Bertrand, Vanderbilt battle Florida in NCAA Sweet 16

Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 1:06am

Defusing the Gator chomp, something Vanderbilt has not been very good at, is something it will have to do to advance in the NCAA women’s team tennis tournament.

Counting two losses this year, albeit tough ones, Vanderbilt is 2-35 all-time vs. Florida, a team the Commodores (20-5) meet today at 6 p.m. in round-of-16 play in Tulsa, Okla.

Vanderbilt has beaten the Gators but twice, in ’03 and ’05, both by 4-3 scores. The Commodores’ record is actually better than a handful of SEC teams who have never beaten the Gators in women’s tennis. It is a daunting task.

The winner between No. 5 seed Florida and No. 11 seed Vanderbilt advances to the team quarterfinals Saturday.

“When I was a freshman (in ’05), we beat them in Nashville, and I didn’t realize what a big deal it was at the time,’’ said senior Taka Bertrand, who was named SEC player of the year in 2006. “We have to go into it with the same type mentality and intensity.’’

Asked about her determined style of play, she said, “I try not to ever concede a point, whether it’s 40-0 or 0-40. And I do get nervous in matches, no matter if it’s MTSU or Florida, or whoever I’m playing against.’’

Twice, Florida has brought an end to Vanderbilt’s season with wins in NCAA nationals in ’99 and in ’03, both in Gainesville, Fla.

“It’s our third time against them, and we were very competitive earlier (losing 5-2 and 4-2),’’ said coach Geoff Macdonald, who is taking Vanderbilt to a 14th straight NCAA tourney and a 10th straight Sweet 16.

“Hopefully, we’ll be battle tested after the tough match we had against Kentucky (a 4-3, four-hour victory in the regional final Saturday in Nashville),’’ he said. “We have played very well lately.’’

VU MEN FALL: The Vanderbilt men lost to No. 5 Ole Miss 4-1 in the NCAA Regional at Oxford, Miss. Vanderbilt (14-10) won the doubles point but faltered in singles. The Commodores beat Indiana 4-3 in a five-hour battle in their opener Friday.

TAYLOR GETS HONOR: Vanderbilt senior Amanda Taylor was named the ITA Southeast Region Senior Player of the Year award and the ITA Southeast Region Arthur Ashe Award for leadership and sportsmanship. National winners will be announced May 20.

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