It's been a while since our last Weekend Preview, which runs down Florida's non-football, non-men's basketball games on a given weekend, and for that I am sorry.
Volleyball hosts Active Ankle Challenge
Florida volleyball has the busiest weekend of any Gators squad, hosting the Active Ankle Challenge in the O'Connell Center on Friday and Saturday. Florida's three tilts will come against Georgetown at 7 p.m. on Friday, Iona at noon on Saturday, and Western Michigan at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The match with Georgetown isn't the most important of the three, though Florida's Taylor Brauneis will be playing against her sister, Caitlin, for what is likely to be the first and only time, as the Hoyas are 4-4 on the year, and Iona's just 1-5. But Western Michigan is 5-2, with a win over Northwestern, and the Broncos are likely to give Florida its most trouble on the weekend.
Of course, "most trouble" might not mean much for this very good Gators squad, which just knocked off No. 2 Stanford in Nike Big Four play last weekend before taking a three-set loss to No. 1 Penn State. Chloe Mann and Živa Recek should lead the Gators to a 3-0 record this weekend.
Cross-country teams host Mountain Dew Invitational
Florida's cross-country teams began their seasons back in August with first-place finishes at the Western Carolina Invitational, and have a chance to add bigger wins at home this week in Saturday's Mountain Dew Invitational, which begins at 7:55 a.m. at the Mark Bostick Golf Course.
Florida's women are the defending SEC champions, but its men's team hasn't claimed a conference title since 1987, so the male Gators runners, who had four top-six finishes against a light field at Western Carolina, will be looking to prove their mettle against a tougher pack on Saturday while running on the same ground that will be used for the SEC Championships in November.
Soccer hosts Minnesota, plays at USF
Florida's soccer team, ranked ninth in this week's Divison I poll, has a tough weekend before it, with undefeated Minnesota coming to Gainesville on Friday and a treacherous road trip to USF on the docket for Sunday.
The Gators have won all of their regular season matches except their 3-0 blanking at the hands of No. 4 Florida State, and won them all by at least two goals, which should bode well for a clash with the Gophers, who play in a conference that rarely has teams of Florida's caliber. But Minnesota spent last weekend knocking off LSU and Ole Miss at home, so Florida's speed won't necessarily be as surprising as one might think.
USF is a lesser foe, having compiled a 3-1-2record to date in 2013, but the Bulls are 3-0-1 at home, with the tie coming against ACC foe Clemson.
Florida plays Minnesota at 7 p.m. Friday night at James G. Pressly Stadium, and will drop the ball with USF at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Men's golf begins rebuilding season
Florida's men's golf team was led by two great players in 2012-13, Tyler McCumber and T.J. Vogel, and was able to qualify for the 2013 NCAA Championships with a surprising second-place finish in the NCAA South Regional because of them.
This is a new year, and McCumber and Vogel won't be around to pilot Florida through it. So it might get rough.
Junior J.D. Tomlinson is likely to be Florida's leader in the 2013-14 season, which began today with play at the Olympia Fields Invitational in Chicago. He led Florida with a five-over 75, but the Gators, playing three freshmen this weekend, shot a 28-over 308 as a group, and will enter Saturday's second round in dead last, one shot behind 14th-place Northwestern.
On the bright side, there's nowhere to go but up for these Gators.
Florida tennis begins life without Lauren
Florida's women's tennis team was more than just Lauren Embree in 2012-13, and throughout her four superb years as a Gator. But the Gators will be very different without Embree as their rock in 2013-14, and we'll get a first peek at how different they will be at the Duke Fab Four Invitational this weekend.
Seniors Olivia Janowicz and Sofie Oyen will both be in action in Durham, and they'll be joined by freshmen Kourtney Keegan of Georgia and Belinda Woolcock of Australia. Keegan, a top-10 recruit in the Class of 2013, arrives with a fair bit of hype, while Woolcock and fellow Aussie Stefani Stojic sound a bit more like doubles players at this point.
Florida is likely to take a step back without Embree and fellow departed senior Caroline Hitimana, but if Keegan can have a season like Embree's freshman year, or play like former Florida star Allie Will, who she appears more similar to physically, it might not be that big a step back.