Florida Gators Weekend Review: Gymnastics wins national titles, women's tennis wins SEC Tournament

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The women led the way on a very successful weekend for Florida sports.

The Weekend Review runs down Florida's sporting successes and failures in the 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 Review, hit @AlligatorArmy.

Gymnastics puts a ring on it

If you have been on Twitter or around these parts since Friday, you have read about Florida's gymnastics team winning a national title. But what you probably don't know is how dominant Florida was apart from one rotation on Saturday — or what Beyoncé has to do with it.

In regards to the former: In addition to the Gators' national title on Saturday, Florida's Bridget Sloan won the NCAA individual all-around title on Friday, and Sloan (balance beam) and Alaina Johnson (uneven bars) won NCAA individual event titles on Sunday. That means Florida took two-thirds of the six national titles awarded this weekend, sweeping the top two prizes.

Even taking team and all-around gold alone is rarer than you might think, thanks in part to the individual title being conferred for scores earned during Friday's Super Six qualifying sessions: Sloan is the first gymnast to win the all-around title and the team title in the same year since Georgia's Courtney Kupets, the most decorated gymnast in NCAA history, did so in 2009. Florida is also the first team since that 2009 Georgia squad to win at least four titles; Kupets also won individual event gold on the balance beam, uneven bars and floor exercise in 2009.

But the really impressive part of Florida's rally on Saturday is how great Florida was on the floor, vault, and bars after suffering two falls on the beam. The Gators notched the best marks of the night on all three other events: Their 49.725 on the floor was their best floor exercise score of the year and the best floor exercise score in NCAA Championships history; the 49.500 on vault tied the best score on the apparatus of the two days at the NCAA Championships; the 49.475 on the bars was just .050 short of the best score of the two days on them.

Maybe most tantalizing is how insane Florida's score would have looked if it had replicated its recent performances on the beam. Florida hadn't scored under 49.475 on the beam since February entering Saturday, and a 49.475 on the day would have boosted the Gators' final team total of 197.575 by .600 to 198.175.

That would have been the best score in Super Six history by .050. So, basically, save for falls by a senior and umpteen-time All-American (Ashanée Dickerson) and the reigning NCAA all-around champion (Kytra Hunter), Florida put on the best performance in NCAA Championships history on Saturday.

Star-divide

That's not the most fun story of the weekend, though. The detail that Scott Carter got about the Gators' leotards is even better:

The Gators wore a Beyoncé-inspired leotard that featured 2,400 Swarovski crystals and designed by Gators coach Rhonda Faehn.

"That was a long time in the making,'' Faehn said. "We found a picture of Beyoncé on the Internet on the red carpet wearing a midnight blue mesh, sweetheart neckline. It was so gorgeous. I was like, 'we have to have this leotard.' We kind of filtered it through the girls because they get to design a few sets and I design two sets."

...

You may see them again. Since the Gators won the national title -- which includes a ring -- there is already talk of another Beyoncé-inspired design in the works. The same leotard but with a ring on it -- hint: Beyoncé's huge hit song, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)."

To the victor go the spoils.

Who run the world? The Gators, I guess.

Lacrosse's dominance of Northwestern continues

Our story about Florida's 22-4 win over Northwestern has plenty of the details about how big a win it was (it was Northwestern's worst in program history, inarguably, and delivered by a team that started playing lacrosse in 2010), but there's more context worth spooling out, because Florida is the only team in women's collegiate lacrosse that can claim to have dominated Northwestern since it rose to the top of the mountain.

Here's the list of teams that can claim a winning record over Northwestern all-time:

  • Boston College, 4-2
  • Brown, 3-2
  • Drexel, 2-1
  • Florida, 4-2
  • Harvard, 2-1
  • Lafayette, 2-0
  • Maryland, 7-6
  • New Hampshire, 6-5
  • Temple, 8-0
  • Virginia Tech, 2-1
  • William & Mary, 4-3
  • And here is the complete list of Northwestern losses to those teams since 2005:

  • Maryland 13, Northwestern 11, May 30, 2010
  • Florida 13, Northwestern 11, April 13, 2011
  • Florida 8, Northwestern 7, April 7, 2012
  • Florida 14, Northwestern 7, May 5, 2012
  • Florida 22, Northwestern 4, April 20, 2013
  • Not only did Florida run its record to 4-2 against the best team of the last decade in the sport, it beat Northwestern by 18 goals — or the combined margin of victory (over seven games) of every non-Florida team that has beaten Northwestern since 2005.

    Saturday, Florida produced an all-time stunner of a scoreline, something I've tried to contextualize by positing a Nick Saban Alabama team getting beaten by 28 or LeBron's Heat taking a 50-point loss. But those comparisons don't have an analogue for the toddler-slash-juggernaut that is Florida lacrosse, perhaps the best l'enfant terrible in NCAA history, which has forced a recalibration of the balance of power in the sport despite being thrust into the same conference as the sport's best team. If Florida International had started a football program in 2006 and beaten Alabama like a drum in 2011, maybe that would be a fair comparison.

    For now, Florida's seniors will have to settle for being trailblazers who pulled off something that will be incomparable. Adding the American Lacross Conference tournament title and a national title — the only thing that still escapes the program, really — would be just another unparalleled triumph.

    Florida women's tennis fights for SEC title

    The Gators women's tennis team had a relatively easy time of things at the 2013 SEC Tournament on their first two days of the event: Florida blitzed Vanderbilt by twin 4-1 margins, compensating for doubles point losses with seven straight-set singles wins.

