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Gators secure 99th consecutive home win in sweep of ‘Noles

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Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012 12:50 am

Florida moved one match closer to its 100th consecutive home win Wednesday. By beating Florida State, the Gators moved to 52-1 all-time against the Seminoles.

All of that, however, pales in comparison to the challenging weekend ahead for No. 15 UF.

Florida swept Florida State 7-0 Wednesday evening, with the Seminoles putting up little resistance. The Gators won each singles match in straight sets, and only one Seminoles player won more than three games in a set.

Florida, which fell 13 spots from No. 2 in the latest ITA women’s team rankings released Tuesday, will open SEC play against No. 5 Tennessee on Friday and No. 4 Georgia on Sunday. “We’re going to play a lot more matches now,” Joanna Mather said. “We’re going to come into it as intense as we have every other match.”

Mather has started the dual-match season in up-and-down fashion, but she looked very strong Wednesday, defeating Florida State’s Mia Vriens in straight sets.

Mather, a senior, started the year 3-2 playing exclusively from the No. 3 singles position before Wednesday’s dominant win. After starting the spring ranked No. 4 nationally, Mather has fallen to No. 18. Still, she has felt better about her tennis recently.

“I’m just focusing on taking it one match at a time,” she said. “I feel like each match I’ve played, I’ve gotten better, and I’m just hoping to continue that.”

Paired with junior Caroline Hitimana, Mather also won her doubles match 8-2 as the Gators swept the doubles point. Florida is 16-5 in doubles play this year. They are 6-0 when winning the doubles point, and 0-1 when losing.

Despite their success, coach Roland Thornqvist said he has seen  room for improvement. In the weeks  between Florida’s previous match at Stanford and Wednesday, much of the work in practice focused on doubles play.

“I still feel to this point that we can make some drastic improvements (in doubles),” he said. “In the last two weeks of practice, we’ve had a marked improvement in our attitude in practice and how we handle mistakes, so I certainly hope that it will lead to strong performances.”

On Wednesday, Florida’s doubles teams beat Florida State by a combined 24-4. The Gators’ doubles will need to be strong next weekend, as the Volunteers boast three teams all ranked in the top 20, and the Bulldogs feature the NCAA’s No. 6 team.

While Georgia and Tennessee will be Florida’s top competition in the SEC this year, Thornqvist said the team’s strong non-conference slate was designed because of the fact that the conference is so top-heavy.

After playing a non-conference slate that included road matches at Baylor, Pepperdine, and Stanford, the Gators feel prepared for the SEC season, especially this weekend’s pair of top-five opponents.

“We tend to play a very difficult non-conference schedule by design. I think the last few years we’ve had some decline in the competition in conference,” Thornqvist said. “We’ve had some great matches with Georgia and Tennessee, the perennial powerhouses, but we’ve also had some matches that haven’t been as competitive.”

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