No. 2 Florida doesn't give up set in blanking Washington State

Published: Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 10:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 10:21 p.m.

Talk about putting an exclamation point on a victory.

Leading Washington State 3-0 and needing just one more point to clinch their NCAA Tournament second-round match at Linder Stadium Saturday, the No. 2 Florida Gators found themselves with a trio of players at match point in the four remaining singles matches.

They went a perfect 3-for-3, finishing off the Cougars in a 6-0 victory that sends the defending national champions to Athens, Ga., for the Round of 16 and the remainder of the NCAA Championships.

“I'm not sure that's ever happened before,” said junior All-America Lauren Embree, UF's No. 2 singles player who was one of three players involved along with fellow junior All-America Allie Will (No. 1) and sophomore Sofie Oyen (No. 4).

“It looked like anybody could have clinched it at that moment. We try not to scoreboard watch, but in moments like that when we all have a match point, we all want to win that point, and luckily we did.”

The official clincher was credited to Oyen, but all three Gators won within seconds of each other, and since the points were all in progress, all of them counted, resulting in the 6-0 final score.

“It's really interesting to see and be a part of a team that is so driven and has the desire to win like these guys,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “It is remarkable to see how they prepare. Before the match as a coach, you don't have to do much. We roll out the balls, we give them water and they take care of everything else. It is really a unique group, and a lot of that stems from an incredible desire to win. I feel blessed to be a part of it.”

Florida (23-1), winner of 18 straight matches, claimed the doubles point in dominating fashion, led by the nation's top-ranked duo of Will and Oyen, who won 8-1, and the 22nd-ranked tandem of Embree and senior Joanna Mather, who claimed an 8-2 victory.

Mather, playing her final home match, then blitzed through her opponent to be the first player to finish singles for the second straight day, this time taking out Washington State's Ksenia Googe 6-3, 6-2, to give UF a 2-0 lead.

It was her 16th consecutive win and team-leading 31st of the year.

“It feels great, and now I can also say I don't know what it's like to lose at home,” said Mather, who was part of teams that posted a 54-0 home mark during her UF career.

“I feel like I'm playing very well and hopefully I can take this play into the next round.”

Sophomore Alexandra Cercone made it 3-0 minutes later with a 6-0, 6-2 win at No. 5 singles, setting the stage for UF's photo-finish match point.

“I think obviously their number one (Will) is number one for a reason, but I think two through six, they have so much depth and just fantastic athletes,” said WSU head coach Lisa Hart, whose team finished the season 19-6.

“They are obviously well-conditioned. I don't think they were very tired today, and obviously Roland is a fantastic coach. They're a great team.”

“I think we're all individually really competitive, and it helps us as a team because we all just want to win, not only for ourselves, but for each other,” Embree said. “Winning last year really motivated us to try and do that again, and I think that's what is keeping us really focused and taking each match one at a time.”

UF, making its eighth straight and 29th overall appearance in the Round of 16, will face 15th-ranked Michigan (21-7) Thursday at 7 p.m.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top