With their 3-0 win at Georgia on Thursday night, Florida's soccer team got a weekend in which five other Gators teams will be competing against the Dawgs off to a fine start.
Oh, and the Gators won an SEC title, too.
The win in Athens — which featured two Savannah Jordan goals in the first half and a conversion on the spot from Pamela Begič in the second half — staked Florida to 25 points in SEC play, a total that no team could top, and clinched at least a share of the program's 14th SEC championship in its 21st season of existence.
When Missouri failed to get three points from its game with Texas A&M later in the evening (the Tigers and Aggies tied 1-1 thanks in large part to a Texas A&M-saved penalty shot in double overtime), the Gators won that title outright.
The SEC title comes as a bit of a surprise for this Florida team, despite it being picked to win the conference before the season began. The Gators lost to an uneven Ohio State team in nonconference play before upending defending national champion Florida State, then began their SEC slate with a home loss to Texas A&M. When Florida followed its second SEC loss in a road game at Auburn with a frustrating 1-1 tie with Kentucky on October 2, the Gators seemed to be very much in danger of going consecutive years without an SEC title for the first time since 2004-05.
The Gators got in gear in October, though, clicking off four straight 2-1 victories — capped by last Thursday's literal last-second triumph over South Carolina — to put themselves in position to win the SEC merely by taking down lowly Arkansas and Georgia over their final two regular-season games. And the Gators did just that, recording their first consecutive shutouts of the season over the last week.
This is Florida's 225th SEC title across all sports, far and away the largest collection of crowns in the conference. And the Gators will also have a strong chance to pair their regular-season title with a conference crown for the first time since 2012: They will be the No. 1 seed at next week's SEC Tournament, and will face either Vanderbilt or Georgia (both teams Florida vanquished on the road) in their first match in Orange Beach. While Florida could meet Auburn in a semifinal match, the Gators can't see Texas A&M until the final — and it's also possible that the Gators won't see a team they have lost to at all in the tournament, should things break right.
Florida's run of form of late is also promising for its NCAA Tournament hopes. The Gators are No. 6 in the most recent RPI, and own that win over No. 1 FSU. Their eight road wins also ties South Alabama for the national lead.
Florida hasn't won a national title since 1998, when Danielle Fotopoulos and Abby Wambach led the greatest Gators team ever to its stunning upset of North Carolina. But these Gators have beaten the defending champs, have maybe Florida's best player since Wambach in Jordan, and have rallied to find winning form in recent weeks.
It's not wrong to have legitimate hopes that they could, at minimum, return to the College Cup for the first time since 2001.