Marco Island’s Lauren Embree survived a grueling third set tiebreaker to beat Mallory Burdette, 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (6) and clinch the national title for the University of Florida.
“It’s amazing, I can’t believe this is all happening right now,” the Lely High grad said.
“It took a gutsy performance and everything we had to push us through to victory,” Florida coach Roland Thornqvist said. “Thankfully we had the superstar (Lauren Embree) at the end who has the best wheels in the game. She’s the toughest player I’ve ever coached.”
Embree dropped the first set after taking a 5-1 lead, then after the sophomore evened the match by taking the second set, she fell behind early in the third.
“It was so up and down,” Embree said. “I got off to a really good start. Mallory just started to play better and better as the match went on.
“In the second set I knew if I hung in there and could get a break and that’s what happened. I got off to a really slow start in the third. Honestly, I really just wanted to stay out there and fight for my team. Joanna (Mather) was down a set and 5-0 (in Monday’s NCAA semifinal match) and I knew that if she could do it, I could do it. I wanted to fight as long as I could and I came out with the win.
“I had different thoughts racing through my mind when I was down 4-0 in the third. I kept fighting. I knew I still had a chance no matter what the score was.”
Hilary Barte gave Stanford (28-1) its first point at No. 1 singles, beating Allie Will, 6-2, 6-4. Nicole Gibbs gave the Cardinal the lead, 2-1, with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Sofie Oyen at No. 3 singles.
Stacey Tan recovered from a first set loss to beat Mather, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, at No. 4 singles and give Stanford a 3-1 edge but Alex Cercone returned the favor at No. 5 singles, beating Veronica Li, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 as Florida (31-1) closed to within 3-2.
Olivia Janowicz’s 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-1 win over Carolyn McVeigh at No. 6 singles to tie it.
Florida took the doubles point in convincing fashion. Embree and teammate Sofie Oyen won their match, 8-3, in just 37 minutes.
Embree begins play in the singles draw of the NCAA individual championships Wednesday against Miami’s Bianca Eichkorn.
“Lauren is one of the players who you can always depend on,” Cercone said. “Sometimes you don’t want to depend on a player and put pressure on anybody, but it came down to that today. We knew, I knew that Lauren was going to pull it out because the heart that she has. I had incredible faith in her and I’m proud that she did what she did today.”