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UF advances to round of 16

By DEBI JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 14, 2001


GAINESVILLE -- Whitney Laiho walked away from her tennis team's huddle on Sunday afternoon angry.

Florida's senior No. 1 seed was looking for her 100th career win, against Arkansas in the second round of the NCAA Championships, and her teammates were trying to stop her.

"Before we started the singles matches, the team was teasing me, saying, 'Let's try not to let her get it,' " Laiho said. "I was pretty mad. I'm glad that everyone else could step up, but I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to finish my match."

Laiho's consolation came with a 4-0 sweep of the Razorbacks as No. 2 seed Jessica Lehnhoff clinched the win 6-3, 6-1 against Brenda Vlasak before her teammate could finish.

Although the 100th win was important to Laiho, revenge also may have been a factor. Arkansas' Chin Bee Khoo defeated Laiho during the regular season.

Laiho won the first set 6-3 and the second set was tied at 3 Sunday when Lehnhoff clinched the team victory.

"It makes me feel good to know that I was in control of the match," Laiho said.

It was just one of the matches the Gators controlled Sunday afternoon. For the second day in a row, Florida clinched the victory after about an hour of singles play.

"We made the matches easy," coach Andy Brandi said. "I want to say that they are peaking right now, but they just keep getting better. We haven't had two matches in a row that were this good all season."

It was Florida's freshmen who made their matches look the easiest.

After a one-game default victory on Saturday, Annika Bengtsson defeated Razorback Megan Ferreria 6-0, 6-0 for the Gators' first singles point.

"I basically did everything right today," Bengtsson said. "I am happy with the way I played. I don't think I would change anything about it."

Lindsay Dawaf added the third point with a 6-1, 6-1 win against Julia Boyadjieva. The singles wins came after Florida got the doubles point with wins from the No. 1 team of Laiho and Lehnhoff and the No. 2 team of Stephanie Hazlett and Julia Scaringe.

The Gators advanced to the round of 16 in the NCAAs, which begins Thursday in Stone Mountain, Ga., where Florida faces Notre Dame.

Stanford is the top-seeded team at the NCAA event.

While Brandi, who has coached three national championship teams, said this will be a good chance for his team to take the title, it also will be a good chance for Laiho to get that 100th win.

"I get the feeling that this is a team on a mission," Brandi said. "It's just a weird feeling. You don't really want to talk about it, you just want to let it happen."

MIAMI MEN ADVANCE: The host Hurricanes beat Minnesota 4-1 to advance to the NCAA's round of 16 for the first time since 1994. The NCAA Tournament begins Saturday in Athens, Ga. Miami faces Duke or Auburn.

USF MEN FALTER: The visiting Bulls were eliminated in the second round 4-0 by UCLA.

- Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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