There hasn’t been much the Florida women’s tennis team hasn’t accomplished. But Roland Thornqvist, who in 2012-13 enters his 12th year as head coach of the Gators, continued to find a way to raise the standard of success in Gainesville.
Thornqvist ended the 2011-12 campaign with a remarkable 351-81 head coaching record in 16 years, including a 276-31 mark at Florida. His 350th all-time win, as well as the 275th of his Gator tenure was the 4-3 thriller in the 2012 NCAA Semifinals against Duke en route to the winning his third national championship.
The 2011-12 Gators cappedtheir 27-1 record winning the 2012 NCAA Championship, earning the program’s sixth national championship and the first time the team has won back-to-back titles - only the second team in NCAA Women’s Tennis history to do so. Florida earned the No. 2 overall seed in the 64-team event for the second consecutive year after winning the Southeastern Tournament for the third straight season and netting an 11-0 record en route to claiming the league’s regular-season crown.
The 2011-12 team was able to produce the program’s 22nd undefeated home record (12-0) and extend its overall home winning streak to 107 – the longest run by an NCAA Division I women’s team in any sport.
Individually, Thornqvist has been honored as the ITA National Coach of the Year (2011), the ITA Southeast Region Coach of the Year (2010 & 2012) and the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year (2004, 2006 & 2010).
The team and individual accomplishments under Thornqvist’s guidance continue to grow with every season.
In 11 years with Thornqvist on the sidelines, some of Florida’s more significant highlights include three NCAA Team Championships (2003, 2011 & 2012), as well as eight SEC regular-season titles (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 & 2012) and eight SEC Tournament crowns (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011 & 2012).
He has guided Florida to eight NCAA ‘final four’ appearances, with three culminating in titles and two as national runner-up (2002 & 2010).
Allie Will, who earned the No. 1 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Singles & Doubles Championships reached the semifinals of the singles event, captured the 2011 Riviera/ITA All-American Singles Championship during the fall in addition to a runner-up finish with then-sophomore Sofie Oyen in the doubles draw of the national tournament. Joanna Mather, the lone senior on the 2011-12 roster, reached the finals of the 2011 USTA-ITA National Indoor Championships, while junior Lauren Embree and Mather won the consolation draw of the 2011 Riviera/ITA All-American Doubles Championships.
The 2010-11 season culminated with the program’s fifth NCAA championship, as the squad defeated top-seeded Stanford, 4-3, after sophomore Lauren Embree provided the remarkable 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (6) clinching singles win, rallying from down 4-0 in the third set. Embree’s heroics were made possible after freshmen Olivia Janowicz and Alexandra Cercone won their respective singles matches in three sets and the Gators captured the doubles point to being the match.
Thornqvist was recognized by his peers, who voted him the 2011 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) National Coach of the Year, the first such honor in his career.
Florida ended the 2010-11 season with a 31-1 record, marking the program’s seventh 30-win campaign, and on a 21-match winning streak - a run tied for the 10th longest in school history.
Florida earned the No. 2 overall seed in the 64-team NCAA event after winning the SEC Tournament and netting an 11-0 record en route to claiming the league’s regular-season crown.
Fairly typical accomplishments for one of the nation’s best programs, however, Thornqvist’s bunch did this without a senior on its roster. Joanna Mather was the only healthy junior in a lineup that also included three sophomores and three freshmen.
The 2011 squad also kept its focus in the classroom, where eight of the nine roster members were named to either the SEC Academic Honor Roll or the SEC Freshman Academic Honor Roll. As a team, the Gators combined for a 3.43 GPA - good for recognition to the 2011 ITA Team Academic All American honor.
The young Gators carried the program’s tradition of success throughout the season, advancing to the final of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. Sophomore Allie Will, who went on to be named the 2011 SEC Player of the Year, paired with freshman Sofie Oyen and won the USTA-ITA National Indoor Doubles Championship, as they became the third different Gator tandem to win the USTA-ITA National Indoor Championships doubles title, joining the teams of Nicole Arendt and Jillian Alexander, which won the 1991 crown, and Dawn Buth and Stephanie NIckitas, which captured the 1996 championship.
