UF Women’s Tennis Falls in NCAA Championships Thriller, 4-3

UF Women’s Tennis Falls in NCAA Championships Thriller, 4-3

Courtesy: Florida Athletics

ATHENS, Ga. – The University of Florida women’s tennis team took the early lead, fell behind and nearly pulled off an miraculous comeback, but couldn’t quite capitalize in the end, losing a 4-3 thriller to Stanford in the NCAA Championship Final played Tuesday afternoon at the
Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

“That was probably one of the better matches I’ve been involved with in a match of this magnitude,” UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “I thought we played terrific in doubles all year and today was no different. For some reason, we got off to a slow start in singles. It looked really grim there for a while, but just like we talked about all year long, we were resilient. I really thought our team showed tremendous courage, heart and pride. In the end we came up short, but I was really, really proud of our effort and our play in a championship round like this. Stanford played at a high level from the beginning of the match. In the first 20 minutes of singles, balls were whipping past
us left and right. For us to slow that down and use our athleticism and neutralize some of that pace was great.”

The Gators seemed to have the momentum after winning a thrilling doubles point, but it was the Cardinal who came out of the brief intermission with more firepower on the singles courts, as only freshmen Lauren Embree (Marco Island, Fla.) was able to win her first set en route to an
impressive singles victory on the showcase court.

Florida found itself trailing in the team scoring 3-2 and was down in the two remaining singles matches. The Gators battled their way back into the dual match and evened the score when sophomore Joanna Mather (Duluth, Ga.) won a three setter on court five in two hours and 42

That set the stage for the championship to be decide on court three, where senior Marrit Boonstra (The Netherlands) had rallied to force a third set against freshman Mallory Burdette. Boonstra lost her serve at ove in the seventh game, but came right back to break Burdette and held to get the match back on-serve at 5-4. Burdette held and jumped on Boonstra, whose double-fault set up double-break point, which the Cardinal took and went to the baseline to serve for the championship. She used a powerful serve to set up triple match-point and Boonstra fought off two of those, but not a third when her forehand went wide for the 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-5 decision.

“My heart just aches for Marrit,” Thornqvist shared. “She has given this program everything she has. It’s just not fair for it to come down to a result like this for her. She’s going to be hurting for a long time. Our players will echo when I say that they love her for all she has done for them and how she gives them her heart. Marrit gave herself a chance in the match, leading 5-4 and was playing good tennis. It seemed like Mallory relaxed at 5-all and I thought that was the difference.”

UF’s number three doubles pair of Caroline Hitimana (Waterloo, Belgium) and Anastasia Revzina (Moscow, Russia) provided the thrilling clinching doubles point victory, defeating Carolyn McVeigh and Veronica Li, 8-6. Hitimana began the match holding at love, but the Gators found themselves down a break at 4-2. Hitimana again held a love and Florida rode that momentum into the next game, where it won three of the first four points, before Hitimana ripped a forehand return for a winner and the break. Revzina lost just one point off her serve to get the match back on track. McVeigh held, as did Hitimana, who dropped only one point on her serve. The Gators then jumped on Li’s serve, winning the first two points and eventually held double match-point, capitalizing on their second opportunity to give Florida a 1-0 lead in the team scoring.

Florida’s Embree and Mather got the firstdefeating Mallory Burdette and Stacey Tan, 8-1, in just 40 minutes. The Gators jumped out to a 3-0 lead, later taking a 5-1 lead after a break and Mather held at love for a 6-1 lead. UF earned another break in the eighth and Embree served out for the victory.

UF’s tandem of Boonstra and Allie Will (Boca Raton, Fla.) dropped their number one doubles match, 8-4, to Stanford’s second-ranked pair of Hilary Barte and Lindsay Burdette, setting the stage for Hitimana and Revzina to clinch the doubles point.

Stanford freshman Stacey Tan earned the quick 65-minute victory over Revzina, 6-2, 6-2, on singles court number four in 65 minutes, as the Cardinal evened the match at 1-all. The loss ended the Gator senior’s singles career with a 95-28 record, including a 70-15 dual match mark.

The Cardinal (26-1) took a 2-1 lead when Will fell to senior Lindsay Burdette, 6-3, 6-3. The loss snapped the Gator rookie’s winning streak at 26, a mark that is tied for the fourth longest in program history.

Embree, who earlier in the day was named the ITA National Rookie Player of the Year, looked every bit the country’s top collegiate newcomer, as she upset fourth-ranked Hilary Barte, 6-4, 6-4 at the number one position. The victory, which was Embree’s 17th consecutive, marked the
highest-ranked opponent the youngster has defeated. The first set was on-serve through the first eight games, before Embree took Barte’s serve and then held for the opening frame. Embree began the second with a break and held for a 2-0 lead. The two competitors traded breaks midway
through the set and it remained that way until the 10th game, where the Cardinal junior fought off three match points, but not a fourth, as Embree continued to battle and earn the victory.

“I felt like I got off to a better start than I had in past few matches,” Embree shared. “I was seeing the ball better and tried to keep every ball deep and play my game.”

Hitimana had a handful of chances against Veronica Li on court number six to force a third set, but couldn’t win the tough point and lost, 6-3, 7-5 six minutes shy of two hours. After four straight breaks to begin the second set, the frame remained on serve. Hitimana had an excellent chance to break Li in the 11th game, winning the first three points. Li, however fought off all three break points and won on her first game-point chance for a 6-5 lead. She then continued that momentum
into the next game, winning the first two points off Hitimana en route to the win and giving Stanford a 3-2 lead.

The Gators (29-3) were forced to win the final two matches still in action, and it didn’t look good for Florida, as Mather and Boonstra were trailing their respective matches and needed to rally to force a third set. The Gators, however, showed their toughness and grit.

