Lauren Embree led the Florida Gators against Stanford in the first College MatchDay event in 2013.
© University of Florida
University of Florida junior Lauren Embree, currently ranked ninth in the ITA women's singles rankings, is competing in both the NCAA Team and Singles Championships in Athens, Ga., from May 17-28. Embree was named SEC Player of the Year for the second time in her career in 2012, just the second player in league history to win the individual honor twice. She went 10-0 in SEC singles play this season and was 18-2 overall. She and senior Joanna Mather have dominated in doubles for the Gators this year, as well, going 22-1 in dual matches with a perfect 11-0 SEC record this year, as well as 51-7 all-time in their career together. Embree is writing an exclusive blog for USTA.com during the NCAA Championships. Check back often for updates.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Well, what an exciting few days this has been! Our team just won the national championship, and we couldn't be more excited! I will give you a little recap of how the finals day went.
Our match against UCLA was scheduled for 1 pm. Our team had a nice breakfast together and just treated it like any other day and headed to the site around 11:30 to warm up. There were obviously a few nerves there, I think, but more than anything, we were just so ready to play and compete for a national title!
Things started out close with our doubles matches. Our one team took early control and won 8-2. At that time, Joanna (Mather) and I were only at 5-4 down in our match, and our three team was having a tough one right beside us. When we were up 6-5, I looked over to Alex (Cercone) hitting an ace to clinch the doubles point... but that was just the beginning.
We knew UCLA was going to come back in singles and fight until the end, and that's exactly what they did. With Sofie (Oyen) and Alex finishing around the same time, it got us to a 3-0 lead, but the courts still on were pretty close. Yes, there was a time where I looked up at the scoreboard thinking I could clinch this match. I really wanted to stay as focused as possible because I knew McCall was a fighter and was not going to give me anything easy.
About 30 minutes later, I found myself at match point. I was nervous, excited, a lot was going through my mind at that moment, but when I hit a backhand down the line and my teammates came rushing to me, I was ecstatic, along with everyone else, that we were back-to-back national champions!
I am so proud of the group of girls that I am a part of and couldn't be more proud to be able to share this with them! The support we have from Gator Nation, fans and friends is absolutely amazing!
Next up is individuals... time to start from scratch.
I won my first two rounds so far, and next up is against one of my closest friends, Trice Capra. She is definitely one of the best players in college tennis, so I am looking forward to a great battle with her!
Okay, time for Joanna and me to get ready for doubles. Sorry this was a few days late. I have been a little busy over here. =)
Monday, May 21, 2012
Well, if college tennis isn't one of the most stressful, exciting, unpredictable, fun sports, I'm not sure what is! We are just getting back to our hotel after we had a ridiculously close battle with Duke.
It started right from the start with doubles. Our one team had just won, and our three team had lost. Jo and I found ourselves in a battle at 6-6 for the doubles point against Trice Capra and Rachel Kahan. I feel so lucky to have Joanna as my partner because she really kept me calm, stayed positive through the ups and downs, and we somehow won the match in a tiebreaker.
That was only the beginning. We knew Duke was going to come out strong and fighting, and that's exactly what they did. After looking down at the courts, I noticed we had lost 5 out of the 6 first sets, and for some reason, I knew this team was still in it and that no one was going to let up... but I also knew we had a lot of work to do.
Next thing I knew, a bunch of my teammates were splitting sets.
I happened to be the first one off the court (for once) and was just glad I could go help out and cheer on my teammates any way that I possibly could. Not going to lie, it's so much worse watching matches when they are dead even than being the one playing.
After being up 3-0 in matches, Duke stormed their way back and got it back to 3-3. The lonesome Gator and Blue Devil left on the court was Alex Cercone and Mary Clayton, fighting their hearts out in a third set. Luckily for the Gators, Alex found a way, like she always does, and came out with the win for our team.
This match really could have gone either way, Duke being so tough and never giving up. I'm just so proud of my team for fighting literally until the end.
Tonight calls for massages, treatment, a BIG pasta dinner and a good night's sleep!
Tomorrow is a new day, and we face UCLA. We have not played them before, but we are all really blessed to have the chance to play for another national title. We will play for the title tomorrow at 1, and we couldn't be more excited!
GO GATORS =)
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Wow what a crazy day this has been!
We are just getting back to the hotel after we fought hard to get the win over a very good Miami team.
The doubles point came down to the wire, and our three team of Caroline Hitimana and Alex Cercone pulled it out for our team with an 8-6 victory. We knew Miami wasn't going to let down or, by any means, give us anything, so I am so proud of our team for fighting and winning at spots 3,5 and 6. We have faced Miami in the quarterfinals the past three years, so we knew nothing was going to be easy!
We now face Duke on Monday, which beat Georgia tonight 4-2 in a battle. We will definitely have our hands full. We played them earlier in the year at home, so we are familiar with a lot of their players, but it's going to be a great match, and with the atmosphere here in Athens, it's tough not to get pretty pumped up about playing in the semifinals on Monday!
