UF women's tennis No. 1

Florida's Joanna Mather hits during a doubles match in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Women's Tennis Championships held at Linder Stadium at the Ring Tennis Complex in the University of Florida campus in May. The Gators beat the University of South Carolina 4-0 to advance the next round.

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 1:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 1:52 p.m.

On the strength of returning all seven letterwinners who participated in the 2011 NCAA Championship match, the Florida women's tennis team is ranked No. 1 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Preseason Rankings.

Florida, the defending NCAA champion, is ranked No. 1 to start the year for the eighth time since the ranking system began for the 1985-86 season. It is UF's first preseason No. 1 ranking since the 2003-04 campaign.

The Gators capped their 2011 NCAA title run with a 31-1 overall record, defeating Stanford, 4-3, in a thrilling finale held in Stanford, Calif. The Cardinal open the 2011-12 season ranked second, with Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, Baylor, Georgia, California, Virginia and Michigan rounding out the top-10.

Florida is scheduled to meet five of those other top-7 teams during the regular season, playing at Stanford on Feb. 12, hosting Duke on March 14, hosting North Carolina on Feb. 26, traveling to Baylor on Feb. 4 and at Georgia on March 4. Georgia also plays host to the 2012 NCAA Championships, May 17-28.

Five Gators earned a spot in the top-41 positions of the preseason singles rankings, along with two doubles teams charted among the nation's top 15 tandems in the country.

Junior Allie Will is ranked third and senior Joanna Mather fourth in the preseason singles chart, while junior Lauren Embree is 25th.

The Gator trio had a tremendous fall season, with Will posting a 5-0 record highlighted by winning the Riviera/ITA All-American Singles Championships, one of the collegiate grand slam events. Mather, who was 12-4 during the fall, reached the finals of the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships, while reaching the finals of the Riviera/ITA All-American consolation draw where she fell to Stanford's Mallory Burdette, the top-ranked player in the country in the January 3rd rankings. Embree logged a 7-3 singles record during the 2011 fall, reaching the round of 16 at the Riviera/ITA All-American Singles Championships and the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships, where she bowed out in three sets to the eventual champion.

Gator sophomores Sofie Oyen and Alex Cercone earned the No. 34 and No. 41 spots in the national singles rankings, as they posted 7-2 and 8-2 records, respectively.

Florida's Oyen and Will were ranked 10th in the January listing, while the team of Embree and Mather were 15th. Oyen and Will produced a 3-1 record together during the 2011 fall season, reaching the finals of the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships in their only event, falling in a second-set tiebreaker to Stanford's Burdette and Nicole Gibbs, which tops the national January doubles rankings.

Embree and Mather captured the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships consolation draw title, winning the final, 8-0.

Florida will send some players to compete in the Freeman Memorial, which is the last individual singles and doubles event prior to the NCAA Championships, Jan. 13-15 in Las Vegas, before opening its 2012 dual match season on Jan. 25, playing host to Troy at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex beginning at 3 p.m. Admission to all regular-season home matches is free.

For complete team, singles and doubles rankings visit www.ITAtennis.com

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