Although many UF students have bid farewell to campus in favor of various sandy locales, Florida’s spring athletes skipped on the spring break activities over the weekend, instead focusing on their respective seasons.
Florida’s spring sports teams are at differing stages in their schedules, with some approaching the end of the regular season, while some are just starting to get into the swing of things.
Here’s how the weekend went for the various groups of Gators:
After suffering six straight losses — including a Friday night loss to Miami — the Gators (5-7) have now won two in a row. Florida handed the Hurricanes (10-2) their first and second losses of the season this weekend, beating the ‘Canes 6-4 on Saturday, and 6-3 on Sunday.
Justin Shafer had the biggest weekend for the Gators on offense, going a collective 7-for-12 in the series, with three hits on both Friday and Sunday.
The Gators’ bullpen was perhaps the highlight of the weekend at McKethan Stadium. Two non-starters picked up the victories for Florida, with sophomore Johnny Magliozzi (1-1) getting the win on Saturday, and freshman Jay Carmichael (1-1) picking up the ‘W’ on Sunday.
“For us, it was the difference between two games in the standings: we could have gone down to four games under .500 or two under .500,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said on Sunday. “It was a big game for us, it’s a rivalry weekend and I was awfully proud at the way we bounced back today and this weekend in general after a tough Friday-night loss.”
The Florida men’s basketball team has collected 23 victories on the season.
None have been by single digits.
Although none of their victories have appeared close on the scoreboard, the Gators received their biggest scare (in an eventual win) on Saturday against Alabama. Trailing by eight points midway through the second half, Florida outscored the Crimson Tide 23-5 during the final 10 minutes of the game.
Coming into the game, Alabama was UF’s closest challenger to an SEC-crown. The Gators held a slim one-game lead over the Tide, who could move into a tie with UF with a victory. Later in the day, Kentucky (who was tied with ‘Bama for 2nd place) would drop a game at Arkansas, giving Florida a two-game cushion in the conference standings.
With the Wildcats’ loss, the Gators clinched at least a share of the SEC regular season title with a chance to win it outright on Wednesday at home against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Despite its eventual run to win the game, Billy Donovan was not pleased with most of his team’s performance on Saturday, save for forward Casey Prather (10 points, 9 rebounds), who was a spark off the bench.
“I thought Casey, for whatever really, was really focused and locked in,” Donovan said. “Scottie wasn’t himself. I didn’t think Kenny Boynton was himself. Patric (Young) wasn’t himself. Murphy looked a step slow. It was just one of those games where you sometimes can’t maybe put your finger on it.
“I was really, really, really disappointed in my team. Disappointed in my team that I didn’t do a better job getting them ready to play and I couldn’t have been any prouder the last 9 minutes.”
The Gators (23-5, 13-3 SEC) will host Vanderbilt on Senior Night, where they will honor three Florida players who will be playing their last game in the O-Dome: Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario and Erik Murphy.
Boynton — who finished with 13 points in 35 minutes against ‘Bama — moved up to second on UF’s all-time scoring list on Saturday (1,940 points). He is just 150 points shy of Florida’s all-time leader, Ronnie Williams, who scored 2,090 points between 1981-1984.
The Florida women’s basketball team had an up and down week. The Gators (17-13, 6-10 SEC) celebrated Senior Night on Wednesday, where they honored the team’s lone senior, Jennifer George. In her last game in the O’Connell Center, George helped lead UF to a 69-58 victory over Arkansas by notching her ninth double-double of the season (13 pts, 11 rebs).
The Gators missed on a chance to win their third consecutive conference game on Sunday, falling to South Carolina 67-56.
Florida was within two points of the Gamecocks at the 8:44 mark, but fell behind after USC went on a back-breaking 19-7 run.
“We talked about making plays when we needed to make plays,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. “When we got opportunities to make plays and make reads we didn’t capitalize as much as we needed to.”
Despite the loss, Florida did see guard Jaterra Bonds record her 100th assist of the season, giving the team two players (the other being Sydney Moss) with 100 assists on the year. This marks only the second time in school history the team has had two players with 100 assists.
With the regular season over with, the Gators will head to Duluth, Ga. this week for the SEC tournament.
The ninth-seeded Gators will take on eight-seed Arkansas, who they met on Wednesday.
The winner of the game will face-off against top-seed Tennessee.
Both the men’s and women’s golf teams finished in the top-10 of their respective tournaments last week.
The Florida men would finish tied for fourth (587, [+11]) at the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational at Sawgrass Country Club (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.).
