Florida Gators women’s tennis wins second-straight national title with 4-0 sweep of UCLA

No. 2 Florida Gators (27-1) women’s tennis became just the second program in the history of the sport to win back-to-back national championships, capturing the program’s second-straight title with a 4-0 sweep of the No. 1 UCLA Bruins (26-3) in the finals of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Tuesday at Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA.

Florida ended their season on a 22-match winning streak, sweeping four of the five opponents they faced on their way to the program’s sixth national title. The Gators were playing for the NCAA Championship for the third-straight year (lost to Stanford in 2010) and 13th time in school history.

No. 1 junior Allie Will/sophomore Sofie Oyen wasted little time getting Florida on the board in doubles action, dominating No. 6 Robin Anderson/Skylar Morton from start to finish in an 8-2 win.

The Gators found themselves down early in the other two doubles matches with No. 22 junior Lauren Embree/senior Joanna Mather trailing No. 9 Pamela Montez/Courtney Dolehide and the team of sophomore Alex Cercone/junior Caroline Hitimana falling behind McCall Jones/Carling Seguso.

Florida slowly but surely fought their way back in both matches with Cercone/Hitimana eventually defeating Jones/Seguso 8-5 and Embree/Mather leading Montez/Dolehide 6-5 when the doubles point was clinched for the Gators to give UF an early 1-0 lead.

No. 79 Cercone had a much easier time in her singles match, quickly defeating No. 119 Chanelle Van Nguyen in straight sets (6-2, 6-0) to extend Florida’s lead to 2-0 with five matches still in action. No. 61 Oyen then registered a clean victory over No. 124 Morton, beating the freshman 6-3, 6-2 to pull the Gators within one match of the title.

It was No. 9 Embree who was once again tasked with closing out the national championship for Florida after winning the title in a grueling three-set tiebreaker one year ago. She did not waste much time doing just that, taking down No. 98 Jones 6-4, 6-0 to clinch the national championship for the Gators.

Following the match, Embree was awarded the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award for the second-straight year. She was also named to the All-Tournament team along with Cercone at the two and four spots for singles, respectively.

“It’s amazing. I still can’t really believe that just happened again that we went back-to-back. It’s just so exciting; I’m so proud of my teammates,” Embree said. “I said last year was a dream come true, but it’s a dream come true again. Our team has worked so hard, and I just feel like we played so well this week. I’m so proud of them.”

No. 1 Will trailed No. 4 Anderson 4-6, 2-5 at the time of completion. No. 21 Mather was slightly up on No. 73 Montez 3-6, 6-3, 1-0, and sophomore Olivia Janowicz was nearly even with Seguso 6-7, 5-2 when the title was clinched.

Florida women’s tennis’ victory Tuesday marks the school’s 28th overall national championship and 19th since athletic director Jeremy Foley took over. It was also head coach Roland Thornqvist‘s third national title since being hired in 2002.

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No. 2 Florida women’s tennis tops No. 3 Duke 4-3, advances to third-straight NCAA Championship

No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis will play for the national championship for the third-straight year after defeating the No. 4 Duke Blue Devils in the Final Four of the 2012 NCAA Tournament at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA.

Florida (26-1) extended their winning streak to 21 matches in their 4-3 defeat of Duke (29-3), advancing to the finals of the tournament for the third year in a row and receiving an opportunity to defend their 2011 national title. The Blue Devils were on an 18-match winning streak of their own that the Gators ended on Monday.

UF has never won back-to-back national championships but will look to make team history while appearing in the program’s 13th national title game.

The nation’s No. 1 pairing, junior Allie Will/sophomore Sofie Oyen, opened doubles action with an 8-3 win and was forced watch as their teammates fought to clinch the point. Sophomore Alex Cercone/junior Caroline Hitimana trailed most of their match but held off Duke and relieved the pressure on Florida’s second-best pairing.

