Saturday stroll for top-ranked UF women's tennis

Published: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 5:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 5:33 p.m.
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Florida's Sofie Oyen returns the ball during a doubles match against Marist College in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Linder Stadium on Saturday. The Gators beat The Red Foxes to advance to Sunday's second round.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Sometimes, you're just overmatched. Such was the case for Marist College, which had no answer for No. 1-ranked Florida's powerful lineup as the two-time defending national champion Gators rolled to a 4-0 win Saturday over the Red Foxes in a first-round NCAA Tournament match at Linder Stadium. The win was the 16th in a row for UF (23-2) and extended the program's home winning streak to 120 matches.

“I thought we did a really good job,” UF coach Roland Thornqvist said. “I was very pleased with our court positioning inside the box in our doubles play. We've spent many hours on it over this two-week layoff here, and I thought we really saw the fruits of that labor today.” UF, the No. 1 overall seed, took little time clinching the doubles point to start the match, getting 8-0 wins at No. 1 from senior All-American Lauren Embree and junior Sofie Oyen and at No. 3 from the freshman tandem of Danielle Collins and Brianna Morgan. Florida then wasted no time in taking it to Marist in singles. The Gators won the first set of all six matches, dropping just one game in the process, in a dominant display. Junior Alex Cercone eventually was the first to finish, securing a 6-0, 6-0 decision at No. 3 singles over Marist's Joana Sun, and Embree followed moments later with a 6-0, 6-0 whitewash of her own at No. 1 over Kelsey Raynor of the Red Foxes (11-8) to put UF a point from victory. “I think the most challenging part of these types of matches is staying disciplined, staying patient and staying focused,” Cercone said. “It's difficult to get into a rhythm, so that's where the patience and discipline come in. It's easy to lose focus when you're up 6-0, 3-0, and you just start watching matches next to you or whatever. I think if you just pay attention to those types of things, then it makes matches like this a lot easier.” From there, it was just a matter of who would provide the clinching point, with the honor going to Morgan after she closed out another 6-0, 6-0 decision, this one over Marist's Marielle Campbell at No. 4 singles. The Gators were comfortably ahead in all three of the remaining matches. “I think the girls were really anxious to play because we've had such a long break,” Embree said. “Sofie and I came out really focused in doubles and just excited to play, and everybody kind of continued that over to singles. I think everybody was pretty happy with their play today.” The Gators will take on No. 23 Georgia Tech today at 1 p.m. with a berth in the NCAA Round of 16 in Urbana, Ill., May 17-21, on the line. The Yellow Jackets (15-9), who won the NCAA title in 2007 under current Florida men's coach Bryan Shelton, advanced with a come-from-behind, 4-3 victory over Yale (17-4) in Saturday's tournament opener, their fifth win in the last six matches. Georgia Tech battled back from a 0-2 deficit to knot the score at 3-all before freshman Natasha Prokhnevska capped the comeback with an exciting 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 win at No. 3 singles over the Bulldogs' Annie Sullivan, who had been 19-0 in spring dual-match play. Today will be the final home match for Embree and fellow senior Caroline Hitimana. With a win, the duo will cap their careers with a 55-0 home record, joining an elite group of four-year players in that accomplishment. “I never thought it would happen so soon, but I'm just going to go out there and play like I've always been playing the past four years and not think about it too much,” Embree said. “I'm just going to fight hard and compete, and hopefully everything will be good for us.”

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