Since playing at 4 pm is another long day waiting around, we were able to get two good hits in before our match. Hitting twice a day calls for running out of clothes fast. Thank goodness our parents have arrived here in Athens to save the day and do our laundry =). (Just kidding! They were great cheerleaders, as well).
After a painful cold tank, ordering dinner from DePalmas for the second night in a row and getting treatment tonight, we get to sleep in tomorrow and are scheduled to practice around noon.
We are going to have a light day tomorrow to get our bodies ready to take on Duke on Monday!
Check back in with you soon, and Go Gators! =)
Friday, May 18, 2012
Well, it is 12:46 am as I write this blog! We are just now getting back to the hotel after beating a tough Michigan team.
We finally got on the courts around 9:30 pm. After a long day of waiting, we came out ready to play. Doubles was really close! Our three team came in clutch, winning 8-3, and our one team fell to Emina Betkas and Brooke Bolender. I have never seen a serve as hard as Emina's. That thing is beastly! Jo and I found ourselves the last ones on the court. After being down 7-5, we managed to come back and get the W, 9-7.
Ten minutes later we went back on the court to start the singles play. I think everyone was really anxious and excited to get things going, and most of us got out to really good starts, which helped the momentum of the team!
Tomorrow we have the winner of Miami and North Carolina, so whichever team wins the battle that's going on now (past 1 am), we will have our hands full!
I guess it's good we have the day off tomorrow since we have had such a long night. Our team is also so thankful we have fans that stay up and cheer for us. They really helped us pull through tonight, and we could not have done it without them!
We're so lucky to have our manager, Anthony, who is always on top of things, to have dinner ready for us when we got back to the hotel so we could eat before we all passed out.
It's been a long night, so time to hit the sheets! Keep you all updated tomorrow!
Thursday, May 17, 2012
So it's a rainy night here in Athens. Our match vs. Michigan was supposed to be at 7 pm but is now pushed back until 8:30 pm at the earliest! Night matches always call for a long day, but it's exciting to get to play under the lights!
Well, since I do not have tennis to talk about yet, last night was the NCAA banquet for all the teams. It's always nice to see everyone dressed up because, I don't know about anyone else, but our team's attire is pretty much athletic clothes or sweats for the majority of our days.
It was a perfect opportunity for dance dares last night. If you all forgot, that's when a teammate dances behind an unsuspecting victim. We may or may not have gotten one of our coaches and a guy on our men's team...
My team and I are getting anxious to play our match; we have had a long day of waiting! We got a rare chance to sleep in -- well, if you count 8:30 sleeping in, since our first hit was at 12. We have been ordering from an awesome sandwich place downtown that we had for lunch, then just hung around the hotel, watched some TV and did some treatment, until we warmed up for our match at 5:30. We are leaving the hotel at 8:10 to go back to the courts to hopefully be able to play!
Check in with you all soon! =)
Monday, May 14, 2012
We are currently in a three-car caravan on our way to Athens, Ga.!!
I am in the car with Joanna and Caroline, while Roland is jamming out to Katy Perry. (Just kidding). We are really having a slight disagreement on which station should be played but finally found one that everyone agrees on... until we lose it and repeat the whole process again. We are about four more hours away. Should be getting in right around dinner time to have a nice meal with the team!
We are excited about the upcoming tournament and also seeing people we haven't seen in a while. It is our second trip to Athens this year, and we've been playing there a few times in the previous year. Leaving Gainesville to head to the Sweet 16 is always exciting. We get to spend a lot of time together without traveling too much, and we always have a great time. The fact that we all get along so well makes everything so much better. When we are not on the court, we still spend time together, relaxing and joking around.
Our schedule for this week will be filled with two team practices tomorrow and Wednesday, and our next round starts on Thursday at 7 p.m. against Michigan. Michigan is a great team and has a lot of good players. We are looking forward to the match, and we are preparing as well as we can to be ready.
We just arrived in Athens to the Foundry Inn and ordered dinner from an Asian place downtown that was delicious! We are hitting twice tomorrow, so time to get some sleep! I will tune back in tomorrow!
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather here, writing from Gainesville, Fla., after finishing our first- and second-round matches in the NCAA tournament. We played against South Carolina State for the third year in a row and came out with the 'W' on Friday, then faced Washington State today! It feels great to move on to the sweet 16 in Athens!
This weekend is always something our team looks forward to. Being able to host and to play in front of our amazing fans always makes us play a little bit better. When we play at home, we usually try to get to the courts in the morning to get a light hit in before we eat lunch and warm up for our match. When we are done with that, we usually head back to our apartment, sit on the couch, watch TV, do a little Facebook stalking or some tweeting, for the next few hours before we come back to officially warm up and get ready for the match!
Our locker room usually consists of some ridiculous dancing and terrible singing (except myself, I'm the only good singer) before our matches. We are into the "dance dares" now, where you dance behind people that have no idea you are there. Sofie has gotten our team manager a few times while he is stringing racquets, so that's pretty entertaining.
Our team is really excited about getting the chance to be back in the Sweet 16 and facing a talented Michigan team on Thursday night. We will definitely have our hands full, but we always like a nice challenge!