That duo, No. 22-ranked junior Lauren Embree/senior Joanna Mather, coughed up a substantial lead and allowed the Blue Devils to pull even with them at 7-7. Embree and Mather were soon down 8-7 and fighting for their lives but evened the match 8-8 and dominated the tiebreak round to clinch the doubles point for the Gators. Cercone and Hitimana dropped their match 8-4 in time with Embree/Mather pulling out the victory.

Florida lost five of their six first sets in singles action but was still able to increase their lead over Duke to 2-0 after No. 9 Embree built off her opening set victory and won her singles match 6-4, 6-1. The Gators then jumped ahead 3-0 when No. 21 Mather came from behind to take her match 2-6, 6-2, 6-0.

No. 61 Oyen and No. 79 Cercone both took their second sets after falling behind early, giving the Gators four opportunities to notch the match-winning points. The first of those chances was lost shortly after when sophomore Olivia Janowicz fell 1-6, 6-4, 3-6 and allowed the Blue Devils to reduce their deficit to 3-1.

No. 1 Will struggled all match long with No. 2 Beatrice Capra. The 2012 ACC Player and Freshman of the Year eventually upset her 4-6, 4-6 in straight sets and brought Duke within two points with two matches left to play.

Oyen did her best to hold off her opponent but was unable to do so for long, losing 3-6, 7-5, 2-6 and putting both teams’ title hopes in the hands of Cercone and No. 66 Mary Clayton, two extremely well-matched players.

The competitors went back-and-forth all afternoon with Clayton claiming the first set and forcing Cercone to come from behind if she wanted to pull out a victory. In the end Cercone did just that, starting with an 0-2 deficit in the third set before outscoring Clayton 6-1 over the final seven games to pick up a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win and send Florida to the championship game.

UF will face No. 1 UCLA for the 2012 NCAA Championship on Tuesday at 1 p.m. The Gators will be participating in their 13th NCAA Tournament final in the last 25 years and will be looking to win the team’s sixth national title.

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Florida sweeps SEC All-Sports Awards yet again

Any doubt that the University of Florida had the dominant athletics program in the Southeastern Conference during the 2011-12 school year was put to rest Sunday as the university was named the SEC All-Sports champion by the Halifax Media Group for the fourth-straight season. Sweeping all three titles – overall, men’s and women’s – the Florida Gators won by staggering numbers in each category, literally dominating the competition.

Team (OVERALL)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida156.5169.78
No. 2 Georgia141.0168.81
No. 3 LSU129.0158.06

Team (MEN's)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida 66.579.50
No. 2 Georgia59.078.43
No. 3 LSU55.077.86

Team (WOMEN's)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida90.0910.00
No. 2 Georgia82.099.11
No. 3 Tennessee70.088.75

Florida is the only school to sweep all three titles in a single season, accomplishing the feat for the 12th time, fifth in the last six years and fourth-in-a-row (2006-07, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11). UF has now won 22 overall titles (including six-straight), 19 women’s titles and 16 men’s titles.

All 16 of the Gators’ sports (nine women’s, seven men’s) were counted with cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field combined into one unit per gender. Lacrosse was not included as that program competes in the American Lacrosse Conference.

Florida won three SEC titles over this period – gymnastics, women’s tennis and women’s indoor track and field – compared to eight in 2010-11. UF women’s tennis captured both the regular season and tournament championships.

The Gators lead the SEC with 205 all-time team titles.

The SEC All-Sports titles were previously awarded by The New York Times Regional Newspaper Group from 1994-95 to 2010-11.

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Florida women’s tennis advances to third-straight NCAA Final Four with 4-0 sweep of Miami

No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis defeated the No. 11 Miami Hurricanes 4-0 in the Elite Eight round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday to advance to the Final Four for the third-straight season and 22nd time in program history.

Florida (25-1) extended their winning streak to 20 matches as they beat Miami (21-5) in the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row, moving on to the Final Four following each victory. The Gators have not allowed any of their opponents to register a single point in this year’s event, improving to 18-0 after previously sweeping South Carolina State (4-0), No. 31 Washington State (6-0) and No. 16 Michigan (4-0).

