Roundup: UF women's tennis gets historic win


Published: Friday, March 9, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 12:15 a.m.

The second-ranked Florida women's tennis team defeated No. 22 Vanderbilt 6-1 and captured its 100th consecutive home victory at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex Friday night.

The Gators (9-1, 3-0 SEC) also won their 28th straight regular-season match and improved their all-time home record against Southeastern Conference opponents to an astounding 174-1.

Florida's home win streak is the longest active by any NCAA Division I women's program in any sport. The Stanford women's basketball team owns the second-longest active home winning streak by a women's team with 79 straight. The Ohio State men's tennis team has won 137 consecutive matches entering Friday's home event against Texas A&M. The Gators have not lost at home since a 4-3 decision to Miami (Fla.) on May 15, 2004 in the second round of the NCAA Championships.

“We've had a lot of good players here and this year's team is up there with any team we've ever had,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “I can think of many great memories here - in 2009 when we were lean on players and in 2005 and 2006 when we had some really tough players who kept this streak going.”

The Gators raced out to early leads on the doubles court and the initial team point seemed well in hand until Vanderbilt (10-5, 2-1 SEC) came storming back and made things a bit uncomfortable for the Gator faithful in the stands.

After the team of Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather cruised to an 8-2 win in 38 minutes against Alex Leatu and Jackie Wu, it seemed the pair of Sofie Oyen and Allie Will would follow shortly afterwards on court one, where the Gators jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the eight-game pro-set against Ashleigh Antal and Lauren Mira.

The Commodores, however, continued to fight and evened the match at 6-all. Will won the first three points on her serve in the Gator's next service game and after one Vandy point, Will hit an amazing backhand cross court volley for a winner to end the Commodore run and give Florida a 7-6 lead. Vanderbilt then earned a break in the 15th game and Mira went to serve for the match, but the Gators broke back and forced a tiebreak, which was even at 5-all before they won the next two points for the 9-8 (7-5) victory and clinched the doubles point.

Florida needed that doubles win, as Alexandra Cercone and Olivia Janowicz rallied from a 5-3 deficit and forced a tiebreaker, but lost to Marie Casares and Nelly Radeva, 9-8 (7-3).

“I thought we looked like a championship team in singles because Vanderbilt is really good and gave us all we could handle in doubles,” Thornqvist said. “I was curious to see how we were going to begin singles play and I thought the first 30 minutes we just put out the flames immediately. We ran well and made good decisions. We showed good patience and were tough. I was very pleased with our performance.”

The Gators appeared refocused between doubles and singles play, as they came out and dominated early.

Junior Caroline Hitimana was the first Gator off the singles court, as she posted a 6-0, 6-2 victory against Radeva on court six for her seventh consecutive overall singles victory, as well as her 14th straight in dual match action. Hitimana was never really threatened during her match, even after she lost her serve to begin the second set, as she regrouped and ripped off the next four games en route to the straight-set decision.

Mather, the lone senior on the 2011-12 Gator team, was next to earn a victory, as she downed Leatu 6-3, 6-2 to earn her fourth straight singles win and give Florida a 3-0 lead. The win was Mather's 90th career singles victory, as she improved to 90-31 in her career.

One minute later Oyen provided the clinching milestone team victory with her 6-0, 7-5 win against Antal on court five. After a quick first set, Oyen took a 4-2 lead with the serve, but Antal fought back and evened the set at 4-all. The next three games were on-serve, before Oyen earned one final break to secure her 13th consecutive singles victory and clinch the team win.

MEN'S TENNIS: Ninth-ranked Florida got its road trip off to a good start, posting a 6-1 win at Vanderbilt on Friday in Nashville. After sweeping all three doubles' matches, the Gators won five of six singles matches for the victory.

“I am very proud of the team and the match we played today against a good Vanderbilt team,” said head coach Andy Jackson. “The best thing about it was the attitude of the team. They showed a lot of energy and determination. We played three very solid matches in doubles and carried our momentum to our singles play.”

Florida (9-4, 2-1 SEC) won the doubles' point handily, as Vanderbilt (5-7, 0-3) did not win more than four games on any of the three courts. The No. 8-ranked pair of Billy Federhofer (North Miami, Fla.) and Nassim Slilam (Paris, France) won 8-3 over the Commodores' Gonzales Austin and Blake Bazarnik on court one, while the Gators' Tripper Carleton (Naples, Fla.) and Spencer Newman (Miami, Fla.) secured the doubles' point with an 8-2 victory against Charlie Jones and Anton Kovrigin.

