Florida women repeat as NCAA tennis champs

Senior Joanna Mather, of Duluth, Ga., was the winningest player on Florida's team with 61 singles and doubles victories this season.

ATHENS, Ga. — It’s a little hard to believe a team that won the women’s national tennis championship in 2011 and had every key player returning would face much adversity, but Florida coach Roland Thornqvist said that was the case in 2012.


“Sometimes when you come back as the defending champion, you want to continue from where you left off, which is really dangerous,” he said. “Sometimes you can get into the little pit where it’s dangerous to compare the two years. You’ve got to start with a clean slate and work your way, building the pyramid from the bottom up, It takes a lot of work. At first we struggled with it, but as the year progressed, we got better and better.”

And better and better.

The No. 2 Gators on Tuesday put the finishing touches on yet another dream season, defeating No. 1 UCLA 4-0 to claim their second consecutive women’s national title. In the process, Florida (26-1) won its 22nd consecutive match and claimed the sixth NCAA title in program history.

“I’m really proud of this group,” said Thornqvist, who won his third national title at Florida. “We discovered this year that without a doubt it’s much more difficult to repeat than it is to do it the first time. There are some inherent challenges we dealt with at the beginning of the year and we had to go through some growing pains as defending national champions. They were willing to start over, rebuild the team from scratch and you saw the culmination of that today.”

After a semifinal victory over Duke that lasted close to five hours, Tuesday’s match with the Bruins (26-2) was relatively void of the drama that characterized Monday’s match.

The Gators won the doubles point in about 50 minutes and were off the courts and celebrating their victory in less than three hours.

“We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be to beat a team like Florida,” said UCLA coach Stella Sampras Webster. “I thought we’d be able to compete and be able to give them a good, contested match, but it just seemed like they took over.”