The triumphant return of the Weekend Review...
Another meet, another 10.0 for gymnastics
Florida's gymnastics team actually lost some of its No. 1 ranking over the weekend, thanks to a relatively low 197.175 score in a road victory over Kentucky. But despite Florida resting key contributors Mackenzie Caquatto and Rachel Spicer and dealing with some exceptionally miserly judges — the Gators beat Kentucky by 1.725 points though Kentucky didn't, as far as I can tell, count a fall — Bridget Sloan, performing before her Indiana-based family in Lexington, found a way to make Friday night special.
The 2013 NCAA all-around champion turned in her second 10.0 of the season, this time on the balance beam, becoming the first Gator in program history to put up a 10.0 in two different events and joining Susan Hines, Melanie Sinclair, and teammate Kytra Hunter in the elite sorority of Gators gymnasts with more than one 10.0 in their careers.
Sloan also won her third straight all-around title with a 39.675 — her fourth straight score at or above that number — and led a Florida sweep of the podium, as Hunter (39.450) and Alaina Johnson (39.400), making her all-around return after an injury in 2013 cost her much of that season placed second and third in the all-around.
Florida gymnasts swept every event, with Hunter winning vault and floor exercise, Sloan obviously winning beam, and Bridgette Caquatto tying Sloan for a win on the uneven bars, and the Gators are rolling heading into this Friday's showdown with LSU in Gainesville.
Softball sweeps USF tournament
Florida's softball team started 2014 on one heck of a run this past weekend, with wins over USF and Michigan — the latter via an unbelievable comeback — and a no-hitter from Lauren Haeger.
The 10-3 win over USF came Thursday, in Florida's opener, and the Gators worked Bulls ace Sara Nevins for seven earned runs in 3.2 innings on four walks and four singles in that game, a great testament to Florida's patience as a group. After picking up the program's 800th win during a sweep of a Friday doubleheader, Florida made win No. 802 thrilling by coming back from a 4-0 deficit in the top of the seventh inning to beat 2013 Women's College World Series participant Michigan, 9-4. Florida scored four runs after loading the bases in the seventh, then added five in the top of the eighth with the aid of homers by Taylor Schwarz and Taylore Fuller, and Delanie Gourley rallied impressively after giving up a grand slam in the third inning, going the distance for her first win in her first collegiate start.
Lauren Haeger helped finish the weekend by throwing her first collegiate no-hitter in a 5-1 win over Wisconsin on Sunday, and the Gators improved to 6-0 for 2014 by mercy-ruling Bethune-Cookman on Sunday afternoon.
Tim Walton would probably like to see Florida shut more of these non-conference SEC teams out — Florida's only shutout came against Bethune-Cookman — but he's got to be as pleased with the results as we are.
Women's hoops completes Kentucky sweep
It was always going to be a tough task, beating Kentucky twice in a year. But Florida's women's basketball team did it before Florida's men even got a chance.
The Gators' 86-80 win on Sunday in Gainesville came on the back of a dispiriting 24-turnover loss to Arkansas on Wednesday, and featured four great performances: January Miller poured in 20 points, two off her career best; Lily Svete splashed in five threes and had 17 points; Cassie Peoples had 14 points on a day when Jaterra Bonds (six points) and Carlie Needles (zero) were quiet; and Kayla Lewis had a monster day, with 18 points, 17 rebounds, and six assists.
Lewis, named the SEC's Co-Player of the Week on Monday, has grown into a terror with Christin Mercer out, and it's the play of Florida's younger players — her, Miller, Peoples, and Antoinette Bannister — that has kept the Gators afloat since Mercer's suspension. And though Florida's five-game home stretch is dotted with dangerous road trips — to Georgia this week, and to South Carolina and Vanderbilt over a five-day span — the Gators are well-positioned to just barely make the 2014 NCAA Tournament, if only as a No. 11 or No. 12 seed.
Men's basketball outguns Alabama
There's plenty more on that over here.
New-look #FLax falters at UNC
On Saturday, Florida's lacrosse program played the first game in program history without the Gators who helped begin the program in 2010. It wasn't pretty: Florida trailed early and never took the lead in its 20-8 loss to No. 1-ranked North Carolina.
Shannon Gilroy had four goals, including her 100th career tally, and Cara Canington had 13 saves in her first action as Florida's No. 1 goalkeeper, but the Gators were outshot 41-24, doubled up 24-12 on ground balls, and whistled for 36 fouls in a rematch of an early-season non-conference showdown Florida won 5-3 last year.
The rest of February will be much less rigorous: Florida won't leave the Sunshine State again until March, and is likely to roll in matches against Jacksonville, High Point, James Madison, and Cincinnati.
Women's tennis gets upset, rebounds
Florida's women's tennis team was certain to take a step back without all-timer Lauren Embree in 2014, but the Gators did that and then rebounded nicely over the weekend at the ITA National Team Indoors.
After downing Virginia on Friday, second-ranked and top-seeded Florida fell to No. 16 and unseeded Northwestern on Saturday, losing the doubles point and three singles matches in straight sets. But the Gators bounced back against No. 6 and fifth-seeded USC Sunday, winning in No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, and No. 6 singles after losing its second doubles point of the year to top the Trojans.
Florida probably shouldn't have been ranked No. 2, I suspect, despite its fine performance so far in 2014, and the losses of Embree and Caroline Hitimana seem to have been felt most in doubles, where Florida has one veteran-freshman team, of Sofie Oyen and Belinda Woolcock, that has gelled, and two others (Olivia Janowicz and Kourtney Keegan; Alexandra Cercone and Stefani Stojic) still in progress. Still, the Gators got their first taste of high-level competition this spring over the weekend, and came away more heartened than not; that's a net win.
Track wins four events at Virginia Tech
As always, FlaGators has you covered for track coverage.
- Florida Gators track and field scores four overall victories at Virginia Tech Elite Meet
- Chomping at Bits: Florida sweeps Kentucky, entering Florida-Kentucky week
- Florida 78, Alabama 69: Gators pull away after turning back Tide
- Reviewing Florida early enrollee Will Grier: The Gators quarterback of the future?
- Florida vs. Alabama, Game Thread: Gators look to sweep Crimson Tide