Florida women earn 2nd straight national title
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -- Unlike last year, Lauren Embree didn't need too long to secure Florida's national championship.
"I'm glad it wasn't as dramatic as last year," she said. "I just happened to be the last one that had a chance at clinching."
Embree and Alex Cercone had little trouble winning their singles matches on Tuesday, helping Florida earn its second straight national title with a 4-0 victory over UCLA.
The Gators (27-1) were up 3-0 when Embree sealed the championship with a backhand that McCall Jones had no chance to reach. Embree, selected the tournament's most outstanding player, beat Jones 6-4, 6-0.
In last year's finals at Stanford, Embree rallied past Cardinal standout Mallory Burdette 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (6) after trailing 4-0 in the third set.
That was hardly the case this time.
Playing in front of several hundred cheering Florida fans, Embree had no trouble dominating the second set.
"In this tournament, it's hard not to play your best tennis here," said Embree, the Southeastern Conference player of the year. "The atmosphere is great. The fans we have are amazing. Our team is supporting each other on each court. It's difficult not to play well here."
Cercone knocked off Chanelle Van Nguyen 6-2, 6-0. Sofie Oyen beat Skylar Morton 6-3, 6-2.
UCLA (26-3) set a program high for victories in a season, but the Bruins were shut out by Florida in the NCAA tournament for a second straight year.
The Gators beat UCLA 4-0 in last year's semifinals.
"Florida is obviously a very fit team, and they play a lot of long points," Bruins coach Stella Sampras Webster said. "That's just their style. Our style is we're hitters. We like short points and finishing points off, and if we're not sharp, those types of long points are going to be more successful."
The Bruins did get some good news earlier in the day when Robin Anderson, the Pac-10 freshman of the year, was released from a local hospital after suffering dehydration and cramping from her 6-7 (7-5), 6-4, 6-2 victory over Southern Cal's Zoe Scandalis.
Anderson and Morton lost their doubles match 8-4 to Oyen and Allie Will, but in the No. 1 singles match, Anderson was leading Will, the No. 1 seed entering next week's NCAA singles tournament, 6-4, 5-2 when Embree finished off Jones.
"I felt pretty good today," Anderson said. "I went out and tried to fight my hardest with what I had today. I was being successful with it."
In Florida's other winning doubles match, Cercone and Caroline Hitimana beat Jones and Carling Seguso 8-5.
Gators coach Ronald Thornqvist was proud of the way his players met their expectations to repeat as champions.
"We had to go through some growing pains as defending national champions," he said. "They were willing to work through and start over, sort of, to build the team over from scratch. What you saw today was the culmination of all that."
A 5-2 loss Feb. 12 at Stanford, Florida's lone setback, was a turning point.
"One of the really dangerous things is to walk around hoping and thinking about an undefeated season because then you're playing every match not to lose," Thornqvist said. "When we got that loss, we realized we had to have better attitudes and to play to win. They kicked our butts. I thought that was great for us even though it wasn't fun at the time."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)