The No. 22 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather lost their doubles match 8-4, but Florida’s other pairings – No. 1 junior Allie Will/sophomore Sofie Oyen (8-3) and sophomore Alex Cercone/junior Caroline Hitimana (8-6) – pulled off victories to clinch the doubles point for the Gators.

It took Cercone/Hitimana 1:46 to cap the point for UF as the duo needed 18 points to win the second-to-last game of their match and take a 7-6 lead.

Once the doubles point was out of the way, Florida cruised in singles competition.

No. 79 Cercone (6-2, 6-2), sophomore Olivia Janowicz (6-3, 6-2) and No. 21 Mather (6-2, 6-4) each won their matches in straight sets to send the Gators to a 4-0 victory. No. 1 Will (6-3, 4-2), No. 9 Embree (7-6[2], 1-3) and No. 61 Oyen (6-3, 5-3) were all leading but did not finish their respective matches.

Florida moves on to face No. 3 Duke, riding an 18-match winning streak of their own, in Final Four action on Monday at 1 p.m. The winner will take on either No. 1 UCLA or No. 5 USC for the national title on Tuesday at 1 p.m.

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Gators men’s tennis team eliminated from NCAAs

It has taken years of jokes and a round of 16 men’s tennis match in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, but the Ohio State Buckeyes have finally defeated the Florida Gators. No. 5 Ohio State (34-3) eliminated No. 12 Florida (16-10) from the event with a 4-1 win on Friday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA.

Friday’s loss marks the second-straight year that the Gators have been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the round of 16. Florida has never won a team national title.

The Buckeyes easily took the doubles point with a pair of 8-1 and 8-3 victories, but the Gators were much more competitive in singles action. No. 42 junior Bob van Overbeek (3-6, 3-6) and No. 48 junior Tripper Carleton (4-6, 1-6) were defeated in straight sets, but sophomore Florent Diep (6-4, 6-2) picked up a victory and sophomore Mike Alford (7-6, 1-6, 0-6) took his opponent to three sets. Florida was in the middle of two other highly contested singles matches when Alford was defeated to end the competition.

The Gators will regroup for the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships scheduled for May 23-28. Florida’s singles competitors and doubles teams will look to win the squad’s first national titles since 1999 and 1993, respectively.

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Florida women’s tennis sweeps Michigan 4-0

No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (24-1) advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2012 NCAA Tournament with a 4-0 victory over the No. 15 Michigan Wolverines (21-8) on Thursday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA.

Florida improved to 26-3 all-time in round of 16 matches and is advancing to the Elite Eight for the third-straight year, seventh time in the last eight seasons and 26th time in team history. UF has swept all three opponents they have faced in the NCAA Tournament, amassing a combined 14-0 record so far in this year’s event.

The Gators started by coming from behind to clinch the doubles point. The No. 1 duo in the country – Florida’s junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen – uncharacteristically fell 8-5, but the team of sophomore Alex Cercone and junior Caroline Hitimana picked up the slack with an 8-2 win.

Behind two games in the third doubles match, the No. 22 pairing of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather came through in the clutch by winning four-straight games to turn a 5-7 deficit into a 9-7 victory and win the doubles point for Florida.

Things were much easier for the Gators in singles action as No. 9 Embree (6-4, 6-1), No. 61 Oyen (6-1, 6-3) and sophomore Olivia Janowicz (6-1, 6-3) each closed out their opponents almost simultaneously. No. 1 Will (6-3, 4-3) and No. 79 Cercone (6-1, 5-1) were both leading when their matches were halted.

Florida will remain in Athens for the rest of the tournament as they look to defend their 2011 NCAA Championship. The Gators have won 19 consecutive matches and will take on No. 10 Miami on Saturday at 4 p.m. for the opportunity to advance to their third-straight Final Four. It is the third consecutive year that Florida and Miami will go head-to-head in NCAA quarterfinals action.