Oyen and Will were the 18th and 19th different Gators to win an individual Grand Slam title, as they produced the 24th championship trophy in the illustrious history of the Florida program.
Thornqvist welcomed the No. 1-ranked recruiting class to the court for the 2009-10 season, which proved to be another exciting one in Gainesville.
Then-rookies Lauren Embree and Allie Will controlled the top two positions in the singles and doubles dual match lineup and helped Florida compile a 29-3 overall record, including a perfect 11-0 mark in Southeastern Conference action, as the Gators won the regular season and tournament titles.
UF marched into the 2010 NCAA Championships final match, where Marrit Boonstra, one of two seniors on the team, dropped a heartbreaking three-setter – 7-5 in the third – of the clinching match that Stanford took to win the title, 4-3.
Under Thornqvist’s guidance Embree became the first freshman every voted the SEC Player of the Year, as Embree also garnered ITA National Rookie Player of the Year honors. Will earned recognition as the SEC Freshman of the Year, while Thornqvist was honored by his peers for the third time as the league’s Coach of the Year.
For guiding such a young team that featured six underclassmen to the enormous success it did in 2009-10, Thornqvist earned the ITA Southeast Region Coach of the Year accolade.
There was not another team in the country during the 2008-09 season that played with more heart and got more passion and grit out of its team than the University of Florida. Simply knowing the details of what the Gators endured throughout the course of the grueling year would make it easy to use those things as an excuse and state that every program has a down year once in a while. The 2008-09 Gators refused to let adversity stand in their way, as they played with as much heart and Gator pride as any team that has ever suited up. In spite of everything, Florida still marched into the NCAA Championship round of 16, where it dropped a brilliant fight to the event’s No. 2 seed.
The 2007-08 Florida women’s tennis team survived early-season setbacks and mounted a valiant charge toward collecting championships, coming away with the program’s 23rd Southeastern Conference regular-season title in the 29-year history of the event, while marching into the semifinals of the NCAA Championships for the 19th time in the last 22 years, bowing out to eventual champion UCLA, 4-2, as the Gators were the only team to win a point against the Bruins during their six-match run. Injuries dwindled the Gators’ senior trio to a just two, with only Whitney Benik earning a spot in the dual match lineup by season’s end, as Florida compiled a 24-3 overall record, including an 11-0 mark in conference action to produce the 17th undefeated league ledger in school history.
The 2006-07 team faced some difficult personal, off-the-court adversity from a number of its players. Several Gators became unable to compete during a large portion of the dual match season, which significantly altered the singles’ and doubles’ lineups. While Thornqvist was able to patch together six semi-healthy players for singles, the doubles’ pairings were blown apart. In spite of it all, the team still won a share of the SEC Regular Season and Eastern Division titles, with the only loss a 4-3 decision on the road at Georgia. The 2006-07 Gators, which featured three freshmen, three juniors and one senior, earned the No. 1 national ranking on March 6, 2007, eventually receiving the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Championships and the right to host a First & Second Round Regional. Florida marched into the quarterfinals, eventually falling to national runner-up UCLA in a thrilling 4-3 decision.
Prior to the 2005-06 season, Florida had won 14 of the previous 18 SEC Tournament championships, including each of the last four. Amazingly, not once during any of those title runs did the Gators sweep every opponent en route to the crown - until the 2005-06 season, when Florida did just that, winning its fifth straight conference postseason title. Florida battled through the SEC regular season and emerged with a perfect 11-0 record and the overall league champion, as Thornqvist was recognized as the SEC Coach of the Year. The 2005-06 Gators marched into the semifinals of the NCAA Championships, where their season ended to eventual champion Stanford. Florida capped its season with a 25-2 record and ranked No. 2 in the final national poll. The Gators received the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Championships, earning the right to host the first and second rounds. The team’s 4-0 victory on May 19, 2006 against Baylor in the NCAA quarterfinals was his 200th career win, also his 125th with the Gators.
