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Florida Tennis Briefs(3): Can UF Women 3-Peat?; Create Your Own Court Contest

May 24, 2012 02:24 PM
Can Florida-Player-Centric UF Women's Tennis Win 3 in a Row?

by Rick Vach, www.ustaflorida.com

florida_womens_teamThe University of Florida women's tennis team is entering Stanford-type territory, in May winning its second consecutive NCAA women's title.

Unfair comparison?

While it's difficult to put any team side by side with the Stanford Lady Cardinals overall 16 NCAA women's tennis titles (the Florida Lady Gators are second with six), Florida is approaching Stanford's rarified air space, now looking at a potential third title in a row during the upcoming 2012-13 season starting this fall.

The last school to win three women's tennis NCAA titles in a row? Stanford, naturally, in 2004-06. In this year's NCAA tournament the Lady Cardinals were shocked 4-2 by No. 4-ranked USC in the quarterfinals.

Stanford will return their full roster next season with no seniors on the 2011-12 team. Florida meanwhile must have a player step up to replace key senior Joanna Mather.

"She's been our leader for three years and she's been our safety blanket, providing tremendous security for this team, so we'll have to rely on several people to provide that," said UF head coach Roland Thornqvist.

Also in the mix next year will be Duke, who UF edged 4-3 in the 2012 semifinals, and UCLA, the No. 1 squad that UF blanked 4-0 in the final.

While the top-seeded UCLA looked flat coming into the final, UF rebounded from a difficult semifinal to sweep to victory, a result Thornqvist attributed to team fitness.

"I really think all those wind sprints, all the grass workouts, all the Gator Mountains, all those things that were painful certainly paid off," Thornqvist said. "Because without them, we could not have rebounded from yesterday's humongous battle against Duke and be as fresh as we were today. I thought we were absolutely fantastic and outstanding from start to finish."

In contrast to many schools whose line-ups are dominated by international players, the UF women's line-up is comprised primarily of home-grown Florida players that grew up competing in USTA Florida Section events.

Alex Cercone (Seminole), Lauren Embree (Marco Island), Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay), and Allie Will (Boca Raton) comprise the heart of the Lady Gators. Embree provided the clinching match in the 4-0 finals sweep against UCLA, while Cercone provided the dramatic final win when the Gators edged Duke in the semifinals. Embree was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

"I'm glad it wasn't as dramatic as last year," Embree said. "It feels amazing to clinch it, but without our [No.] and 3 doubles team we wouldn't have gotten the doubles point, so I'm so proud of our team effort."

Cercone was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team. "Today I played really good tennis," said Cercone, who is now 9-0 in singles matches in NCAA tourney play, after the final. "I was very efficient and I think my opponent was a little stressed out. I was glad I was able to get off (quickly) because I was a little bit tired."

Cercone will need to again be efficient next year, as will all the returning Lady Gators. Florida has the No. 13-ranked recruiting class for next season, according to TennisRecruiting.net, with Florida talent Danielle Collins the incoming standout. Stanford has the No. 4-ranked national class, UCLA No. 11, and the Top 3 are Virginia, Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

Florida finished the 2011-12 year 27-1, and its sixth NCAA women's tennis championship is more than any other sport at UF. Starting this fall, the Lady Gators will again see what they're made of as they re-align their roster and start down the road to potentially making history.

"I'm really proud of this group," Thornqvist said. "We discovered this year that, without a doubt, it is much more difficult to repeat. There are inherent challenges you have to go through, some growing pains, as defending national championships. Throughout the spring, these guys just showed what kind of will, courage and determination they have...The journey towards next year's NCAA championship will begin in the fall."

USTA Launches National 'Create Your Own Tennis Court' Photo Contest

create-your-own-court-logoThe United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced the launch of its Create Your Own Tennis Court contest, a photo contest seeking the most creative tennis court set-up. The contest encourages fan engagement by asking them to determine the winner by voting for their favorite finalist photo on the website, www.createyourowntenniscourt.com. The entrant who submits the winning photo will win a trip for four to New York City to attend the 2013 US Open Tennis Championship. 

The contest is aligned with the USTA's youth initiative, 10 and Under Tennis, and its emphasis that tennis can be played anywhere -- a driveway, a park, and even a beach. 10 and Under Tennis provides the opportunity to achieve immediate success by playing tennis using equipment sized for children.

"The Create Your Own Tennis Court contest is a fun way for young people to creatively showcase that tennis can be played almost anywhere," said Kurt Kamperman, USTA chief executive, community tennis.

The contest, open to U.S. residents, 18 and older, consists of two phases. The first phase runs through July 8, during which the public will be able to submit a photo through the website www.createyourowntenniscourt.com. A panel of judges will select the Top 10 photos and the finalists will be placed in a photo gallery on the website for the public to vote for their favorite.

The second phase will begin on July 17 and run through Sept. 12 to determine the grand prize winner of the contest. Once finalists are announced, consumers will be asked to vote for their favorite photo from the Top 10 selection. The entrant whose photo receives the most votes will be declared the winner and will be awarded the Grand Prize. In addition, every eligible fan who votes will be included in a weekly drawing for a chance to win a 2012 US Open hat.

For more information and for Official Rules log onto www.createyourowntenniscourt.com.

Dominguez Hired as USTA Florida Pensacola 10 and Under Tennis Coordinator

dominguez_taraIn May USTA Florida announced the hiring of Tara Dominguez as the 10 and Under Tennis coordinator for the Greater Pensacola area. Dominguez's role, as with Florida's other five 10 and Under Tennis markets (Greater Orlando, Greater Tampa, Lee County, Village of Wellington (Palm Beaches) and Jacksonville), will be to build a 10 and Under Tennis pathway and infrastructure in schools and the community in the Pensacola area during a three-year period.

Dominguez is a resident of Pensacola, graduating from the University of West Florida with a B.A. in Communication Arts. As a military wife, Dominguez discovered tennis at age 30 and now credits the game for helping her cope with moving 12 times in 10 years and surviving numerous overseas deployments of her husband. 

"As a mother of two athletes that play everything but tennis, Tara is feeling confident the 10 and Under Tennis rule change and equipment modifications will help her youngest child embrace the sport of tennis," said USTA Florida Associate Executive Director Andy McFarland. "Now permanently settled back in Pensacola, Tara is looking forward to expanding 10 and Under Tennis play opportunities and accessibility in the greater Pensacola area.

10 and Under Tennis allows smaller children to emulate adult play on smaller court sizes, with racquet sizes that fit their hands, foam and low-compression balls, a simple scoring system,  all adjusted to ease kids into the sport. Similar mini-tennis formats have long been popular in Europe, where current stars such as Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters first learned the game with age-adjusted racquets, balls and court sizes.

For more information on 10 and Under Tennis in Pensacola and the state of Florida, go to www.ustaflorida.com.






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