Florida Gators Women's Tennis - History - Brandi Era: 1985–2001

Brandi Era: 1985–2001

Led by their fourth-year coach, Andy Brandi, the Florida Gators women's tennis team made its first appearance in the NCAA championship tournament finals in Los Angeles, California in 1988. The Lady Gators entered the tournament the top-seeded team, but were decisively upset by the Stanford Cardinal women's tennis team, five matches to two, in the final of the team championship. The Gators' No. 1 singles player, Shaun Stafford, was upset in the team championships, but recovered to win the individual NCAA singles championship by defeating her teammate Halle Cioffi in the championship final.

The Lady Gators hosted the NCAA national championship tournament on their home courts at Linder Stadium in Gainesville for the first time in 1990. Led by their top singles players, freshman Andrea Farley and junior Nicole Arendt, the second-seeded Gators battled to the championship finals before falling to the top-seeded Stanford Cardinal women, five matches to one.

The Gators won their first NCAA national team championship in Palo Alto, California in 1992. Led by star freshman Lisa Raymond, the Gators beat the Texas Longhorns women's tennis team five matches to three. Raymond also won the individual 1992 NCAA championship in singles.

In 1995, for the fourth time in eight seasons, the Lady Gators reached the championship finals of the NCAA tournament, held in Malibu, California. After blazing through the first three rounds of the tournament without losing a single match, the Texas Longhorns edged the Gators in the finals, five matches to four, in one of the most evenly matched championship finals ever held.

In 1996, Brandi's top-ranked and undefeated Gators earned their second NCAA team championship in Tallahassee, Florida. Lady Gators Jill Craybas, Dawn Buth, Lisa Pugliese and Stephanie Nickitas won their singles matches, and Craybas and Lori Ann Freedman won the doubles match, as the team decisively defeated the Stanford Cardinal women five matches to two. The Lady Gators' previous record against the Cardinal in NCAA tournament play was 0–3. Craybas also claimed the individual 1996 NCAA singles championship, and Buth and Nickitas won the 1996 NCAA doubles title—only the second time in NCAA history that a women's team won the national team, singles and doubles titles in the same season. The Gators finished the season 31–0 in team matches, and defeated twenty college teams ranked among the top twenty-five in the country.

The top-seeded Gators reached the championship finals of the NCAA tournament for the third straight year in 1997, before falling to the Stanford Cardinal, five matches to one, in Palo Alto.

Brandi's undefeated Lady Gators claimed their third NCAA team championship in 1998 by crushing the Duke Blue Devils women's tennis team, five matches to one, in South Bend, Indiana. Led by seniors Bonnie Bleecker and Stephanie Nickitas, the second-seeded Gators won the doubles match and four of the five singles matches in the tournament final.

At the 1999 NCAA tournament held in Gaiensville, the top-seeded Gators women's tennis team returned to the championship finals for the fifth consecutive season, but lost to its national rival, the Stanford Cardinal, five matches to two, for the fourth time since 1988.

During Brandi's seventeen-year tenure, three individual Gators won four NCAA singles championships: Shaun Stafford in 1988; Lisa Raymond in 1992 and 1993; and Jill Craybas in 1996. In NCAA doubles championship play, three Gators doubles teams have won four NCAA doubles championships: Jillian Alexander and Nicole Arendt in 1991; Dawn Buth and Stephanie Nickitas in 1996 and 1997; and Whitney Laiho and Jessica Lehnhoff in 2001.

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