ATHENS, Ga. — Unlike last year, Lauren Embree didn't need too long to secure Florida's national championship.
"I'm glad it wasn't as dramatic as last year," she said. "I just happened to be the last one that had a chance at clinching."
Embree and Seminole native Alex Cercone had little trouble winning their singles matches on Tuesday, helping Florida earn its second straight national title with a 4-0 victory over UCLA.
The Gators (27-1) were up 3-0 when Embree sealed the championship with a backhand that McCall Jones had no chance to reach. Embree, selected the tournament's most outstanding player, beat Jones 6-4, 6-0.
In last year's final at Stanford, Embree beat the Cardinal's Mallory Burdette 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) after trailing 4-0 in the third set.
That was hardly the case this time. In front of several hundred cheering Florida fans, Embree had no trouble dominating the second set.
"In this tournament, it's hard not to play your best tennis here," said Embree, the SEC player of the year. "The atmosphere is great. The fans we have are amazing."
UCLA (26-3) set a program high for victories but was shut out by Florida in the NCAAs for a second straight year. The Gators beat UCLA 4-0 in last year's semifinals.
Gators coach Ronald Thornqvist said he was proud of the way his players met expectations.
"We had to go through some growing pains as defending national champions," he said. "They were willing to work through and start over, sort of, to build the team over from scratch."
The individual tournament starts today, with USF junior Ecaterina Vasenina facing UF's Sofie Oyen at 5 p.m. in the first round. UF's Embree, Allie Will and Joanna Mather are also entered as are Miami's Gabriela Mejia and Anna Bartenstien.
UF's Tripper Carleton, Nassim Slilam and Bob van Oiverbeek are in the men's singles bracket.
BASEBALL: Justin Shafer had three RBIs and Jonathon Crawford struck out nine as Florida defeated Auburn 6-1 in the first round of the SEC tournament in Hoover, Ala. Crawford (5-2) and three relievers combined to pitch a three-hitter. After a leadoff single in the third by Bobby Andrews, the Tigers did not manage another hit until the ninth. Shafer drove in two runs with a second-inning single off Jon Luke Jacobs. A two-run double in the sixth by former Dunedin High star Casey Turgeon gave Florida (41-16) a 4-1 lead. Shafer made it 5-1 with a single to score Turgeon.
GOLF: Florida was tied for 18th after shooting 14-over 302 in the first round of the NCAA Division I women's championship in Franklin, Tenn. Alabama shot 2-under 286 to lead by two strokes over Virginia. Belleair native Evan Jensen led the Gators, shooting 74.
FOOTBALL: Joe Paterno earned a state pension of $13.4 million for his 61-year coaching career at Penn State. Paterno's family said through a spokesman that his widow, Sue, would receive an initial payment of $10.1 million by the end of May, with the rest to be paid out over the next two years.