Mather lost her first set to Carolyn McVeigh on court five, as the Stanford junior capitalized on a break in the 11th game and held for a 7-5 lead. Mather jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second, efore McVeigh began to rally, evening the set at 4-all, before the Gator sophomore regained her focus by holding for 5-4. She was able to break for the set and force a deciding third. Mather found herself facing a handful of break points to begin the third, but fought all of them off for a 1-0 lead.

She then capitalized on her second break point and held for a 3-0 lead and never looked back as she earned the 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 victory and evened the dual match scoring at 3-all.

“Dave (Balogh, UF associate head coach) told me to relax,” Mather said when McVeigh tied the score at 4-all in the second. “He reminded me that I had still won four games and wasn’t behind. When I got up 4-0 in the third, I just continued to play the way I had been playing. I still feel
like we had a great season, even though we lost in the final.”

Boonstra squared off against 33rd-ranked Mallory Burdette at court three, where the Gator senior found herself down a break after losing her serve in the fourth game. She was able to break back in the ninth game, but wasn’t able to hold and the Cardinal freshman took the first set 6-4. The second set began with three consecutive breaks, as Boonstra came out on top and took a one-break lead, serving at 5-4. Boonstra, however, wasn’t able to close out the set. She then held one break point in the next game, but couldn’t capitalize and was forced to hold to force a tiebreaker, as she fought off one match-point in the process. The Gator senior won the first three points in the breaker, eventually winning it 7-4 and forcing a deciding third set. Burdette broke to open the third and held for a 2-0 lead. Boonstra then held and broke, losing just one point on Burdette’s serve, to even the match. Burdette found a spark and broke Boonstra at love for 4-3. The Gator senior, however, refused to fold and broke right back, before both competitors were able to hold on their next trip to the baseline. Burdette was able to break Boonstra in the all-important 11th game and served out for the championship.

Boonstra had her 17-match singles winning streak end and she capped her collegiate career with a 77-16 record, as well as remarkable 60-9 dual match mark. Four Gators won’t have much time to recuperate, as they will begin play in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships that get underway beginning Wed., May 26 in Athens. Embree and Will were selected for the 64-player singles draw, while the pairings of Embree and Revzina, and Will and Boonstra will compete in the 32-team doubles draw.

Will, the No. 7 seed, faces Washington State’s Liudmila Vasilieva beginning at 6 p.m., while Embree, seeded 9-16, meets California’s Mari Andersson in the opening round at 5:30 p.m.

Entering the NCAA Singles Championships, Embree sports an overall singles record of 32-5 and a team-leading 37-6 doubles record. Embree capped her remarkable rookie season with a 20-3 in dual match singles action, with all coming at the No. 1 position.

Will carries a 46-4 singles record into Wednesday’s individual event, as well as 35-6 doubles mark.

The doubles action begins on Fri., May 28, and the Gator team of Boonstra and Will, seeded 5-8, meet Michigan’s Whitney Taney and Rika Tatsuno, while Embree and Revzina play California’s Anderrsson and Jana Juricova.

Boonstra holds a 73-21 career doubles record, including a 22-3 markplaying with Will, while Revzina is 99-23, with a 17-3 record teaming with Embree this season.

While advancing the NCAA Final with the opportunity to play for a national championship was the highlight, there were several additional accomplishments during the 2009-10 season.

The Gators captured the Southeastern Conference regular-season title for the 24th time in the 31 years the league has sponsored women’s tennis. UF also won the SEC Tournament title, claiming he postseason crown for the 16th time in the 23 years of the event.

Florida continued its home court prowess, extending its program-record home regular-season win streak to 91, as well as the overall home winning streak to 82 victories.

Florida’s NCAA second round win against Washington was the team’s final home match of the year, as the Gators capped its home slate with a 16-0 record. It was the 20th undefeated home season in program history.

Individually, Thornqvist captured his 200th win at the helm of the Gator program and was honored by his peers as the SEC Coach of the Year and the Wilson/ITA Southeast Region Coach of the Year.

Dave Balogh was named the ITA National Assistant Coach of the Year.

Embree became the first freshman in the history of the SEC to be named the league’s Player of the Year. Will was honored as the SEC Freshman of the Year.

Marrit Boonstra and Anastasia Revzina, UF’s lone seniors, helped Florida post a 55-0 home record during their collegiate career.

NCAA Women’s Tennis Championship Final
Dan Magill Tennis Complex
Athens, Ga.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Final Score: Stanford d. Florida, 4-3

1-#2 Hilary Barte2-#29 Lauren Embree/Joanna Mather, UF d. #56 Mallory Burdette/Stacey
Tan, SU 8-1
3-Carolina Hitimana/Anastasia Revzina, UF d. Carolyn McVeigh/Veronica
Li, SU 8-6*

1-#9 Lauren Embree, UF d. #4 Hilary Barte, SU 6-4, 6-4
2-#83 Lindsay Burdette, SU d. #8 Allie Will, UF 6-3, 6-3
3-#33 Mallory Burdette, SU d. #65 Marrit Boonstra, UF 6-4, 6-7 (4), 7-5*

4-#86 Stacey Tan, SU d. #102 Anastasia Revzina, UF 6-2, 6-2
5-Joanna Mather, UF d. Carolyn McVeigh, SU 5-7, 6-4, 6-0
6-Veronica Li, SU d. #107 Caroline Hitimana, UF 6-3, 7-5

Order of Finish: Doubles-2, 1, 3*; Singles-4, 2, 1, 6, 5, 3*
Records: Florida 29-3; Stanford 26-1
ITA Rankings: Florida 3; Stanford 8
NCAA Seed: Florida 3; Stanford 8

Additional Information