Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Gators grab NCAA women's tennis title
STANFORD, Calif. -- Florida's Lauren Embree knew better than to try and hit with Stanford's Mallory Burdette so she just kept playing a steady volley game.
Embree survived a grueling third set tiebreaker to beat Burdette 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (6) and clinch the NCAA title for Florida.
"Mallory hits the ball so hard I knew I couldn't hit with her," Embree said. "I had to grind it out. I just wanted to fight as long as I could."
Hilary Barte gave Stanford (28-1) its first point at No. 1 singles, beating Allie Will 6-2, 6-4. Nicole Gibbs gave the Cardinal the lead 2-1 with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Sofie Oyen at No. 3 singles.
"I had my game plan and I executed it pretty well for the most part," Burdette said. "I'm proud of the way I played. It just came down to two points and I came up short."
Stacey Tan recovered from a first set loss to beat Joanna Mather 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 at No. 4 singles and give Stanford a 3-1 edge, but Alex Cercone returned the favor at No. 5 singles, beating Veronica Li 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 as Florida (31-1) closed to 3-2.
Olivi Janowicz's 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1 win over Carolyn McVeigh at No. 6 singles tied it.
Florida took the doubles point in convincing fashion.
"That was the most electric atmosphere I have ever experienced in my college career," Stanford coach Lele Forood said. "It was a great day. We just came up a little short."
Embree improved to 6-0 in tournament championship matches through her first two years, and finished the year on a 24-match winning streak.
"Lauren is one of those players you can depend on," Cercone said. "You don't want to put any pressure on anybody but when it came down to that match, I knew Lauren could pull it out. I know the heart she has and I'm just glad to be on the same team."
The Gators ended Stanford's 184-match home winning streak, which spanned 12 years and included two victories over Florida in the NCAA tournament.
"We knew it's not going to keep going into infinity," Forood said. "We'll just start over again. The streak doesn't mean a whole lot to us. It's interesting but it's trivia."
The Gators also learned why winning at Stanford proved so hard.
"We played at phenomenal levels to set the tone, but this match only proves how difficult it is to win here," Florida coach Roland Thornqvist said. "I don't know what it looked like on TV, but I can tell it felt like it took about 10 years off my life."
Embree, who went through two wrist surgeries since last year, played No. 1 singles last year for Florida while Will was at No. 2.
"When it came down to Lauren I knew we got the one we wanted at the end," Thornqvist said.