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Friday, May 17, 2013

Defending Champion Florida Women Roll into Quarterfinals to Face Battle-tested Cal Bears

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Urbana, IL--

The two-time defending champion Gators were sympathetic to the plight faced by Duke, their Round of 16 opponent Friday morning at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Center at the University of Illinois, but that didn't stop the No. 1 seeds from claiming a 4-0 win over the short-handed Blue Devils.

"If anyone can appreciate what Duke did this year, getting here with four players, it's Dave ( Balogh, associate head coach) and I," said Florida head coach Roland Thornqvist, who had faced a similar situation a few years back. "It's a remarkable feat on their part to get to the round of 16. They gave us everything we could handle on the courts where they could be competitive, and they were very, very competitive so we can appreciate what they did."

Playing with four scholarship players and a walk-on due to season-ending injuries to three starters, as well as the dismissal from school of last year's No. 1 Beatrice Capra, Duke had to forfeit No. 3 doubles and No. 6 singles.  Florida took the doubles point, and Olivia Janowicz soon made it 3-0 with her 6-1, 6-2 victory over soccer player Nicole Lipp, the mid-season addition to the team.

From there Florida needed just one more point, and although they had won first sets on three of the four matches remaining, Duke didn't make it easy for the Gators.  Hanna Mar earned a split with top-ranked Lauren Embree at 1 and Sofie Oyen couldn't close out her 5-1 lead over Mary Clayton so it was up to Florida freshman Brianna Morgan at line 4. Morgan did what the two veterans couldn't, finishing off Marianne Jodoin 6-3, 6-0.

Although the match took less than three hours to complete, Duke head coach Jamie Ashworth knew that was irrelevant given the adversity his team had experienced throughout the spring.

"I think our girls learned a lot the last couple weeks about themselves," said Ashworth. "We struggled at the end of the season with some things, but we had two weeks of really good practice. We just had to compete and fight our butts off. I told them outside our locker room no one believed we could win last weekend against Mississippi and no one believed we could beat Texas Tech. But I told them that some of the best things in sport come when no one believes you can win and you go out and do it."

As for what lessons from this Duke will take into next year, Ashworth said, "Hopefully we get some people back and we get some people healthy, and I think they've learned that they don't just have to rely on talent, that they can win with heart and win with passion and pride, and that can carry you a long way. It's definitely a great learning experience, for myself too. I've never gone through anything like this, and you kind of take things for granted. Our girls are used to playing at home for regionals, they're used to playing here, but as soon as you look ahead....in January we thought we had a chance to win the thing, but you can't look ahead."

No. 1 Florida 4,  Duke 0
9 a.m. CT – South Courts
1. #1 Lauren Embree (FLA) vs. #29 Hanna Mar (DUKE)  6-1, 3-5*
2. #17 Sofie Oyen (FLA) vs. #106 Mary Clayton (DUKE)  6-1, 5-4*
3. Annie Mulholland (DUKE) vs. #51 Alexandra Cercone (FLA)  6-3, 2-3*
4. #89 Brianna Morgan (FLA) vs. Marianne Jodoin (DUKE)  6-3, 6-0
5. #123 Olivia Janowicz (FLA) vs. Nicole Lipp (DUKE)  6-1, 6-2
6. #116 Caroline Hitimana (FLA) def. – (DUKE)  Forfeit

1. #11 Embree/Oyen (FLA) def. Clayton/Mar (DUKE)  8-1
2. Cercone/Hitmana (FLA) vs. Jodoin/Mulholland (DUKE)  4-4*
3. Collins/Morgan (FLA) def. – (DUKE)  Forfeit

Order of Finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (6,5,4)
* = unfinished

Long after Florida had advanced, their quarterfinal opponent Sunday was still in doubt, with No. 8 seed California and No. 9 seed Alabama needing over four hours to decide their match, which went to the Bears 4-1.

Alabama took the doubles point, but the Bears came back in singles, taking five of the six first sets.

In quick succession, the Bears got wins from Klara Fabikova at line 2, Lynn Chi at line 4 and Anett Schutting at line 1 to take a 3-1 lead, but that fourth point remained elusive.

Annie Goransson of Cal served for that clinching point, breaking Emily Zabor at line 6 to take a 6-2, 6-5 lead, but she never got to match point, and Zabor completely outplayed her in the tiebreaker to earn a third set.

For a 10-minute period, it looked as if the match might come down to that match, with Alabama up a break in the third at both line 3 and line 5.  Natalie Maynetto of Alabama held on to hers at 5, but Maya Jansen couldn't hold off Zsofi Susanyi at 3, who won the final five games of the match for the 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory that put the Bears in the quarterfinals.

Susanyi, who missed a big portion of the spring season due to a hip flexor problem and was sick this week to boot, was a semifinalist in the NCAAs last year, so head coach Amanda Augustus of Cal had confidence in her, even down 3-1.

"Zsofi hasn't played as many matches as she would like this year," said Augustus. "She's been working really, really hard to get it healthy and play as much as she can.  She wants to be here and she wants to play these matches for the team, so I know when she's out there and she's down a break, she can turn it around. The girl changed her game game quite a few times against Zsofi--she'd hit the ball and then stay back and roll the ball, so I think Zsofi was trying to figure out what to do. Zsofi's great to coach because she is open to making adjustments within a match, so yeah, I felt pretty confident she could close that one out."

Augustus couldn't remember the last time Cal had played Florida, and she is eager for Sunday's meeting.

"Obviously, they're two-time defending champions, they're well coached, they're a great team," said Augustus. "I had Lauren Embree on the Master U team in France, so I know what a competitor she is. We're looking forward to it, it's great, it'll be great tennis. We have a lot of respect for their program and we've been working hard all year too, so we want to battle them and see who plays better on that day."

No. 8 California 4,  No. 9 Alabama 1
9 a.m. CT – North Courts
1. #8 Anett Schutting (CAL) def. #34 Mary Anne Macfarlane (ALA)  6-3, 7-6(1)
2. #43 Klara Fabikova (CAL) def. #36 Alexa Guarachi (ALA)  6-2, 0-6, 6-3
3. #5 Zsofi Susanyi (CAL) def. #118 Maya Jansen (ALA)  6-3, 4-6, 6-3
4. #70 Lynn Chi (CAL) def. Antonia Foehse (ALA)  7-6(1), 6-0
5. Natalia Maynetto (ALA) vs. Tayler Davis (CAL)  6-4, 3-6, 5-1*
6. Annie Goransson (CAL) vs. Emily Zabor (ALA)  6-2, 6-7(1), 3-0*

1. Guarachi/Macfarlane (ALA) def. #33 Shutting/Chi (CAL)  8-5
2. Fabikova/Goransson (CAL) vs. Foehse/Jansen (ALA)  7-5*
3. Maynetto/Zabor (ALA) def. Davis/Chui (CAL)  8-5

Order of Finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (2,4,1,3)
* = unfinished