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SIX BITS: tennis, softball, Hill, Thompson, NBA

1 » No. 12 Florida Gators men’s tennis (16-9) continued its hot play in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, completing a 4-0 sweep of the No. 24 Harvard Crimson (23-3) to advance to the round of 16. Florida clinched the doubles point and received singles victories from No. 53 senior Nassim Slilam (6-2, 6-3), No. 66 sophomore Spencer Newman (6-4, 6-2) and sophomore Florent Diep (6-1, 6-4) to grab the victory and move on to the round of 16 for the third-straight season. UF will resume play on Friday against No. 5 Ohio State at noon.

2 » Gators softball, one day after falling hard in a bid for a conference tournament title, learned Sunday that they have earned the No. 5 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida (46-11) will open the tournament as hosts of the Gainesville Regional, which will also feature Florida Gulf Coast, Central Florida and South Florida. UF is 2-2 this season against the field with victories over FGCU (5-0) and USF (3-2) and losses to UCF (2-0) and USF (4-1). The Gators will play their first game on May 18 at 6 p.m. against FGCU. Should Florida be the victor of their regional, they will take on the winner of the Los Angeles Regional featuring No. 12 UCLA, Florida State, San Diego State and Hofstra. UF would likely host the Super Regional in that scenario.

3 » Five-star point guard Kasey Hill, a 2013 Gators’ commitment and the No. 8 player in the country according to Rivals, received high praise from ESPN’s Dave Telep on Thursday. Telep, who has attended five AAU events since March, said Hill stood out as the top performer at the adidas VIP Run and thinks he is one of two players who could be considered the best point guard in the class of 2013. “The most improved player I’ve seen? That would be point guard Kasey Hill,” he wrote. “He’s refined his approach to the point guard slot and in my mind, become an elite player and impact recruit. There’s a difference between being highly rated and being an impact signee. He’s the best point guard Billy Donovan has ever recruited.”

4 » Two NFL writers had some high praise for former Florida wide receiver Deonte Thompson based on how he performed in Baltimore Ravens minicamp on Sunday. FOX Sports’ Aaron Wilson said Thompson “had a good day…speed is eye-catching, caught the ball fairly well, too,” while CBS Sports’ Jason Butt noted that Thompson “looked fluid and sharp, and showcased stellar straight-line speed and quick cuts.” Thompson is one of two former UF players (quarterback John Brantley) who signed an undrafted free agent deal with Baltimore this offseason.

5 » Denver Nuggets forward Corey Brewer became the third former Gators basketball player (and member of the Oh Fours) to be eliminated from the 2012 NBA Playoffs this week after Denver fell 96-87 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday. Brewer, after having some highlight moments during the series, had a rough outing in Game 7. He scored just four points on 2-of-9 shooting (0-for-3 from downtown) with two rebounds and one steal in 13 minutes. Also out of the postseason is center Marreese Speights and the Memphis Grizzlies. Speights also had an admirable series but did not get the opporutnity to contribute much in Memphis’ 82-72 Game 7 loss, scoring just two points on 1-of-2 shooting with two rebounds and a steal in 11 minutes.

6 » Only three former Florida players remain in the playoffs: F Matt Bonner of the San Antonio Spurs and both power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller of the Miami Heat. Bonner is averaging 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game this postseason while Haslem is posting averages of 3.8 points and 6.4 boards in 19.0 minutes and Miller is registering 7.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 23.2 minutes.

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SIX BITS: baseball, tennis, Haden, Davis, Calathes

1 » No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (37-14, 15-11 SEC) stalled in a big way on Saturday, getting shut out for the second time this season in a 2-0 loss to the No. 25 Mississippi State Bulldogs (31-19, 13-13 SEC) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. A late scratch with a hamstring injury, junior left-hander Brian Johnson was replaced by sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford, who did an admirable job as a spot starter. Crawford (4-2, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, HBP, 3 K) gave up single runs in the first and fifth but received no help whatsoever from Florida’s bats in terms of production or run support. The Gators combined to register just three hits on the evening with the first five batters combining to go 0/19 with one walk and three strikeouts.

