April 20, 2012
OXFORD, Miss. - Eighth-seeded Tennessee was competitive with top-seeded Florida on the first three courts in singles before a half-hour rain delay interrupted play and halted those matches, as the Lady Vols (14-12) were eliminated from the SEC Tournament on Friday, falling 4-0 to the Gators (19-1).
Although Florida's top three players are all ranked in the Top 25, including No. 1 Allie Will, 3-2 scores were on every scoreboard at the time of the delay, including junior Kata Szekely's lead over No. 23 Joanna Mather.
Rain eventually forced the match inside to the Gillom Sports Center, which has three indoor courts, on the Ole Miss campus. As matches on courts 4-6 were further along, those were played out first.
"I think we played as well as we could have played tonight," co-head coach Mike Patrick said. "We played a good team and we did everything we could do. They're the defending National Champions and honestly we're going out there and doing a lot without a lot of work and still some broken parts. I thought we competed hard and our effort was good. Our execution's not great, but it's not going to be great when you don't practice very much."
After Joanna Henderson's 6-2, 6-1 loss to No. 68 Alex Cercone put Florida ahead 2-0, Natalie Pluskota's match continued on court one briefly. But the Gators used straight-set wins on courts four and six to end Tennessee's run of three consecutive SEC Championship match appearances.
"It'd be more of an advantage if we had healthy players," Patrick said of playing indoors. "But Florida is a good team and we would need to be at our very best and have practiced and worked hard for the whole entire year to be competitive with them, and we haven't had that luxury so far. So, we did the best with what we had and I'm proud of the kids."
The 20th-ranked Lady Vols await the NCAA.com Selection Show on Tuesday, May 1, at 5 p.m. ET to discover their NCAA Tournament opening-round opponent. Tennessee has hosted the NCAA First and Second Rounds three consecutive years.
Tennessee lost the doubles point for just the sixth time this season, two of which have come to the Gators, who boast a pair of Top 20 duos.
No. 10 Pluskota and Szekely held their own against top-ranked Allie Will and Sofie Oyen, trailing just 5-4 before Florida clinched the opening point with wins on courts two and three.
Florida's Sofie Oyen, ranked 51st, put the Gators up 3-0 with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Caitlyn Williams.
Jesse Grace, who was down a set and trailed 5-2 in the second, reeled off three straight games before falling 6-1, 7-5 as Olivia Janowicz clinched the win for Florida.
"Hopefully we'll feel better in about two weeks," Patrick said. "That's what we're shooting for. We'll see if we can get ready for the NCAA Tournament now. This was good for us because a couple of kids that hadn't played in a long time got to play a little bit. We'll take a couple more days off and start training again and actually start getting ready for something instead of just showing up and playing."
#1 Florida 4, #8 Tennessee 0
1. #35 Natalie Pluskota (UT) vs. #10 Lauren Embree (UF) 2-6, unfinished
2. #28 Brynn Boren (UT) vs. #1 Allie Will (UF) 2-3, unfinished
3. #52 Kata Szekely (UT) vs. #23 Joanna Mather (UF) 3-2, unfinished
4. #51 Sofie Oyen (UF) def. Caitlyn Williams (UT) 6-2, 6-2
5. #68 Alex Cercone (UF) def. Joanna Henderson (UT) 6-2, 6-1
6. Olivia Janowicz (UF) def. Jesse Grace (UT) 6-1, 7-5
1. #10 Natalie Pluskota/Kata Szekely (UT) vs. #1 Allie Will/Sofie Oyen (UF) 4-5, unfinished
2. #19 Lauren Embree/Joanna Mather (UF) def. Brynn Boren/Caitlyn Williams (UT) 8-2
3. #47 Alex Cercone/Olivia Janowicz (UF) def. Joanna Henderson/Jesse Grace (UT) 8-4
Order of finish: Doubles (3, 2); Singles (5, 4, 6)
Records: Tennessee (14-12), Florida (19-1)