J.D. Tomlinson was the Gators’ top performer, finishing in 9th place. Tomlinson shot a two-day total of 143 (-1). The final round of the tournament was cancelled due to inclement weather and the resulting poor course conditions.
The women’s team also saw a round of their tournament cancelled, but still managed to finish tied for 10th in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Invite (New Orleans, La.).
The team shot a collective 596 (+20). Florida’s top performances came from senior Isabelle Lendl and sophomore Camilla Hedberg, who both finished with a tie for 13th place with a 36-hole total of 146 (+2).
The Gator women will have a week off before hosting the SunTrust Gator Women’s Invitational on March 15th-17th. It is their only home match of the season.
The men will head west to Sin City this coming weekend, for the UNLV-hosted Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters in Las Vegas.
The No. 2 Gators’ gymnastics team had arguably the best week of any Florida team. UF scored a school-record of 198.425 on Friday night, defeating No. 14 Minnesota in the process. The high score was also the best total of any team in the nation this season.
While a perfect mark of 10 is rarity in collegiate gymnastics, at least one Gator gymnast recorded a near-perfect score of 9.975 in all four events, including senior all-American Marissa King. For King and three others — Ashanèe Dickerson, Dali Lemezan and Randy Stageberg — it was the last time they would perform in front of the O-Dome crowd.
“It was really incredible,” Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said. “As a coaching staff, we really challenged our team after our last home meet … The resting was over and now they needed to dig deep to do a gut check and find the passion and to be there for one another.
“That was what I saw tonight on every event, the energy and their excitement. The ones weren’t competing were so loud and that was really nice to see.”
The Gators will close out the regular season on March 16th in Salt Lake City, Utah, where they will take on the No. 8-ranked Utah Utes.
The No. 4 Florida softball team has quietly put together an impressive early-season stretch, starting off 22-1.
On Sunday, the Gators put together arguably their most impressive performance to date, notching the first combined perfect-game in school history against Presbyterian.
Hannah Rogers, Lauren Haeger and Alyssa Bache were formed the impressive perfect trio on Sunday. They retired all 15 Presbyterian batters they faced, en route to an 11-0 run-rule shortened game for the Gators.
Florida won six games during the past week, and as impressive as it has been on the mound, the gators have been equally impressive from the plate, hitting 13 total home runs in those six victories.
The week was also a big win for head coach Tim Walton, who notched his 400th career victory on Saturday after UF’s 20-2 shellacking of FAMU.
The Gators will now travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala. on Wednesday, for a showdown against defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Alabama in their first SEC game of the season.
UF is 3-1 against top-15 teams this season.
While Florida has seen contributions from everywhere this season, freshman Kelsey Stewart has been a standout for the Gators. Stewart already has tied a school record with five triples this season. Before last week, the former No. 2-ranked player in the nation out of high school was leading the Gators with a .433 batting average.
The SEC-champion men’s swim team had five players named first-team all-conference last week. The swimmers were: junior Marcin Cieslak, sophomore Matt Elliott, freshman Pawel Werner, junior Sebastien Rousseau and sophomore Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez.
Head coach Gregg Troy was named the SEC’s Men’s coach of the Year.
On the women’s front, junior Elizabeth Beisel was named the SEC Female Scholar Athlete of the Year. Beisel collected the Commissioner’s Trophy at the SEC Championships after garnering the most points at the meet (92).
Texas-native Natalie Hinds was named the SEC’s Freshman of the Year last week as well. Both Hinds and Beisel were the women’s team’s lone first-team All-SEC selections.
Track and Field
The Gators recently captured four individual titles at the SEC Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. One of those titles belong to sophomore Marquis Dendy, who on Friday was named the SEC’s Field Athlete of the Year.
According to Gatorzone.com, Dendy’s long jump attempt of 8.25m/27-0.75 in the SEC Championship was not only a school and meet record, but also the best in the world this year.
Both the men’s and women’s teams opened SEC play over the weekend. The No. 4 women defeated No. 71-ranked Missouri 6-1 on Friday, but feel to No. 6 Texas A&M on Sunday, 4-3.
The No. 35 men’s team had a different outcome against A&M, defeating the Aggies 4-3 on Sunday.
Although the Florida women collected their second loss of the season on Sunday, they did receive a piece of good news over the weekend. As reported by Andrew Spivey, the women’s team received a commitment from the No. 1-ranked recruit in the country in Alexandra Kiick from Plantation, Fla.