pushing more and playing better tennis.”
On if there was a difference with temperature today
“Not much, but I am pretty sure the other team was struggling a little bit. They are probably not used to the heat as much as we are. That is why we do fitness at 2 p.m. when it’s the hottest time during the day so we are ready for that.”
On most cherished moment being here
“It is hard to say. Both national championships were obviously the peak of our time here. Both were as memorable and I don’t think I could pick one over the other.”
Junior Sofie Oyen
On Kendall Woodard’s serve
“It’s pretty difficult, especially in the beginning. I played her in doubles so I knew how hard it was. In the beginning I was struggling a little bit. I lost the first game but then I got into the match and I just got used to her serve. I love when people serve really hard because I can use the pace, but it was good that I played her in doubles so that I knew how she would play.”
On if there is extra drive to win to make sure the seniors go out on top again
“For sure I am going to do everything so they can be proud of me. I just always want to win even if these seniors would not be here, but it is a special moment now because there are two seniors and these are my two really good friends. I am obviously going to miss them so I am going to try my best and hopefully we will all be good this year.”
*Second meeting between in Florida and Georgia Tech in women’s tennis (Gators won 2008 NCAA Quarterfinal match, 4-2)
*on-court temperature at start of doubles was 95 degrees – heat rule in effect
*Gators reach NCAA Round of 16 for 30th time
*Gators improve to 14-1 in NCAA Round of 32 matches and 43-5 all-time at home in NCAA matches
*UF wins doubles point for 16th time this year
*UF wins 121st consecutive home match, includes 21 wins in NCAA and SEC Tournament play
*Embree’s 17 doubles wins are the most by a Gator in NCAA dual matches contests
*seniors Embree and Hitimana cap collegiate careers with 55-0 home record – sixth senior class to post undefeated home record
*Thornqvist collects 300th win in 12 years at UF and 375th in 17-year head coaching career
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