The Gator's Belinda Woolcock (right) and Josie Kuhlman (left) talk with head coach Roland Thornqvist during their doubles match against Stanford, Sunday, February 19, 2017 at the Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville.

Top-ranked Gators say they'll play like underdogs

By Jim Harvin Correspondent
Friday, May 12, 2017 9:04 PM

Some things never change.

Just like every year beginning in 1999, when the NCAA Tournament field expanded to 64 teams, the Florida women's tennis squad will once again host first- and second-round play at the Ring Tennis Complex.

Action begins at 10 a.m. today, when Miami (12-11) and South Florida (15-10) go at it, followed by the top-ranked Gators (23-3) squaring off against Massachusetts (12-7) at 1 p.m.

The two winners meet Sunday at 1 p.m. for the right to advance to the Round of 16 and beyond in Athens, Georgia.

“Every match after a win, we were ready to play again,” senior Belinda Woolcock said. "We didn't get cocky at all. We're humble and we just continued to want to improve every match.

“Now that we've had a lot of matches under our belt, I feel like we're even better than what we were in February. We're at a different level now.”

The Gators are the No. 1 overall seed for this year's tournament.

“Everyone is going to be gunning for the NCAA Championship, so I expect a lot of players to play really big,” freshman Ingrid Neel said. “Just being really prepared mentally when we step on the court but also showing them that we are ranked number one for a reason. Stepping on the court with that edge will help.”

Let the games begin.

“For us, we'll always have that little bit of pressure, but at the same time we've got two schools that we lost to in the SEC (Georgia and Vanderbilt) which we are so hungry to beat, so we feel like the underdog in that sense because we weren't able to capture the win,” Woolcock said. "It's a different attitude and a different perspective to the tournament, so we are really hungry to beat those teams that we lost to this year and continue beating the teams that we've already beaten. We're just really excited.”

Coach Roland Thornqvist feels his team is ready.

“I think we've had fantastic preparation,” he said. “They seem happy, relaxed and have done a good job in the weight room. They're running hard, and I think that Vanderbilt loss has sort of motivated them to pay attention. I think we're going to play really well this weekend.”

UF has participated in 35 of the 36 NCAA Championships, missing only the 1986 event, and has won six NCAA team titles: 1992, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2011 and 2012.

In addition, five Gators — Woolcock, Neel, Josie Kuhlman, Kourtney Keegan and Anna Danilina — were selected to play in the NCAA singles draw, while two tandems — Keegan-Brooke Austin as well as Danilina-Neel — were chosen for the NCAA doubles competition.

Those matches will be played May 24-29 in Athens.

“I feel like all of us are playing at our highest level,” Woolcock said. “I think going into NCAAs we don't need to change anything particularly. We're just going to continue what we've been doing and just keep a positive attitude leading up to the event.”




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