His fourth year as head coach at Florida might have been one of the best coaching seasons Thornqvist produced as a collegiate head coach. The 2004-05 season wasn’t the typical Florida tennis campaign, but somehow the Gators found their way back into a familiar position of advancing to the semifinals of the NCAA Championships for the 17th time in the last 19 years, completing the season with a 22-3 record.
Sure, Florida also captured its fourth consecutive and 14th overall SEC title. The team finished tied for second in the SEC regular season standings, as the squad has finished either first or runner-up for the 26th straight time — every year in league history.
However, even before those events took place, the 2004-05 Gators were faced with significant setbacks. The team lost three starters from the previous season, including senior-to-be Alexis Gordon, who left the team for personal reasons one year removed after earning the No. 1 singles ranking in the country. Gordon’s departure meant junior Jennifer Magley and UF’s lone senior Zerene Reyes were forced higher in the lineup than expected. Combine that with three freshmen - the most on a Gator roster since the 1996-97 season - and Thornqvist with Associate Head Coach Dave Balogh had their work cut out for themselves.
Thornqvist completed his third year at UF guiding the 2004 Gators to a 23-1 overall record and a No. 3 final national ranking. Additionally, UF was named to the ITA All-Academic Team by posting higher than a 3.2 team grade point average during the year.
Despite annoying injuries throughout the season, the 2004 Gators successfully defended their SEC regular season and tournament titles. The squad extended its overall winning streak to 40 consecutive dual matches – the third-longest streak in program history. Thornqvist’s accomplishments were recognized by his colleagues, who named him the SEC Coach of the Year. UF was listed at No. 1 in two rankings periods during the 2004 season and received the top seed in the NCAA Championships.
The 2003 season was a magical one for the Florida women’s tennis program and for Thornqvist. The Gators captured their fourth overall NCAA championship with a thrilling 4-3 upset over top-seeded and two-time defending champion Stanford. In the process, Thornqvist became just the seventh different coach ever to win an NCAA women’s tennis title. At age 33 (born March 3, 1970), he also became the second youngest ever to hoist the trophy. USC’s Dave Borelli was the youngest, winning the title in 1983 when he was 32 (born Feb. 4, 1951).
While the national championship certainly was the highlight of the season, that was not the only accomplishment. Florida captured the 2003 SEC regular season title before winning the 2003 SEC Tournament crown. The Gators returned to the National Team Indoor Championships for the first time since 1999 and reached the final before losing a 4-3 battle to Duke. Florida received a program-record-tying eight individual bids into the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships, including a program-high three doubles teams.
On June 22, 2001, the University of Florida Athletic Association and Athletics Director Jeremy Foley introduced Thornqvist as its new women’s tennis coach. He took over the program from Andy Brandi, who resigned on May 29, 2001 after 17 successful seasons with the Florida program.
The Gators have not missed a beat under Thornqvist’s direction.
During the 2002 season, his first with the Gators, Florida compiled a remarkable 24-2 overall record and finished with a No. 2 national ITA ranking. UF won the SEC Tournament title after entering the event as the No. 2 seed. The Gators were the No. 1 ranked team when the March 26, 2002 Omni Hotels Collegiate rankings were released, marking the first time Florida had been at the top spot since May 11, 1999, when the Gators were ranked No. 1 the entire season but lost to Stanford in the NCAA final to end the year ranked second. The Gators remained at the top spot for the next period before dropping one position after losing to Georgia on April 7. UF was awarded the No. 1 seed in the 64-team NCAA Tournament, and reached the NCAA Final before losing to host Stanford in the championship bout.
Individually in 2002, senior Jessica Lehnhoff flourished despite the coaching change. She received the No. 1 singles ranking in the April 17, April 24 and May 1st listings, becoming the first Gator to earn the nation’s top ranking since Jill Craybas ended the 1996 season at the No. 1 spot. Lehnhoff became the first player in UF history to reach the semifinals of the NCAA Singles and NCAA Doubles Championships in the same year; reaching the final match of the singles tournament.
