Cercone leads Gators to win over UM

Alex Cercone, pictured, and partner Caroline Hitimana defeated Miami's Anna Bartenstein and Brittany Dubins 8-6 at No. 3 doubles in a titanic see-saw struggle that lasted an hour and 46 minutes.

Published: Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 11:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 2:25 a.m.

ATHENS, Ga. — In No. 2 Florida's 4-0 victory over Miami Saturday in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Women's Tennis Championships, Alex Cercone worked late in doubles and knocked off early in singles.

Cercone and partner Caroline Hitimana defeated Miami's Anna Bartenstein and Brittany Dubins 8-6 at No. 3 doubles in a titanic see-saw struggle that lasted an hour and 46 minutes. Then the sophomore from Seminole's Allendale Academy proceeded to earn the Lady Gators' first singles point with a 6-2, 6-2 victory at No. 5 over Liat Zimmerman.

“We were up 4-1 and went to 4-all, and at that point, all the other matches were close to being finished and it was not even close on our court,” said Cercone, who is 19-6 this spring in singles competition and 6-2 playing doubles alongside Hitimana. “I knew we had a long way to go, so (we) were focused on winning every game we could and playing the opponents' weaknesses and our strengths.”

With the match tied at 6-6, Cercone — who was serving — and Hitimana fought off five break points in an 18-point game to take a 7-6 advantage. When Miami took over service, the two teams ran off another 14 points, with the Lady Gators recording three match points and the Lady Hurricanes posting two game points before the battle finally ended.

“I was really focused on getting first serves in and in the right spot,” said Cercone. “After that, I was just trying to focus on moving my feet, getting set to hit the ball, little things like that. When you're actually in the moment in the middle of a point, it's more (instinct) than anything.”

In contrast to the War-and-Peace timeframe of the final doubles game, the Lady Gators took care of business, winning three singles points in an hour and 39 minutes.

After Cercone's victory at No. 5, Olivia Janowicz bested Brittany Dubins 6-3, 6-2 at No. 6 and Joanna Mather clinched the match with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Lina Lineikite. Mather has a 3-1 record in clinching games this season and she is 12-2 in match-clinching encounters in her career.

“This one was very much like every other time we played Miami,” said Florida coach Roland Thornqvist. “It's a dogfight; they have great athletes that can run and they have great ball tolerance. The doubles came down to 3, and I thought we showed great composure and great communication. We were by far the most aggressive team at the end, and that's why we won.”

The defending national champions advance to the semifinals, where they will meet No. 3 Duke — which defeated No. 6 Georgia 4-2 on Saturday — at 1 p.m. on Monday. Saturday's victory was the 900th in program history, and the Lady Gators (25-1) now hold a 37-21 edge all-time against Miami, including a 5-2 mark in NCAA tournament play.

Monday's other semifinal will be a Pac-12 affair as No. 1 UCLA (25-2) will meet No. 5 Southern California (24-3), also at 1 p.m. The Lady Bruins knocked off No. 9 California 4-1 and the Women of Troy bested Stanford 4-2 on Saturday.

The men's and women's finals are set for 1 p.m. Tuesday.

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