Florida Gators Weekend Preview: Gymnastics goes for national title on packed weekend

Andy Hutchins (Alligator Army)

Most of the action in Florida sports this weekend is taking place away from campus. But that doesn't mean it's not important.

The Weekend Preview runs down Florida's non-football, non-men's basketball, non-track sports on crowded fall and spring weekends. If you have a club sport or other note to include in the Weekend Preview, hit @AlligatorArmy.

Florida gymnastics looks for first national title

In mere minutes, Florida's gymnastics team will take the floor in Los Angeles, looking to qualify for the NCAA's Super Six, the final stage of Division I gymnastics competition this year. And the Gators will do so as the national title favorites.

That would be huge, of course, because only four teams have ever won a NCAA Division I gymnastics title: Alabama, Georgia, UCLA, and Utah. Florida's beaten both Alabama and Georgia twice this year, in dual meets and at the SEC Championships, but hasn't competed against UCLA and lost to Utah on the road. Still, the Gators enter this weekend's action, which begins today at 3 p.m. in the first of two six-team semifinals, as the nation's No. 1 team, and the only one with a score better than 197.400 in NCAA Regional action. Florida scored a 198.400 and won the Gainesville Regional two weeks ago, and has been on a ridiculous run in the last month or so.

Barring a huge flop, Florida is likely to move on to the Super Six, because the Georgia team Florida has beaten twice is probably its toughest competition in its semifinal, which also includes a Minnesota team Florida's topped twice, an LSU team that handed Florida its only SEC loss in the Gators' first road meet of the year, Illinois, and Stanford. The second semifinal, which has defending champion Alabama, high-scoring Oklahoma, UCLA, and Utah, looks tougher.

To follow along today, head to the NCAA's live video stream and its live stats.

Lacrosse preps for first true Senior Day

Florida's lacrosse team is on a mission for an NCAA Tournament title, which would be the program's first national championship in just its fourth year of existence. But the players who have been part of that program from the beginning have unfinished business at home and in the American Lacrosse Conference to deal with first, and can take care of a lot of it on Saturday, their senior day, against Northwestern.

The Gators and Wildcats have been the two titans of the ALC since 2011, with Florida handing Northwestern, winner of five of the last six national championships, its first conference loss since 2004. Florida has a 3-2 all-time record against the Wildcats, and a 2-1 record at home, with the only loss coming in its inaugural season.

If the Gators can win on Saturday, they will claim at least a share of the ALC's regular season title, and likely lock in the No. 1 seed for the ALC Tournament. That alone will solidify this Florida team's place in ALC history, as the upstart that upset the Northwestern-driven apple cart, and will do something to glorify a massive senior class that came to Florida after being sold on a dream. We'll have more on this team and this game before it happens tomorrow, but it takes place at noon at Donald R. Dizney Stadium, admission is free, and there are a bunch of giveaways for it, so it's definitely worth getting out there to support these remarkable Gators.

Women's, men's tennis competing at SEC Tournaments

Florida's women's tennis team is looking to make it four straight SEC Tournaments. The Gators' men's team just wants three straight wins and an unlikely SEC Tournament title. Both teams will be in action all weekend if all goes well.

The Florida men's quarterfinal match today already did go well: The Gators blanked South Carolina, 4-0, making up for a regular season road loss and earning passage to the quarterfinals in Oxford, Mississippi. Florida will play either Vanderbilt or Tennessee on Saturday at 11 a.m. in a semifinal match, and has wins over both teams this year; a win in that match would earn the Gators a berth in Sunday's final.

Florida's women, on the other hand, still have three more wins to go, and don't take the court until at least 6 p.m. tonight in Starkville, Mississippi, where they will see Vanderbilt. With a win, Florida would play either No. 2 seed Texas A&M, the only SEC team to beat the Gators this year, or No. 7 seed Auburn on Saturday. Obviously, a win on Saturday gets the Gators to the tournament final on Sunday.

There's no video of those matches, but there will be live stats at this page, and you can follow @GatorZoneTennis for more.

Baseball looks to extend hot streak at Missouri

On a campus with a handful of teams that are national title contenders, Florida's baseball team might really be the hottest squad of Gators right now. After muddling for much of the year, Kevin O'Sullivan's Gators have won six straight games, three on the road, three over perennial SEC power South Carolina, and all six over teams that had been ranked this year, and look poised to make a run at 30-plus wins.

Winning on the road at Missouri this weekend would be helpful in that respect. Florida hasn't played Missouri since 2005, and has only seen the Tigers six times in program history, putting up a 5-1 record, and the SEC newcomers are also SEC stragglers this season.

The Gators will start Jonathon Crawford on Friday (7 p.m. Eastern) and Danny Young on Saturday (3 p.m.), and will likely start one of Jay Carmichael or Johnny Magliozzi on Sunday (1 p.m.), depending on how much work the two pitchers get in relief over the first two games of the series. And they won't be matching up against aces: Missouri's team ERA is an untidy 4.36, and the Tigers got hammered last weekend at Vanderbilt, allowing 39 runs in three games to the very good Commodores.

If the Gators want to win a road series (they're 0-2 in that respect so far this year), doing so against a 12-20 team with just four SEC wins would be the logical starting point.

Softball welcomes Longwood to Gainesville

Florida softball's weekend series at home is against a team, Longwood, that most fans probably haven't heard of. But the 27-11 Lancers could be trouble for the Gators because of the different format of this series.

Florida typically plays Friday-Saturday-Sunday weekend series, but will play a 1 p.m./3 p.m. doubleheader against Longwood on Saturday and a final game at 1 p.m. on Sunday, and the doubleheader might mean that ace Hannah Rogers is less available in the second game of a series than she usually is.

It probably won't matter that much for the Gators, because they're 11-0 all-time against Longwood, but that's certainly something to keep an eye on as they step outside of SEC play for a weekend. Another thing to watch: Longwood's Megan Baltzell, one of the nation's best hitters.

Men's, women's golf competing at SEC Championships

Inconsistency has been an issue for both Florida's men's and women's golf teams in the spring. But if either or both of those teams could just turn in three good rounds this weekend, an SEC Championship could be in store.

Sadly, that dream's probably already dead for the men's team. The Gators turned in a 21-over first round at the Sea Island course in St. Simons Island, Georgia on Friday, and are 26 shots off the clubhouse lead held by Auburn. A 26-shot comeback isn't impossible in collegiate golf, I'd imagine, but it's certainly extraordinarily unlikely.

By contrast, Florida's women's team is in great shape without even teeing off at Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, as no one has gone low just yet with play just getting under way.

Golfstat will remain the best site to get updated scores and stats from both tournaments all weekend.

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