Florida accomplished all of this and more despite having just six players on its entire 2002 roster. When Thornqvist accepted the head coaching position at Florida on June 22, 2001, he inherited a Gator squad that had just four players. So his first task with assistant coach Balogh was to recruit two more athletes just to comprise a six-player roster. Thornqvist and Balogh were at the ‘right place at the right time’ when Alexis Gordon was searching for a school to attend and would be able to join the team during the Fall of 2001. Then Zerene Reyes, a native of Mexico City, Mexico, joined the squad in January – finally completing the six-player roster!
Thornqvist joined the Florida program with a five-year record of 75-50 after coaching at the University of North Carolina for the past three seasons (42-30) and at Kansas from 1997-98 (33-20). Each team advanced to the NCAA Championships under Thornqvist, with the 1998 Kansas team advancing to the Round of 16. In his premiere season at UNC in 1999, he led the Tar Heels to the NCAA Second Round in their first-ever NCAA appearance.
“Ever since I started playing tennis, Florida tennis has been THE program. To have the opportunity to lead the Florida women’s team is just really a dream come true. Andy Brandi built a program that is respected and envied across the nation. I am honored to be following in his footsteps,” Thornqvist said. “One thing that really attracted me was Jeremy Foley. I liked the way he operates and he is straight forward, very goal-oriented and driven and that is exactly how I see myself.
“Nobody has higher expectations than I do. It’s always been that way,” he continued. “The University of Florida has always had the best players in the country and when we go out to recruit we look for the same type of players. We will look for talented, hard-working, self-motivated individuals who want to learn and who want to succeed in the team and individual environments.”
Thornqvist returned to his alma mater in June of 1998 to take a North Carolina team that posted a 1998 record of 5-17 to a record of 16-9 and its first-ever NCAA berth in 1999. The Tar Heels also recorded their first NCAA Tournament victory in 1999, taking a 5-4 win over Washington in the opening round. His Tar Heel teams also advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2000 and 2001, reaching the second round again in 2001. The UNC team finished the 2001 season ranked No. 17 in the final Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) poll - the highest final position in the history of the Tar Heel program.
In his first head coaching assignment at Kansas, Thornqvist led the Jayhawks to a second-place finish in the 1997 Big 12 Conference standings and a No. 1 regional ranking. The 1998 Jayhawk squad compiled a 18-6 record, won the NCAA Central Regional Championship at Brigham Young University and advanced to the NCAA round of 16 before losing to Georgia.
Prior to his tenure at KU, Thornqvist spent 1994-96 as the assistant men’s tennis coach at UNC. Thornqvist also played professional tennis for one year after completing his collegiate eligibility, attaining a world ranking of No. 290 in singles.
Thornqvist established himself as one of the top players in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference during his collegiate career. He was a three-time first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, the 1993 ACC Player of the Year, a 1992 and 1993 first-team All-American and a 1992 and 1993 NCAA Tournament quarterfinalist in singles. In 1992, he led the Tar Heels to the ACC Championship and to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels also made the NCAA Tournament during his senior season, advancing to the round of 16. Thornqvist won the 1993 Rolex National Indoor Singles Championship as a senior. In both 1992 and 1993, he won the ITA’s Rafael Osuna National Sportsmanship Award. He is the only college player in history to win that award twice. Thornqvist was the No. 4 ranked collegiate singles player in the country his senior year.
A native of Stockholm, Sweden, Thornqvist received his bachelor’s degree in economics from UNC in 1996. He played for the Tar Heels from 1990-93, transferring from Elon College, where he played one year and won the NAIA singles and doubles championships as a freshman in 1990. He also led Elon to the NAIA team championship that year.
