UF women to play for NCAA title, weather permitting


The Gators women's tennis team celebrates the victory over Vanderbilt in the NCAA Championship semifinal.

Courtesy of UAA
Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 at 10:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 22, 2017 at 10:32 p.m.

(UPDATED: 2:49 p.m.) ATHENS, Ga. – The third time was the charm against Vanderbilt this season for the top-seeded Florida women's tennis team.

Facts

Today

What: NCAA Women's Tennis Championship

Who: Top seed Florida (28-3) vs. No. 7 seed Stanford (26-2)

When: No earlier than 6 p.m. because of rain in the area.

Where: Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex

TV: ESPNU

The Gators defeated No. 4 seed Vanderbilt 4-2 Monday in a NCAA Championship semifinal and sent them to the NCAA Finals for the 14th time in program history and the first time since 2012 (played and won in Athens)

Florida (28-3), which was playing in its 25th semifinals in the last 31 years, will play seventh seed Stanford, a 4-3 winner over third seed Ohio State in the other semifinal, no earlier than 6 p.m. today because of rain. UF defeated Stanford 4-1 on Feb. 19 in Gainesville.

Vanderbilt (24-6) first defeated Florida, 4-2, in the regular-season finale for both teams. That match cost the Gators the SEC regular-season title. Seven days later, the teams returned to the courts in Nashville in the SEC Tournament final and again the Commodores got the best of the Gators, 4-3.

It was a different story Monday. Florida took a 1-0 lead by capturing the doubles point, with Anna Danilina-Ingrid Neel winning 6-1 on Court 1 and Brooke Austin-Kourtney Keegan 6-4 on Court. 2. It was UF's 26th doubles point win in 31 matches.

Vanderbilt then went up 2-1 with singles wins at No. 2 and No. 3.

Danilina tied the match at 2-all with a clutch 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 win at No. 4 singles.

Belinda Woolcock, who lost twice to Astra Sharma at No. 1 earlier this season, won 12 of 14 games en route to the win at No. 1 singles, 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-0 and gave Florida a 3-2 lead.

"Today was a rollercoaster," Woolcock said. "We didn't know what time we were going to play and just were really flexible and didn't worry about what was happening with the weather. Today, we just came out with fire. We fought so hard and I think we played some of the best tennis we've ever played."

Austin then cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 5 to settle the outcome and reward coach Roland Thornqvist with his 400th win at UF.

"We played a really good match at the SEC tournament," Thornqvist said. "I think we had our chances to win but let them slip away and I think our players will tell you the same thing. So we were really motivated today to go all the way.

"Doubles was exceptional and then the momentum shifted at the beginning of singles, but we have been a no-panic team the entire year. It was very tough at the end with a few set matches here and we all struck them down here physically so that helped turn the momentum."

The start to the women's semifinals kept getting pushed back because of the weather Monday and finally moved inside at the Lindsey Hopkins Indoor Courts for a 7 p.m. start. The Stanford vs. Ohio State semifinal was moved to the Byers Tennis Complex at Georgia Tech in Atlanta for an 8 p.m. start.

Georgia officials have tried with all their might to keep the Dan Magill Tennis Complex courts dry and free of rain, but Mother Nature did not cooperate Monday. The men's matches began there later in the afternoon. North Carolina defeated Georgia 4-3 and Virginia defeated Ohio State 4-2 to set up the men's title match Tuesday.

The men's national championship match will lead off coverage on ESPNU at 1 p.m. Tuesday, followed by the women's national championship match at 5 p.m. from Georgia's Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

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