©Colette Lewis 2011--
The scoreboard said 4-1, when the second-seeded Gators left the court on 5 p.m. Friday, but those numbers hardly tell the story of their Sweet 16 win over the No. 15 seeded Clemson Tigers.
"It's been a long time since we've been tested like that," said Florida head coach Roland Thornqvist. "It was probably the finals of the Indoors against Stanford.Today we beat what I consider the best doubles team in the country at 1 to win the doubles point."
Florida's Alex Cercone and Allie Will did jump start Florida, defeating Clemson's Josipa Bek and Keri Wong for the doubles point, but lost five first sets in singles. When the match was 2-1 in favor of Florida, after a three-set win by Lauren Embree over Clemson's Keri Wong, the other four matches on the courts were in third sets.
Klara Vyskocilova of Clemson had tied the score with a 6-3, 6-3 decision over Sofie Oyen at No. 3, before Embree outlasted Wong. At No. 1, Florida's Will was down a set and 0-40, 4-5 in the second to Bek, but saved those match points, served for the set at 6-5, lost the game, but won the tiebreaker 7-1, denying Clemson their second point and any momentum.
Florida got its third point from Joanna Mather at No. 4, when she came back for a 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Nelly Ciolkowski. Will and Bek were still battling on court 1, but Bek had taken a 4-0 lead in the third set, leaving the final point to come from courts 5 and 6. FLorida's Cercone and Maria Belaya were deep in their third set at 5, and Carol Hitmana had just broken to take a 3-2 lead in her match with Clemson's Caroline Magnusson at 6. Belaya served for the match at 6-5, but was broken at love to send it to a tiebreaker. There were no breaks until Belaya double faulted at 4-5, but Cercone couldn't convert on her first match point, with Belaya hitting a forehand winner that Cercone argued was out. The chair ruled she hadn't made a call however, so it was 6-5 with Cercone serving. In the meantime, Hitmana had also reached match point at 5-2, and both points were in progress when, after a lengthy rally, Belaya netted a forehand to give Florida the hard-earned victory.
"I thought we won today with our legs and our heads, more so than with our strokes," said Thornqvist, whose sole loss during the year was to Stanford in the final of the ITA Team Indoor. "The fact that we were tested, we were nervous, and we were able to hang in there in some spots and turn it around by doing some smart things, I was happy to see that."
In Sunday's quarterfinals, the Gators will meet in-state rival Miami, who beat Michigan 4-2 in another long and dramatic round of 16 match. The Hurricanes' No. 1 doubles team of Anna Bartenstein and Bianca Eichkorn saved four match points against No. 10 Michigan's Brooke Bolender and Denise Muresan, winning a tiebreaker 9-8(2) to give the seventh-seeded Miami a 1-0 lead.
"Being down four match points at number one doubles, and being able to find a way to get that done obviously was the changer in the match," said Miami head coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews. "A little luck along the way never hurt."
Bartenstein put the Hurricanes up 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Bolender at No. 2. Michigan's Mimi Nguyen made it 2-1 with a 6-1, 6-0 win at No. 6 over Melissa Bolivar. Muresan brought the Wolverines even with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Eichkorn at 1, but the remaining matches were going three. Miami got its third point with Gabriela Meji'a 6-3, 7-6(2) victory over Whitney Taney at No. 3, and needed only one of the two matches left on the court to advance to the quarterfinals. Rika Tatsuno of Michigan was leading Danielle Mills at No. 5 4-1 in the third, so Miami freshman Kayla Rizzolo at No. 4 was their best hope.
"I think she has ice in her veins," Yaroshuk-Tews said of the young Floridian, who closed out the Miami victory with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Samantha Critser. "She's stoic out there. She's so poised, so put together. She played great tennis there in the second and third sets, and emotions with Kayla really aren't an issue. She goes after her shots, she plays her tennis. She doesn't change her game based on the situation, and she's mature beyond her years."
Yaroshuk-Tews commented on the strength of the ACC, which was on full display in Georgia Tech's, Virginia's and Clemson's narrow losses earlier in the day.
"These are regular matches week in and week out," she said. "I think it helps teams in the ACC coming into the NCAA tournament. These are teams we see a lot."
#2 FLORIDA (28-1) 4
#15 CLEMSON (21-11) 1
Doubles (Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1)
1) No. 2 Cercone/Will (FLA) d. No. 6 Bek/Wong (CLEM) 8-6
2) No. 45 Embree/Oyen (FLA) d. Belaya/Henry (CLEM) 8-3
3) Magnusson/Vyskocilova (CLEM) d. Janowicz/Mather (FLA) 8-4
Singles (Order of Finish: 3, 2, 4, 5)
1) No. 7 Allie Will (FLA) vs. No. 11 Josipa Bek (CLEM) aban.
2) No. 17 Lauren Embree (FLA) d. No. 48 Keri Wong (CLEM) 4-6, 6-1, 6-4
3) Klara Vyskocilova (CLEM) d. No. 91 Sofie Oyen (FLA) 6-3, 6-3
4) No. 42 Joanna Mather (FLA) d. No. 114 Nelly Ciolkowski (CLEM) 0-6, 6-4, 6-3
5) No. 54 Alex Cercone (FLA) d. Masha Belaya (CLEM) 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (4)
6) Caroline Hitimana (FLA) vs. Caroline Magnusson (CLEM) aban.
#7 MIAMI (21-6) 4
#10 MICHIGAN (24-5) 2
Doubles (Order of Finish: 2, 3, 1)
1) No. 5 Bartenstein/Eichkorn (MIA) d. No. 8 Bolender/Muresan (MICH) 9-8 (2)
2) Mejia/Bolivar (MIA) d. No. 64 Taney/Tatsuno (MICH) 8-0
3) Nguyen/Sulahian (MICH) d. Dubins/Mills (MIA) 8-3
Singles (Order of Finish: 2 ,6, 1, 3, 4)
1) No. 8 Denise Muresan (MICH) d. No. 6 Bianca Eichkorn (MIA) 7-5, 6-2
2) No. 36 Anna Bartenstein (MIA) d. No. 81 Brooke Bolender (MICH) 6-1, 6-1
3) Gabriela Mejia (MIA) d. No. 82 Whitney Taney (MICH) 6-3, 7-6 (2)
4) No. 125 Kayla Rizzolo (MIA) d. No. 67 Sam Crister (MICH) 3-6, 6-4, 6-4
5) Danielle Mills (MIA) vs. Rika Tatsuno (MICH) aban.