Gators Rally for NCAA Title

The Gator women's tennis team was down 3-1 to Stanford on the Cardinal's homecourt but rallied with three straight singles win to hand the top ranked Cards their first loss of the season while claiming the fifth NCAA Championship in school history. Freshmen Alex Cercone and Olivia Janowicz and sophomore Lauren Embree all rallied from losing the first set to win their respective matches.

Embree's match was the last to be completed and it took a third set tie-breaker for Embree to outlast Stanford's Mallory Burdette 5-7, 6-3, 7-6. The tie-breaker even went overtime before Burdette sailed a forehand beyond the baseline to give Embree and the Gators the win. It capped a remarkable comeback for Embree who trailed 4-0 in the final set. It was also delicious revenge for the Gators who lost to Stanford 4-3 in last year's NCAA final. Ironically it was Burdette who won the clinching point over the Gators that day. But this was Florida's day.

"I don't know what it looked like on TV or in the stands, that took about 10 years off my life," said head coach Roland Thornqvist in a UF news release. "We played phenomenal doubles that really set the tone. Today we really found out how Stanford has a 10-year winning streak. It's really difficult to win here. It took a gutsy performance and everything we had to push us through to victory. Thankfully we had the superstar (Lauren Embree) at the end who has the best wheels in the game. She's the toughest player I've ever coached."

It's the second NCAA title for Thornqvist who also guided the Gators to a title in 2003. It came against a Stanford program that had won 47 straight matches over the past two seasons and brought a 184 match home court winning streak into the contest. Stanford had also beaten the Gators five times in seven previous NCAA Finals, but Lauren Embree and her teammates put an end to call of that.

"It was so up and down," Embree said about her match. "I got off to a really good start. Mallory just started to play better and better as the match went on. In the second set I knew if I hung in there and could get a break and that's what happened. I got off to a really slow start in the third. Honestly, I really just wanted to stay out there and fight for my team. Joanna (Mather) was down a set and 5-0 (in Monday's NCAA Semifinal match) and I knew that if she could do it, I could do it. I wanted to fight as long as I could and I came out with the win."

They say you should never follow a coaching legend, but Thornqvist has done a phenomenal job in his ten seasons since taking over for Andy Brandi. His record is a ridiculous 249-30 since arriving in Gainesville. The NCAA Title is the 26th in school history and the second this season following the men's indoor track title two months ago.

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