Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Gators Find Gold in Californian as Morgan Rolls in Vitale Event

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Gators Find Gold in Californian as Morgan Rolls in Vitale Event

Article excerpt

TENNIS: Brianna Morgan was overlooked out west

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- It's a long ways from Beverly Hills, Calif., to Gainesville, but Brianna Morgan is happy she made the trip, and thankful that coaches at the University of Florida saw potential that those schools on the country's west coast missed.

"I wanted to stay in California originally but none of the schools were really looking at me and I wanted to go where I could get a full scholarship and play," Morgan said Friday after winning two rounds of singles at the Lakewood Ranch Dick Vitale Intercollegiate Clay Court Classic being played at the Athletic Club at Lakewood Ranch.

Morgan was given a chance at the University of Florida after Dave Balogh, the Gators' women's associate head coach, saw her play in a pro event in Plantation. Balogh said he was impressed by the way Morgan practiced and played that week but didn't think he could pry her from Southern California.

"I thought, 'Great. I am sure she is going to Southern Cal, UCLA or Stanford," Balogh recalls. "When I found out she had not committed, I stuck to her like glue."

The Gators gave her a scholarship and Morgan has been repaying the Florida coaches almost daily.

As a freshman, playing primarily at No. 4 singles, Morgan put together a 19-1 record, made the All-SEC freshman first team and earned All-SEC second team honors. She even made the Freshman Academic Honor Roll.

"You talk about tool in a tool box. This girl has got a tool box loaded with tools," Balogh said. "We were fortunate to get her out of California."

The Florida women's program, which won back-to-back national titles in 2011-12 and six titles overall, is one of the premier programs in the country. And this season, Morgan is expected to be one of the team's top players.

Friday, Morgan helped the Florida women's team show that, though young, they still have talent. All five of the Florida players won their first two matches in singles to advance to the quarterfinals. If you are counting, that means five of the eight players remaining in the singles draw are Gators.

And it is Morgan, seeded second in the tournament, who is leading the charge.

"She is a player who has incredible potential and she is an incredible kid. …

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