April 22, 2012
OXFORD, MISS.---The seventh-ranked and third-seeded Georgia women’s tennis team finished runner-up at the 2012 SEC tournament after a 4-1 loss to second-ranked and first-seeded Florida in the championship match Sunday afternoon.
The Bulldogs (21-4) dropped a close doubles point and then couldn’t sustain some early momentum gained in singles to win four matches.
Georgia fell behind early when Florida claimed the doubles point. Georgia’s duo of Maho Kowase and Lilly Kimbell were first off the court with an 8-1 win over Florida’s Caroline Hitimana and Olivia Janowicz. It’s the pair’s 19th straight doubles victory, and 21st win of the season. Later, Florida’s Allie Will and Sofie Oyen, the top-ranked doubles pair in the country, rallied from behind to top Georgia’s Nadja Gilchrist and Kate Fuller, 8-5. The Gators claimed the doubles point when the 19th-ranked duo of Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather outlasted Georgia’s Chelsey Gullickson and Alina Jerjomina, 8-5.
“It was a great match,” said head coach Jeff Wallace. “I thought both teams really played well. I really felt at No. 1 doubles we had some opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on. We were up 5-3, and just a few points here and that could have been a different story. Of course our No. 3 team, those guys were on the All-SEC Tournament team. They didn’t lose a match all weekend. They’ve been undefeated the whole season, so they did what they do. We didn’t get off to a good start at No. 2 (doubles), but we came on and played strong and were making a nice run to come back.
“It just came right down to the end,” continued Wallace. “It was just another great, epic battle.”
In singles, Florida’s Mather put the Gators up 2-0 with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Gilchrist at No. 3. With the loss, Gilchrist falls to 20-9 this season. Later, Kimbell cut the Florida lead to 2-1 when she outlasted 68th-ranked Cercone, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. The win was Kimbell’s seventh in a row. At No. 1, seventh-ranked Gullickson fell to 10th-ranked Embree in a three-set marathon 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 to put Florida one point away from its third straight SEC tournament title. Florida clinched the match when the Gators’ 121st-ranked Hitimana topped the Bulldogs’ Jerjomina, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
Two other matches that were in progress when the match was decided were not finished. Georgia’s 59th-ranked Kowase had won two straight third set games in a 7-6(4), 5-7, 2-4 match with top-ranked Will. Fuller, ranked 95th-nationally, was locked in a tight match with 51st-ranked Oyen, 6-4, 5-7, 5-5.
Everything comes down to the NCAA Tournament,” said Gullickson. “So as much as we’re upset, we’re still looking forward to playing at our courts during NCAA’s.”
With the loss, Georgia drops to 47-19 all-time in SEC Tournament matches.
Georgia played its fifth straight match without freshman Lauren Herring who is out with an arm injury. Normally, Herring plays No. 2 singles and is part of the No. 2 doubles team. She is 28-7 in singles including 13-3 at No. 2; In doubles with Fuller, she is 26-12 overall and 12-4 at No. 2.
The NCAA Selection Show is set for Tues., May 1 at 5:30 p.m. and will air live on NCAA.com. The singles and doubles fields will be released Wed., May 2 by 6 p.m. ET.
#2 Florida 4, #7 Georgia 1
1. #10 Lauren Embree (UF) def. #7 Chelsey Gullickson (UGA) 3-6, 6-4, 7-5
2. #1 Allie Will (UF) vs. #59 Maho Kowase (UGA) 6-7, 7-5, 4-2, unfinished
3. #23 Joanna Mather (UF) def. Nadja Gilchrist (UGA) 6-4, 6-4
4. #51 Sofie Oyen (UF) vs. #95 Kate Fuller (UGA) 4-6, 7-5, 5-5, unfinished
5. Lilly Kimbell (UGA) def. #68 Alex Cercone (UF) 6-3, 2-6, 6-3
6. #121 Carolina Hitimana (UF) def. Alina Jerjomina (UGA) 7-5, 4-6, 6-4
1. #1 Allie Will/Sofie Oyen (UF) def. Kate Fuller/Nadja Gilchrist (UGA) 8-5
2. #19 Lauren Embree/Joanna Mather (UF) def. Chelsey Gullickson/Alina Jerjomina (UGA) 8-5
3. Maho Kowase/Lilly Kimbell (UGA) def. Carolina Hitimana/Olivia Janowicz (UF) 8-1
Georgia 21-4; National ranking #7
Florida 21-1; National ranking #2
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (3,5,1,6)