2 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis (23-1) registered yet another shutout in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, defeating the No. 31 Washington State Cougars (19-7) and advancing to the round of 16 for the eighth consecutive season. The Gators topped the Cougars 6-0 (shutouts are normally end at 4-0 but three matches finished simultaneously) and combined to go 76-23 in individual games in the seven matches that were completed. The No. 1 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen registered an 8-1 victory, while the No. 22 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather won 8-2 to clinch the doubles point. No. 1 Will (6-3, 6-1), No. 9 Embree (6-2, 6-3), No. 21 Mather (6-3, 6-2), No. 61 Oyen (6-4, 6-0) and No. 79 sophomore Alex Cercone (6-0, 6-2) all won their singles matches as well. UF will take on Michigan on Thursday at 7 p.m. for the opportunity to advance to the quarterfinals.

3 » No. 12 Florida men’s tennis (15-9) began competing in their version of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday and started as hot as their female counterparts did with a 4-0 sweep of the Navy Midshipmen (18-9). The Gators won the doubles point (8-4; 8-3) and were led by their ranked players in singles action. No. 42 junior Bob van Overbeek (6-1, 6-0), No. 53 senior Nassim Slilam (6-0, 6-0) and sophomore Florent Diep (6-0, 6-0) were victorious in their individual matches as No. 48 junior Tripper Carleton and No. 66 sophomore Spencer Newman also lead at the time the contest was stopped. Florida will face Harvard in second-round action on Sunday for the chance to move on to the round of 16.

4 » A high school student in Independence, OH needed a prom date after the one she was scheduled to go with bailed at the last minute. Her response? Tweet Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden to see if he will accompany her to one of the biggest events in her young life. To Joyce Grendel’s surprise, Haden accepted her invitation and picked her up Friday afternoon in a white Lamborghini to give her a night that she will undobutedly never forget. Haden told FOX 8 in Cleveland, OH that he never attended his senior prom (because he enrolled early at UF) and was just as nervous as his date. “I [was] nervous, too,” he said. “We were taking pictures with me and her family. I feel this is very legit, like I was getting ready, ‘Does this look cool?’ when I’m getting ready. I feel like I’m very legit. This is my prom, too.” This is not the first time Haden has gone above and beyond to put a smile on the face of one of his fans, which begs just one question: How totally awesome is Joe Haden?

5 » Former Gators linebacker Andra Davis never finished his degree at UF but 10 years later can now call himself a college graduate. Davis completed his bachelor’s degree in social sciences this semester and officially graduated from UNLV on Saturday, achieving a lifelong dream and providing a great lesson to his children. “Stay in school, because academics are one of the most important things in life,” he said, according to the Las Vegas Sun. “It’s easy for me to tell [my children] you need to do this or do that, but if I didn’t finish, they could have been like, ‘Daddy, you didn’t finish school and you’re successful.’” Davis is currently a free agent after spending the last two years playing for the Buffalo Bills and is unlikely to be re-signed by the team. His NFL career may very well be done which is another reason why getting his college degree was so important at this time in his life. “It was like, ‘OK, well, I need to have something to fall back on in case football doesn’t work out,” Davis said. “When I was younger, my first few years, I used to think I was invincible. As you get older, you start to see your skills diminishing, and along with kids and a wife, you start to have a different focus.”

6 » Dallas Mavericks head of international scouting Alvydas Pazdrazdias told EuroHoops.net on Friday that point guard Nick Calathes, selected by Dallas with the No. 45 overall pick in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft, will have an opportunity to make the team this season. Calathes, whose contract with Panathinaikos concluded this season, will be able to compete with the Mavericks’ summer league team. Dallas, which will probably have a hole at point guard heading into the 2012-13 season, could very well use a player like Calathes if he can prove he has upped his game. “I believe he can adapt to our system,” Pazdrazdias said. “He is a good player, from who you don’t expect to score a lot of points, but you can be sure he will take care of all the other things, always for the best interest of your team. He plays for the team and does everything for his team to win.”

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