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Commodores set for SEC finale

1607 days ago
Vanderbilt Athletics
Photo: Vanderbilt Athletics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Following a gritty 4-1 victory over No. 11 South Carolina by host Vanderbilt, the Southeastern Conference tournament final is set: Top-seeded and No. 2-ranked Vanderbilt will face third-seeded and No. 1-ranked Florida on Sunday at noon CT for the SEC tournament championship.

Sunday's championship contest will be a matchup of reigning SEC regular-season champions and the 2016 SEC tournament champions. It will be the Commodores' second title appearance in three years and the Gators' second consecutive appearance. Vanderbilt, Florida and Georgia are the only SEC teams to ever claim the illustrious tournament title.

Saturday's semifinal competition against the Gamecocks began with one of the toughest doubles battles the Commodores have seen this season, but the Dores edged out South Carolina on courts one and two.

No. 3 Astra Sharma and Emily Smith took the first victory of the day, defeating the Gamecocks' 29th-ranked duo of Hadley Berg and Paige Cline, 6-4. In a matchup riddled with deuce point after deuce point, Fernanda Contreras and Christina Rosca fell to Rachel Rohrabacher and Caroline Dailey, 7-5.

Sydney Campbell and Emma Kurtz saved two match-points, forcing Briget Folland and Ingrid Martins into a point deciding tiebreaker. The Dores powered through the point, only allowing the S.C. duo three points in clinching the victory, 7-6(3).

In singles play, VU came out to take five of six first sets and acquire singles wins on courts two, three and one.

Down 2-4 in the first set, No. 11 Campbell powered back into the competition, taking four straight games to nab the first set. Taking three match points to force a second-set tiebreaker, the senior defeated No. 45 Ingrid Martins, 6-3, 7-6(2).

The Commodores third point of the matchup came on court three as No. 96 Rosca broke away to take her first set over Caroline Daley, 6-3. Up 5-3, the Commodore allowed the Gamecock just one additional game before earning her first SEC tournament victory, 6-3, 6-4.

South Carolina earned its first point of the semifinal in three sets at No. 4 singles. Emma Kurtz pulled off a 7-5 first-set lead, but Silvia Chinellato had other plans as the Gamecock limited Kurtz to two games in the second set. South Carolina took control of the third set and the match for the point, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.

While Georgina Sellyn and Contreras were fighting late in their third and first sets, respectively, No. 4 Sharma was dominating her final set against No. 58 Horvett. Reeling off a 7-6(2) first-set loss, the Aussie put her game into gear, playing near-flawless tennis throughout the second and third sets. While The Gamecock took the first set, Sharma only allowed her opponent two additional games throughout the entire match, clinching on court one, 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-1.

Scouting the Gators: To advance to the SEC tournament final, Florida knocked off No. 20 Mississippi State 4-2 and No. 12 Auburn 4-2. The Commodores defeated Florida 4-2 last Sunday for the SEC regular-season crown. VU's four points came from securing the doubles point and singles victories on courts two, one and then three.

A one-hour SEC Women's Tennis Championship special will air on Sunday, April 30th from 12pm-1pm ET on SEC Network. Sam Gore and Jill Craybas will provide commentary.