Andrew Butz (Vero Beach, Fla.) and Bob van Overbeek (Boca Raton, Fla.) won 8-4 against Vanderbilt's Alex DiValerio and Joe Dorn at No. 3 doubles.

Singles play got off to a fast start as well for Florida, as it claimed the first set on all six courts. Florent Diep (Paris, France) gave the Gators a 2-0 lead with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Kovrigin at No. 5 singles. Federhofer then finished off Dorn, 6-2, 6-1, on court six, before Carleton clinched the match at No. 3 singles against Bazarnik with a 6-2, 6-4 win.

Newman and Slilam also picked up singles wins, while van Overbeek dropped a third-set tiebreak at No. 1 singles.

SOFTBALL: At Knoxville, Tenn., in a competitive SEC tilt that featured just eight hits, but 19 strikeouts between the Gators and Lady Vols Friday, Florida came up on the short end of a 1-0 nail biter that wasn't decided until the bottom of the seventh in front of 1,613 fans in Knoxville. With two outs and a runner on third, Tennessee was able to scratch a run across home on a UF defensive miscue to take the series opener at Lee Stadium.

Florida moved to 21-2 on the season, 2-1 in league play, while Tennessee improved to 15-3 overall, while securing the win in its conference opener.

Tennessee's Ellen Renfroe tallied a season-best 15 strikeouts to improve to 11-0 in the circle for the Lady Vols, while Gator sophomore hurler Hannah Rogers was charged her first loss of the season to move to 11-1 in 2012. Rogers and Renfroe both went the distance, Rogers giving up five hits, just UT's lone unearned run, while walking two and fanning four in the contest. Renfroe surrendered three Gator hits, walked one and retired 15 Florida batters by strikeout in the shutout.

It was a pitcher's duel Friday, as both pitchers started hot. Rogers downed three Lady Vols in order in the bottom of the second, while Renfroe returned to do the same in the top of the third. Both squads left the bags loaded early on as Florida left the bases loaded in the first on a two-out rally when freshman Lauren Haeger reached on a walk, while junior Kelsey Horton was safe at first on a Tennessee fielding error. Next up, sophomore Cheyenne Coyle delivered an infield single, but a Renfroe strikeout retired the side.

Renfroe retired the Gators in order in the fourth and fifth frames, as freshman Sami Fagan laid down a bunt single to lead off the sixth, but three consecutive strikeouts for Renfroe ended the inning with Fagan on second after swiping the bag with two outs.

Junior Ensley Gammel connected for a one-out single through the left side for the third of UF's three hits on the evening in the seventh, but Renfroe fanned sophomore Kasey Fagan and freshman pinch hitter Bailey Castro to get out of the top half of the stanza.

MEN'S GOLF: At Las Vegas, Gator junior T.J. Vogel used four birdies against a single bogey to fire a opening round 69 (-3) to sit in a tie for fourth place after the first day of the SH Collegiate Masters at Southern Highlands. As a team, Florida sits in tie for eighth place overall seven strokes behind California after an opening round 293.

“I've never seen Southern Highlands so still and that allowed some teams to go low on a tough course,” said head coach Buddy Alexander. “We got off to a poor start, had a solid front portion of the back nine and then stubbed our toe on 17 and 18 but, at the end of the day, we aren't out of it.”

Vogel got off to a quick start making a birdie on the par-4 first. After pars on the next seven holes, Vogel added his second birdie of the round on the par-5 ninth to go out in 34 (-2). After dropping a shot on 10, Vogel rebounded quickly with birdies on the par-3 12th and the par-5 13th before closing his round with five pars to wrap up his 13th round at or under par on the season.

Freshman and former Oak Hall standout J.D. Tomlinson also finished in the red for the Gators posting a one-under 71. Tomlinson started his day with four straight pars before getting into the red with a birdie on the par-4 fifth. After giving one back on the 10th, Tomlinson carded birdies on a pair of par-4s, 14 and 16, before to dropping a shot on 17 to finish his round at one-under and in a tie for 10th.

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