Caroline Hitimana found her edge on the court.
The senior grabbed the clincher for Florida to seal a 4-2 victory against California on Sunday and a spot in Monday’s NCAA Tournament semifinals.
Hitimana fought Annie Goransson in long games and used the backcourt to break Goransson down to win 6-3 in the first set and 6-2 in the second.
Hitimana had the team’s fate on her shoulders as junior Sofie Oyen dropped her singles match just minutes before against Klara Fabikova 5-7, 4-6, closing the gap between Florida and California to 3-2.
Oyen wasn’t the only player to struggle against ranked California opponents. Freshman Brianna Morgan could not keep her momentum going into the second set after shutting out No. 70-ranked Lynn Chi 6-0 in the first. Morgan trailed in games and couldn’t hold serve as Chi took the second-set win at 6-1. Chi led Morgan 4-1 in their third set before Hitimana’s clincher.
Also, junior Alex Cercone lost focus against fifth-ranked Zsofi Susanyi and couldn’t recover from it. Susanyi won California its first point of the match, beating Cercone 6-1 in two sets.
Top-ranked Lauren Embree played a fast match, defeating No. 8-ranked Anett Schutting 6-2, 6-0 to get Florida back in the lead at 2-1.
Olivia Janowicz also contributed to Florida’s victory over California. The junior played a quick first set, dominating Tayler Davis 6-1. Going into the second, Janowicz lost some ball control and fought to edge out Davis 6-4 for Florida’s third point of the day.
“Olivia’s really hitting on all cylinders right now,” coach Roland Thornqvist said in a release. “She’s been automatic in her play. She manages herself really well and keeps great composure. She’s almost like a senior in her play, she’s very steady. She doesn’t get enough credit for her play like some of the players in the other positions.”
Added Janowicz in a release: “She didn’t change how she played through the entire match. The first set, I stayed super consistent and stuck with my game plan. Then in the second I wasn’t doing those same things. I went back to the old plan.”
Florida’s consistency in doubles during the NCAA Tournament remained in tact on Sunday, as two Florida pairings grabbed the doubles point for a 1-0 lead going into singles.
Freshmen Danielle Collins and Morgan put Florida back in the game, after Cercone and Hitimana fell 4-8 to Fabikova and Goransson. The freshmen found their chemistry on the court against Davis and Kelly Chui to win the set 8-4.
Eleventh-ranked doubles pairing Embree and Oyen defeated No. 33-ranked Schutting and Chi 8-4, working the Golden Bears’ pairing in the service box.
Florida’s double point victory on Sunday was the team’s fifth straight doubles victory.
“We played very well in doubles, and I was pleased with that,” Thornqvist said. “Other than court three where Zsofi Susanyi played out of her mind, we started off well. The momentum switched a little bit and it was nice to see our seniors carry the load for us today.”
The quarterfinals matchup was the first time the Gators have faced the Golden Bears since 1995, where Florida won 5-0 in 1995’s quarterfinals.
Top-seeded Florida will now face No. 12 seed Stanford in the semifinals Monday at 6 p.m.
The last time Florida faced Stanford was at Ring Tennis Complex on Feb. 24. The Gators battled outside and indoors for a 4-2 victory to shorten the Cardinal’s all-time series lead to 17-13.
Stanford has won 16 national championships, while Florida has won six.
“We played them in February and thought they were wicked good,” Thornqvist said. “We played really well to get out of that jam. I had a feeling that they were going to do deep in this tournament. Obviously, we have some of the same matchups that we did back in February so we’ll try to prepare as best we can.”