Thornqvist is married to Nan Thornqvist and they are the parents of Maclaine, who was born in November 1999, and Whitney, who was born in January 2001.
|Thornqvist Year-by-Year Head Coaching Record|
|Year||School||Overall||Pct.||Conference||NCAA Finish||Final Rank|
|1997||KU||15-14||.517||10-3 (2nd)||Second Round||No. 33 Rolex|
|1998||KU||18-6||.750||9-2 (2nd)||Round of 16||No. 17 Rolex|
|1999||UNC||16-9||.640||3-5 (4th)||Second Round||No. 29 ITA|
|2000||UNC||10-14||.417||2-6 (8th)||First Round||No. 42 ITA|
|2001||UNC||16-7||.701||6-2 (3rd)||Second Round||No. 17 ITA|
|2002||Florida||24-2||.923||10-1 (2nd)||Finalist||No. 2 ITA|
|2003||Florida||31-2||.939||10-1 (1st)||Champions||No. 1 ITA|
|2004||Florida||23-1||.958||11-0 (1st)||Second Round||No. 3 ITA|
|2005||Florida||22-3||.888||9-2 (t-2nd)||Semifinalist||No. 2 ITA|
|2006||Florida||25-2||.926||11-0 (1st)||Semifinalist||No. 2 ITA|
|2007||Florida||24-3||.889||10-1 (t-1st)||Quarterfinalist||No. 6 ITA|
|2008||Florida||24-3||.889||11-0 (1st)||Semifinalist||No. 5 ITA|
|2009||Florida||16-10||.615||7-4 (4th)||Round of 16||No. 14|
|2010||Florida||29-3||.906||11-0 (1st)||Finalist||No. 2 ITA|
|2011||Florida||31-1||.964||11-0 (1st)||Champions||No. 1 ITA|
|2012||Florida||27-1||.958||11-0 (1st)||Champions||No. 1 ITA|
|Career||16 years||351-81||.813||142-27 (.840)||3 National Titles|
|Florida||11 years||276-31||.899||112-9 (.926)|
The Roland Thornqvist File
- Birthdate: March 3, 1970
- Height: 6-foot-6
- Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden
- Education: Bachelor of Arts - Economics, University of North Carolina, 1996
- Overall Head Coaching Record: 351-81 (16 years)
- Record at Florida: 276-31 (11 years), SEC Record: 276-31 (.899)
- Date of UF Hire: June 22, 2001
- Women’s Tennis Head Coach, University of Kansas, 1997-98 (two seasons)
- Women’s Tennis Head Coach, University of North Carolina, 1999-2001 (three seasons)
- Women’s Tennis Head Coach, University of Florida, 2002-present (11 seasons)
- 2003, 2011 & 2012 NCAA Champions
- 2002 & 2010 NCAA Finalist
- 2005, 2006 & 2008 NCAA Semifinalists
- 2007 NCAA Quarterfinalists
- 1998 & 2009 NCAA Round of 16
- 16 consecutive NCAA team appearances (1997-2012)
- 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 & 2012 SEC Regular Season Champions
- 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011 & 2012 SEC Tournament Champions
- 1997 & 1998 Big 12 Conference runner-up
- Led UF to No. 1 final national ranking in 2003, 2011 & 2012
- Led UF to No. 2 final national ranking in 2002, ’05, ’06 & 10
- Led UF to No. 3 final national ranking in 2004
- Led Kansas (1998) and North Carolina (2001) to No. 17 final national rankings
- 2011 ITA National Coach of the Year
- 2004, 2006 & 2010 SEC Coach of the Year
- 2010 & 2012 ITA Southeast Coach of the Year
- Helped UF receive an NCAA-best eight total bids into the 2003 Singles (five) and Doubles (three) Championships
- ITA All-Academic Team (team GPA of 3.2 or higher): 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011 & 2012
- UF All-Americans: 18 athletes, 38 honors
- All-SEC First Team Selections: 18 athletes, 40 honors
- UF Academic All-Americans (1st team): 2 athletes
- SEC Academic Honor Roll: 21 athletes, 35 honors
- ITA Scholar-Athletes (min. 3.5 GPA): 13 athletes, 24 honors
Playing Career: Two-time All-American at North Carolina in 1992 and 1993…three-time first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection…1993 ACC Player of the Year…member of 1992 and 1993 Tar Heel teams that advanced to NCAA Round of 16…1993 Rolex National Indoor Singles champion…1992 & 1993 Rafael Osuna National Sportsmanship Award winner…played professional tennis for one year following the completion of his collegiate eligibility, earning a world ranking of No. 290.