KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UTLadyVols.com) -- The No. 14-ranked University of Tennessee Lady Vol tennis team came up just short in its quest for a Southeastern Conference championship, falling to No. 2-ranked Florida, 4-0, in the finals of the 2011 SEC Women's Tennis Championship on Sunday afternoon at Barksdale Stadium.
Playing in its third consecutive SEC Championship final, UT was simply unable to overcome Florida's talent and experience.
UF (25-1) set the tone early by taking the doubles point. Tennessee led 6-4 on court two and 5-4 on court three, but was unable to close out the matches. The Gators took a win at court one, 8-5, and clinched the doubles point with an 8-5 win at court three.
Tennessee was leading 7-6 at court two when the match was halted.
Co-head coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick said that the doubles outcome was a difficult one for the Big Orange.
"It's always tough to lose the point after playing as strong as we did," Hahn-Patrick said. "It kind of knocks the wind out of your sails. I thought our team did a good job of trying to fight back in singles."
In singles, Tennessee battled but Florida's depth proved too much. No. 6-ranked Allie Will put UF ahead, 2-0, with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Rosalía Alda at court two. Minutes later, No. 51 Olivia Janowicz defeated Millie Nichols, 6-4, 6-0, to put UF on the verge of a conference championship.
Freshman Alex Cercone topped Maria Sorbello, 6-3, 6-3, to give Florida its 17th SEC Tournament title in the 24-year history of the event.
While the result was disappointing, Hahn-Patrick said that the experience gained from a championship match is invaluable.
"It's very difficult to emulate the kind of pressure and situations you encounter when you're playing for a championship," Hahn-Patrick said. "This will help our younger players going forward. When they get in a situation like this again, they'll know how to handle it."
Sorbello and freshman Brynn Boren were named to the SEC All-Tournament team for their play over the course of the weekend. This marks the second straight year that Sorbello has netted All-Tournament team honors.
Tennessee (19-7) will learn its fate for the 2011 NCAA tournament on May 3 at 5 p.m. ET. The first and second rounds of the tournament will be held from May 13-15 at campus sites.
The three-week break will be a welcome one for the Lady Vols.
"Our girls will go through their exams," Hahn-Patrick said. "We'll use this break to get healthy and it gives everyone time to regroup, refresh their minds and be ready to go for the NCAA tournament."
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#2 Florida 4, #14 Tennessee 0
1. #32 Natalie Pluskota (TENN) vs. #21 Lauren Embree (FLA) 1-6, 6-4, 0-1, unfinished
2. #6 Allie Will (FLA) def. #97 Rosalía Alda (TENN) 6-3, 6-0
3. #44 Brynn Boren (TENN) vs. #41 Joanna Mather (FLA) 2-6, 4-5, unfinished
4. Kata Szekely (TENN) vs. #85 Sofie Oyen (FLA) 6-7 (8-10), 1-1, unfinished
5. #50 Alexandra Cercone (FLA) def. Maria Sorbello (TENN) 6-3, 6-3
6. #51 Olivia Janowicz (FLA) def. Millie Nichols (TENN) 6-4, 6-0
1. #8 Allie Will/Alexandra Cercone (FLA) def. #16 Natalie Pluskota/Brynn Boren (TENN) 8-5
2. Rosalía Alda/Maria Sorbello (TENN) vs. Lauren Embree/Sofie Oyen (FLA) 7-6, unfinished
3. Joanna Mather/Olivia Janowicz (FLA) def. Jennifer Meredith/Millie Nichols (TENN) 8-5
Florida 25-1; National ranking #2
Tennessee 19-7; National ranking #14
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (2,6,5)