UF women's tennis team routs S.C. State


Florida's Allie Will returns a shot against the South Carolina State Bulldogs during the first round of the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships on Friday. Florida defeated South Carolina State to advance to the second round.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, May 11, 2012 at 7:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 11, 2012 at 9:23 p.m.

First-round play in the NCAA Women's Tournament has turned into the movie “Groundhog Day” for the South Carolina State Lady Bulldogs.

For the third straight year, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions were rewarded for their season by having to face national powerhouse Florida on its home courts at Linder Stadium to open the tournament.

And, for the third year in a row, UF made short work of them by the same 4-0 score.

“It's hard for them because they work so hard all during the season,” SCSU assistant coach Suzanne Mansour said. “We were undefeated this season and had two players who broke history, so we were excited and thought we would pull maybe an eight seed or something, but to pull Florida again, they weren't too happy. But again, you just have to go out there and just play.”

The win was the 17th in a row for the Gators, the tournament's No. 2 seed who improved to 22-1 while the Bulldogs finish the season 19-1.

UF wasted no time in taking control, losing only one game en route to winning all three doubles matches. The No. 3 tandem of sophomore Alexandra Cercone and junior Caroline Hitimana was the first to finish with an 8-0 win. The top-ranked and No. 1 duo of sophomore Sofie Oyen and junior Allie Will then clinched it with an 8-1 win, just seconds before the No. 2 pair of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather closed out an 8-0 victory for their 21st straight win.

Mather, UF's lone senior who is playing in her final home tournament, then got UF to a quick start in singles with a dominating 6-0, 6-0 win at No. 3 over Laura Bosneag.

The win was her team-leading 30th of the year and the 101st of her career.

“I was excited about playing again,” said Mather, who won her 15th consecutive singles match. “We haven't played in a long time, so I think I was just ready to play more than anything.”

“Yeah, the ball was coming hard and fast, wasn't it?” UF coach Roland Thornqvist noted. “When Jo is on top of her game, there's not a lot of people who can play with her. Today her ball was excellent.”

Hitimana followed with a 6-0, 6-0 win at No. 5 over Katarina Barborkiova to put the Gators a point from victory, and Oyen provided the clincher shortly thereafter with a 6-1, 6-0 win at No. 4.

UF had a solid upper hand in the remaining three singles, although S.C. State sophomore Akilah James did battle Will, the No. 1-ranked player in the nation, tough in the first set, trailing only 4-3 at one point. Will, however, eventually won the set, 6-3, and was up 2-0 in set two when the match was stopped.

“I was very happy from start to finish today,” Thornqvist said. “We got it done fairly quickly, so we're going to hydrate and rest and look forward to the next match.”

That will be at 3 p.m. today when UF squares off against the Washington State Cougars, who defeated Florida State in a 4-3 thriller in the opening match of the tournament.

The match came down to the No. 6 singles, where Cougars' freshman Charlotte Koning pulled out a 7-5, 6-4 win over FSU junior Amy Sargent.

Washington State (19-5) advanced to the second round for just the second time in school history (2001) while ending the Seminoles' season at 13-11.

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