Fans eagerly lined up outside the O’Connell Center doors on Saturday afternoon, anxiously awaiting the start of the Gainesville NCAA Regional, hosted by the No. 1-ranked Florida gymnastics team.
Before the event had even kicked off however, the Gators were coping with a number of difficult losses.
As reported by Scott Carter of Gatorzone.com, the team’s dentist, Thomas Weber, was killed Friday in an early-morning single car crash. Following the tragic accident, junior Mackenzie Caquatto was rushed in for an emergency root canal on Friday evening.
The most damaging news to the team’s competition outlook however, came when it was learned that senior Randy Stageberg’s season and Florida career had unceremoniously ended earlier in the week when Stageberg sustained a shoulder fracture in practice.
Despite the bundle of sobering news, the Gators earned a trip to the NCAA Championships in Los Angeles by posting a score of 198.400, the second-highest score in school history.
Sophomore Kytra Hunter would win the all-around title, sharing two individual titles with fellow teammates in Marissa King (floor) and Ashanèe Dickerson (vault).
Florida’s final score was the 10th best in NCAA history and was delivered in front of a crowd of 7,137.
The NCAA Championships will be hosted at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion and will be held from April 19th-21st. Florida has come up just short of a championship in years past and is still in search of the school’s first title.
Baseball Takes Finale
After dropping the first two games of its weekend series at No. 17 Mississippi State, the Florida baseball team rebounded to beat the Bulldogs (26-9, 5-7 SEC) by a score of 8-3 on Sunday.
Trailing 2-0 heading into the fifth inning, the Gators (15-18, 5-7 SEC) delivered a furious eight-run frame, sparked by a Connor Mitchell three-run triple. Six of Florida’s 11 hits came in the inning, including two by the previously slumping Josh Tobias, who had a career day at the plate, going 3-for-4.
Sunday was the first start of the season for Florida sophomore Johnny Magliozzi, who had been impressive all season in his previous role as a closer. The 5’10 Massachusetts-native threw 5.2 innings, striking out three Bulldogs en route to picking up the win.
Florida now looks to pick up its first win against No. 5 Florida State (27-5, 10-5 ACC) this year when the Gators travel to Tallahassee, Fla. on Tuesday. The Gators have played FSU twice this season, dropping both contests.
Following the battle with the Seminoles, Florida will play host to SEC East foe South Carolina, who is ranked 11th in the nation, and coming off a weekend sweep of Tennessee. The series actually kicks off on Thursday this week, with the opening game being broadcast live on ESPNU. The finale on Saturday will be aired on ESPN2.
Softball Takes Series Against MSU
The battle between the Gators and the Bulldogs took place on several fields of play this weekend, and Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium was no exception. The Florida softball team enjoyed another weekend of big crowds and big success, as they took the series from MSU, winning on Friday (9-1) and Saturday (4-2).
The third-ranked Gators dropped a close one in Sunday’s finale, falling 6-5 after the Bulldogs posted a five-run 2nd inning. Florida quickly fought back, using a Taylore Fuller grand slam in the bottom of the inning to put the game in reach. But the Gators would eventually fall short, suffering only their third loss in SEC play this season.
Despite Sunday’s outcome however, the story of the weekend remains Hannah Rogers’ complete-game no-hitter on Friday evening. In her six innings of work, Rogers would strike out seven Bulldogs, and became only the 11th player in Florida history to go the distance without allowing a hit.
The Gators now sit at an impressive 38-4 on the season, including a 12-3 mark in SEC play. Florida has a home date with USF on Wednesday before heading up to Lexington, Ky. to take on Kentucky.
For those who haven’t had the chance to watch the Gators this season, Saturday’s contest in Lexington will be shown on ESPNU starting at 1 p.m. EST.
Lacrosse Rebounds Against Johns Hopkins
After suffering its first loss to Penn State last week, the No. 3 Florida lacrosse team regained its form on Saturday, defeating Johns Hopkins by a score of 19-9.
Seniors Ashley Burns and Kitty Cullens scored five goals each in the home match, putting on a show for the largest crowd of the season — 816 fans.
A Penn State loss to Northwestern on Saturday gives the Gators (14-1) and Nittany Lions an identical 2-1 record in ALC play. Northwestern currently sits atop the ALC standings with a perfect 4-0 mark, but will have to travel to Gainesville for the Gators’ regular season finale on April 20th. Before that showdown however, Florida will take its final road trip of the season this upcoming Saturday, trekking to Nashville for a match against Vanderbilt.
Florida Performs Well on Home Track
The 69th annual Pepsi Florida Relays were held over the weekend in Gainesville, and the Gators’ comfort on their home track proved to be advantageous.
The women’s 4×400 relay team had a memorable weekend, breaking a school record with their time of 3:27:43. The mark is also the best of any collegiate team this season.
The relay team features two freshmen in Robin Reynolds and Destinee Gause, along with upperclassmen Lanie Whitaker and Ebony Eutsey.
Florida captured several other event titles over the weekend as well. They include: Women’s Javelin (Marija Vucenovic), the 3,000-meter steeplechase (Mark Parrish), 800 meters (Sean Obinwa), Men’s 200 meters (Dedric Dukes) and the women’s high jump ( Taylor Burke).
Florida’s track program continues to be one of the nation’s best this season despite seeing several Olympians leave before the season. The men’s team is currently ranked third in the nation, while the women’s team sits at fourth. Both will head to Tallahassee, Fla. for the Seminole Invitational this weekend.
Tennis Splits MSU Weekend
Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams were at home against Mississippi State this weekend. Unfortunately, only the women emerged victorious, sweeping the Bulldogs 4-0 on Sunday’s home finale.
The women’s team honored two seniors ahead of the match, as both Lauren Embree and Caroline Hitimana waved their final goodbyes to Linder Stadium at the Ring Tennis Complex.
After taking an early 3-1 lead, the 17th ranked men’s team dropped the final three matches of the afternoon. The Florida men still have three home matches remaining on the schedule, all of which to be played this week.