UF women's tennis set for title defense


Published: Friday, May 11, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 10:23 p.m.

The Florida women's tennis team begins its quest for back-to-back national titles when the Gators take on South Carolina State at 2 p.m. today at Linder Stadium in first-round action of the NCAA Championships.

Facts

NCAA women's tennis

Where: Ring Tennis Complex, UF campus
Today's matchups: Florida State (13-10) vs. Washington St. (18-5), 11 a.m.; Florida (21-1) vs. South Carolina St. (19-0), 2 p.m.

The Gators, the SEC regular-season and tournament champions, are the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament and were awarded one of 16 host sites for the first and second rounds of the event.

Florida (21-1) is ranked No. 2 in the country and faces Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion South Carolina State (19-0) in first-round play for the third consecutive year.

That match will follow the opening first-round match between No. 35 Florida State (13-10) and No. 31 Washington State (18-5) that begins at 11 a.m. The winning teams from the two first-round matches will meet in the second round Saturday at 3 p.m.

“I really like what we're looking like in practice right now,” UF coach Roland Thornqvist said. “We are as fit as we've been all year, and we move as well as we've moved all year. We seem really hungry in practice.

“We've been running on the grass and doing footwork drills plus some lateral-movement drills, and I think that has really paid off. We restructured some of our individual work sort of quietly in the fall. This year I did many more throwing drills to them, just to get them to focus on their footwork, and I think we've seen the effects of that with time slowly. Right now, we look really good the way we're hitting balls.”

Playing the role of host is nothing new for the UF women, who have hosted first- and second-round matches every year since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1999.

The Gators are coming off a 4-1 win over Georgia for the SEC Tournament title in their last competition April 22.

UF and S. C. State have met four times in regional play — 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011 — with the Gators winning every time by a 4-0 count. However, after posting an unbeaten record and winning their eighth straight MEAC title, the experienced Bulldogs have their sights set on an upset.

“We're playing a South Carolina State team that if you look at their record book, their last loss was to us here last year,” Thornqvist noted. “We're obviously going to have our hands full.”

The Gators won NCAA team titles in 1992, 1996, 1998, 2003 and 2011 and have advanced to at least the NCAA semifinals 21 times in the last 25 years.

“I'm excited to get going again, and I know the players are, too,” said Thornqvist, who has guided the Gators to two NCAA titles.

“It's been almost three weeks since we competed. The first week after the Georgia match we had off because of final exams, so it's like we don't have school to worry about anymore. It just looks like we picked it up a notch in our play. I'm eager to see what we can do (today).”

The Florida men, who are also hosting the first two rounds, begin regional play Saturday.

Tickets may be purchased each day of the tournament. An all-session pass is $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens, college students, and children under 17. Single-day tickets today and Saturday are $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens, college students and children under 17, while single-day tickets for Sunday (men's second round) are $3 for everyone.

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