NASHVILLE, Tenn. - In a dual match filled with momentum shifts, Florida found a way to rally after dropping the first set in singles on four courts to earn a thrilling 4-2 victory against Auburn in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament held at the Currey Tennis Center on the campus of Vanderbilt University Saturday afternoon.
How the Gators Advanced vs. Auburn Florida began strong again on the doubles court, where the team captured the initial point by winning on courts two and three. The Gators have won the doubles point in 22 of 25 dual matches this season and are 22-0 when winning it.
It took steady nerves and good old fashion fight to keep that unblemished run alive, as Auburn won the first set on four of the six singles courts. Because of inclement weather, however, play was forced to five indoor courts and the Tigers won four of those five first sets.
Senior Belinda Woolcock was the only Gator of those first five who captured the first set. She took advantage and posted a 6-2, 6-0 victory in 64 minutes that gave Florida a 2-0 lead. Looking at the scores of the matches on court, it would be tough to see where the Gators would get two additional wins.
Auburn logged a win on court two eight minutes after Woolcock's decision and the Gator lead was trimmed, 2-1.
Anna Danilina was trailing her match 5-2 in the second set after dropping the first. Ingrid Neel was on-serve midway through her second set after she lost the first on her serve. Brooke Austin had forced a first set tiebreak but lost that and her serve in the first game of the second set.
Senior Kourtney Keegan finally began play at the numbers six spot since a court was cleared, but her match had a long way to go and the dual match may even finish before her first set was completed.
That's when the first huge momentum shift began.
Neel earned a break in the fifth game of her second set and held, winning out to take the second set 6-2 and force a deciding third.
After dropping her serve to start the second set, Austin won six of the next seven games, to take the set 7-5 and force a third.
Danilina rallied from down 5-2 and won five straight games, that included a match-point against at 5-4 to force a third set.
Neel found her swing in the third set and earned a break in the third and held for a 3-1 lead, as she didn't drop her serve the remainder of the match and polished off the 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win that gave UF a 3-1 lead.
Austin appeared to be in shape to clinch, as she jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the third, however, she wasn't able to finish even after having the serve at 5-3 and double-match-point, as Auburn won the final five games to make the team score 3-2.
Danilina broke for a 4-1 lead in the third, but that advantage disappeared, as the momentum had swung back in Auburn's favor. The Gator junior lost four straight games but finally held for 5-all. She then broke at love for a 6-5 lead and served out for the match, landing a second-serve ace on match point, two hours and 36 minutes after it started to send Florida to the championship match.
Meanwhile, Keegan was serving for the match, up 6-0, 5-1 when play was abandoned.
Quotes from the Court - UF Head Coach Roland Thornqvist "Once again, we played a fantastic doubles points. It was one of those back-and-forth matches that had lots of drama. Lost a bunch of first sets, turned them around. Had the lead, lost the lead. Had a match point on one court, let that slip."
"Ingrid (Neel) competed fantastic. Belinda (Woolcock) played a really clean match. Anna (Danilina) was spotty in her performance but fought really hard and played fantastic in the final 10 minutes."
"This league is brutal, we know that. I'm just really pleased that we're advancing"
Gator junior Anna Danilina on her clinching singles victory "It was tough. All the girls played great. Auburn is a great team. It wasn't easy, especially coming from outdoors to indoors. The game got faster and we had to adapt."
"I started really strong (in the third set) and went up 4-1 until (van der Zawaan) started to play way better and I had to adjust when I was down 4-5. I knew my team needed me so I had to do my best and it worked."
Postmatch with Gator freshman Ingrid Neel - on advancing to the finals "We couldn't ask for anything more. We advanced to the finals of the National Team Indoors and now this, it's such a great feeling. I'm just so proud of the way the team fought today. We really put our heart and soul out there."