    Sunday brought another round with Georgia, the other big dog in SEC women's tennis this year. The Gators proved they were the conference's unquestioned ruler with a 4-0 blanking, but the way that victory came was deceptively difficult.

    For one, Florida's ability to overcome its struggles with the doubles point against Georgia was truly great: The Gators fell behind early as their No. 2 doubles team of Alexandra Cercone and Olivia Janowicz gave up a rare bagel superset (doubles is played to eight games). But the Florida No. 3 team of Danielle Collins and Brianna Morgan tied the doubles action with an 8-3 win.

    That set the stage for a duel between the best of the best: The battle between a Florida pairing of No. 1-ranked singles player Lauren Embree and formerly No. 1-ranked singles player Sofie Oyen and Georgia's No. 1-ranked doubles team of Kate Fuller and Silvia Garcia would decide the doubles point. And Florida would win it — by a 9-8 (7-2) count.

    Georgia, which lost just one other time in doubles in 2013, wouldn't take that stunning loss sitting down. The Bulldogs broke out to leads in four of the six singles matches, with three Florida players dropping their first sets and Embree struggling against fellow top-10 player Lauren Herring on the No. 1 court. But the Gators plugged away on the other two courts, and Cercone and Morgan picked up straight-sets victories to get a 3-0 lead in the match, setting up a familiar scenario: With Embree having won her first set in a tiebreak, the Gators' senior leader would have a chance to clinch a title for Florida for roughly the 62nd time in her four years.

    That didn't happen, but only because of an even guttier performance from Janowicz. After dropping her first set to Ayaka Okuno, Janowicz won her next two in quick succession, helping lend her own penmanship to a different kind of signature win by Florida.

    The tournament title is Florida's fourth in as many years, and completes a ridiculous SEC run for seniors Embree and Caroline Hitimana: They went 45-1 against the SEC in the regular season from 2010 to 2013, claimed four straight SEC regular season championships, and have gone 59-1 against the SEC when including SEC and NCAA Tournament play.

    And now those two players and the rest of this remarkable Gators squad will return to practice and the final days of the Spring semester before beginning a quest for a third straight national title in the NCAA Women's Tennis Division I Championship.

    Softball sweeps Longwood

    There's not a lot to say about Florida's 3-0 series sweep of Longwood in softball action this weekend. Florida's pitchers made sure to keep the Lancers' bats quiet, which helped.

    Florida earned 5-1 and 9-5 wins in a Saturday doubleheader that was postponed into the evening by inclement weather in Gainesville, then finished the series with an 8-0 Sunday win that featured Hannah Rogers' second no-hitter of the year.

    Rogers previously no-hit Mississippi State on April 5, but allowed a run in that game; this is her first no-hit shutout, and was very close to a six-inning perfect game, with the only Longwood baserunner on the day coming on an error by shortstop Katie Medina.

    Florida won't play a midweek game this week, but hosts Georgia for a three-game weekend series that will wrap up its home schedule.

    Baseball scraps for series win at Missouri

    Florida's baseball team scrapped for a series win at Missouri with come-from-behind wins on Friday and Saturday. Take the s off scrapped and you get an idea of what the Gators did on Sunday to end their eight-game winning streak.

    The Gators trailed 4-1 on Friday before coming back for an 8-6 victory that featured a season-high 18 hits, then dug a 3-0 hole before eventually winning a 15-inning thriller against Missouri on Saturday by a 4-3 margin. Florida's bullpen came up huge in that Missouri game, allowing no runs and just six hits in 12.2 innings of work after Danny Young gave up six hits and three earned runs in his brief 2.1-inning start.

    But with the offense largely tapped out after Friday's attack and the bullpen limited on Sunday, Florida never led in the final game of the series, conceding an 8-2 loss in which every Florida pitcher give up a run, Missouri knock back-to-back triples in the eighth inning, and an error and a botched double play by Zack Powers in the sixth inning allowed Missouri to stretch a 2-1 lead to a 4-1 advantage.

    Florida hosts USF on Tuesday before welcoming Tennessee to town for a weekend series.

    Men's tennis bows out in SEC Tournament semifinals

    Florida's men's tennis team had done a lot of yeoman's work just to get a top-four seed at the 2013 SEC Tournament. That the Gators didn't quite live up to it is not that troubling.

    Florida avenged a regular season loss to South Carolina with a 4-0 win in the quarterfinals of the tournament on Friday, then lost 4-2 to Tennessee on Saturday despite rallying back from a 2-0 hole to tie the match at 2-2.

    With the loss, Florida will likely go on the road in the 2013 NCAA Men's Tennis Championships, which begins on campus at regional sites in May before terminating in Urbana, Illinois.

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

    The less said about what Florida's golf teams did on respective awful weekends at the SEC Championships, the better.

    The good for the men's team is limited to two facts: 1) Tyler McCumber finished 1-over, good for third place among individuals for the second straight year and 2) Florida's 290 on Sunday tied Alabama for the best score of the third round. The bad was that no other Florida player was within 10 shots of McCumber, dooming Florida to a 10th-place finish that could have been significantly worse, given that the Gators shot a 301 on Friday that left them in dead effin' last.

    The women's team also got acquainted with the bottom of the leaderboard, turning in no team rounds better than their Friday 315 and no individual rounds lower than a 4-over 76 en route to a 88-over nightmare that left the No. 7-ranked Gators 53 shots behind Alabama.

    Both teams still have enough talent to do damage in their respective NCAA postseasons, but these performances strongly suggest that self-inflicted damage may be more likely.

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