UF women's tennis tops Michigan at NCAAs


Published: Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 18, 2012 at 12:38 a.m.

ATHENS, Ga. — No. 2 Florida's defense of its national tennis championship got off to a uneven start Thursday, but the Gators turned in efficient singles performances to take a 4-0 victory over No. 15 Michigan on the first day of the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships.

Florida (24-1), which won its 19th consecutive match as Thursday became Friday, waited out a considerable rain delay that caused the start of its match with the Wolverines (21-8) to begin more than two hours later than originally scheduled.

But Gators coach Roland Thornqvist didn't think the later starting time had a negative effect on his team.

“If anything, we were really eager to play,” said Thornqvist. “In the first 15 minutes, (it) was just jitters. Once they get their teeth in it, usually we do OK.”

Florida won the doubles point, but not without more than an hour's worth of great effort. Sofie Oyen and Allie Will, the nation's No. 1 doubles team, lost to Emina Bektas and Brooke Bolender 8-5 to put the Gators on their heels.

But the No. 2 team of Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather evened things, winning their 23rd consecutive doubles match with an 8-2 victory over Mimi Nguyen and Michelle Sulahian, and Florida's Alex Cercone and Caroline Hitimana closed the deal with a 9-7 win over Kristy Dodge and Sarah Lee.

“We were still pretty focused,” said Embree. “We were anxious to play, and (the rain) just put a damper on things. I didn't play my best in the beginning. I was pretty nervous, and Jo kind of helped me up and kept us in the match. It was a grind, but that's what you have to do to win.”

Compared to doubles, singles play proved to be a relatively drama-less affair.

Olivia Janowicz, an 11th-hour replacement for Hitimana at No. 6 singles, put Florida up 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Michelle Sulahian. Embree made it 3-0 with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Bolender at No. 2, and Oyen clinched the match by going 6-1, 6-3 over Sarah Lee.

“I thought the singles matches were outstanding,” said Thornqvist. “On courts 4, 5, 6, we were about as good as we played all year and that comes out at a great time. We're moving well, we're playing smart, we can handle ups and downs and we handle mistakes well.”

“Everyone was excited to play this match and we were coming off the momentum from doubles,” added Embree, who recorded her 16th consecutive singles victory. “Everyone got off to a really good start, which is what we needed.”

Florida will face the Miami-North Carolina winner at 4 p.m. Saturday in the women's quarterfinals.

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