Florida Wins NCAA Women’s Tennis Title
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Top-seeded Florida capped a perfect season Tuesday with a 5-2 victory over second-seeded Stanford to capture the NCAA Division I women’s tennis championship.
Florida (31-0) took a 4-2 lead after six singles matches and clinched the title with a victory at No. 3 doubles as Lori Ann Freedman and Jill Craybas defeated Emily Burt and Beth Berris 6-2, 7-6 (7-5).
The Gators, previously 0-3 against Stanford in the NCAA tournament, won their only other championship in 1992 with a perfect season.
Florida outscored its opponents this season by a margin of 216-19 and did not give up more than two points in any match. Tuesday’s title match marked the first time since the Duke match March 23 that the Gators were forced to play doubles to clinch the victory.
Stanford (25-2) lost in the finals for the third time in the last five years.
The Gators blew a 4-2 lead in last year’s finals to Texas.
``Last year, we lost it in doubles,″ Florida coach Andy Brandi said. ``This year, we won it in doubles. It doesn’t get anymore black and white than that.″
Freedman, a senior from Jacksonville, blasted a clean backhand winner down the line on match point to deliver the title.
``She’s been here four years and has had her highs and lows, having to battle injuries,″ Brandi said. ``If there was one person I’d like to see hit the winning shot, it would have to be Lori.″
Craybas, a senior transfer from the University of Texas, has now been a part of two national championships. She helped Texas claim the title in 1993.
In addition to her doubles victory Tuesday, Craybas defeated Stanford’s Ania Bleszynski at No. 1 singles, 6-3, 6-4.
Florida freshman Stephanie Nickitas had a 6-1, 6-1 win over Amy Chiminello at No. 6 singles.
Stanford tied the match at 2-2 when Julie Scott rolled past Bonnie Bleecker 6-3, 6-2 and Sandra De Silva knocked off Divya Merchant 7-6 (7-2), 6-3.
Florida, however, took its 4-2 lead as Lisa Pugliese battled back to defeat Kim Shasby 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 and Dawn Buth defeated Katie Schlukebir 6-4, 4- 6, 6-3.
Buth, who had a three-set victory in Florida’s semifinals win over UCLA on Monday, played in 18 three-set matches during the season and produced a 14-4 record.
Although Craybas and Freedman delivered the clinching point for Florida, the Gators were leading in the two other doubles matches when play was suspended.