For the seventh time in program history, the Gators women’s team is a national champion. With a 4-1 win over the Stanford Cardinal on Tuesday, Florida punctuated what was already a tremendous season.
After getting delayed three hours once again due to weather, Florida was aggressive in doubles play. Setting the tone early on, Anna Danilina and Ingrid Neel were first off the doubles court with a 6-2 win over Stanford's Emily Arbuthnott and Taylor Davidson.
Belinda Woolcock and Josie Kuhlman followed with a quick and dominant 6-1 victory over Caroline Lampl and Emma Higuchi.
Leading 1-0, the Gators carried their momentum and energetic play into singles. Kourtney Keegan was quick to put Florida up 2-0 with the most dominant performance of the night: a 6-0, 6-0 win over the Cardinal’s Higuchi. This is the first time since 1999 that a player has recorded a double-bagel victory in the women’s title match.
Woolcock continued the Gators’ dominance as she put Florida up 3-0 following a 6-1, 6-3 win over Caroline Doyle.
After Woolcock’s win, it seemed as if the Gators were about to lock things up as Brooke Austin was one point away from clinching the match leading 5-4 in her second set. However, Stanford’s Arbuthnott gave the Cardinal new life after tying the match at 5 all.
Arbuthnott would force a third set against Austin, after winning the second set 7-5. In the meantime, Melissa Lord put Stanford on the board with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Josie Kuhlman.
Despite holding a 3-1 lead, Stanford began to pose a real threat to Florida’s national championship hopes as the final three courts entered third sets.
Then the freshman struck again. In what was eerily similar to the National Indoor Championship title, Neel clinched the match with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 win over Stanford’s Taylor Davidson.
“I don’t know how she does it,” coach Roland Thornqvist said of Neel. “First, as a freshman in January, she clinches the National Indoors Championship for us last match on. And here, she beats one of the best competitors I’ve seen in college tennis for us to win a national championship. Ingrid is unbelievable, and we’re just blessed to have her.”
Thornqvist also spoke highly of the team as whole, praising it’s mental toughness tonight and throughout the season.
“This has been a no-panic team all year,” he said. “Ingrid’s a great example here. She couldn’t hit the ocean from five feet in the first set. And then, all of a sudden, she’s competing 6-3, 6-2 the last two sets against an unbelievable competitor. That’s the whole team. It’s been a tough team, and that’s how you win championships.”
The Gators still have their work cut out for them though, as five Gators were selected to play for NCAA Singles Championships. Two doubles teams were selected to play for the NCAA Doubles Championships as well. Danilina and Keegan will be the first Gators to play on Wednesday as their singles matches begin at 5 p.m.
Contact Spencer Thompson at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @spencemthompson.
Ingrid Neel returns a ball during Florida's 4-2 win against Oklahoma State on Feb. 18, 2017, at the Ring Tennis Complex.