Florida men's swimming and diving fifth at NCAA Championships
Florida's men's swimming and diving team didn't have much beyond aspirations of contending for a national title over the weekend at the 2015 NCAA Championships. But they still left with one national champion and a slew of other honors.
Freshman Caeleb Dressel won Florida's first-ever championship in the 50-yard freestyle on Thursday, slicing through the water in 18.67 seconds, just .01 seconds off the American record. Dressel's win would be Florida's only national championship — the Gators finished fifth overall, and Texas won the crown — of the competition, but just the first of seven All-American honors, becoming the first freshman to do so for the Gators since future Olympian Shaune Fraser did in 2007. (In case you were curious: Ryan Lochte only earned five All-American honors in his freshman campaign at Florida, and did not win a national title in any event.)
Dressel also helped Florida set a school record in the 200 medley relay, one of four set over the NCAA Championships; seniors Eduardo Solache-Gomez and Dan Wallace set records in the 200 breastroke and 500 free. Wallace earned five All-American honors, Mitch D'Arrigo and Corey Main picked up four, and Jack Blyzinskyj had three, matching the number of times I had to check to make sure I spelled his name correctly.
Diver Zach Hernandez also earned the program's first All-American honor for a diver since 2007 by garnering honorable mention All-American status on the platform dive.
Florida coach Gregg Troy has yet to win a national championship in Gainesville, with his teams never placing higher than the third-place finish earned last year, and the current powers of the sport — Texas, Michigan, and California — have won the last six national titles. But Florida has also unseated Auburn, which won five straight national titles from 2003 to 2007, and a sixth in 2009, as the lead dog in the SEC, winning the last three conference titles. And with talents like Dressel choosing to swim for the Gators, the future is still bright.
Florida baseball recovers to win series with Alabama
For the third straight SEC series, Florida's baseball team lost Game 1. But, much like they did against Tennessee, the Gators managed to right the ship against Alabama over the weekend, taking the last two games and the series.
The major difference from that Tennessee series? Logan Shore was responsible for one of the wins.
After Florida rallied from a 9-4 hole to force extra innings, only to fall by a 12-9 count in a 10-inning slugfest (one that began Friday afternoon, after rain forced the postponement of Thursday night's scheduled opener), the Gators needed a strong outing from Shore in Game 2. Kevin O'Sullivan had used eight pitchers in that first game, and given versatile reliever Aaron Rhodes his first start of the season, so there wasn't much behind Shore if he got into trouble.
That wasn't really an issue for the sophomore ace: Despite allowing leadoff hits in the first two innings and two doubles and a run in the second, Shore was effective all night, scattering 10 hits and striking out eight in his first complete game as a Gator, and Florida's bats stayed warm enough from the earlier contest for a comfortable 8-1 win. Florida batted around in the bottom of the first, scoring five runs and recording seven hits; Shore didn't need any of the three insurance runs that would come later.
On Saturday, though, Florida found itself in a rubber game tussle. The Gators struck first, with a run in the bottom of the fourth, and things see-sawed through the middle innings from there: Alabama tied the game in the top of the fifth; Florida took back the lead with two runs in the bottom of the frame; the Tide's Max Haynie clouted a two-run homer in a three-run sixth.
It was in the late innings when Florida took control: Jeremy Vasquez hit his second home run of the series on a full count with two outs in the seventh to tie the affair, and Florida scored three runs on two hits in the bottom of the eighth to take the lead for good. Sophomore A.J. Puk, who entered in relief of starter Dane Dunning in the sixth, was almost perfect, allowing just one hit and one walk in 3.1 innings of work, while striking out five; his reward was the win in the 7-4 game, and, quite possibly, a swift return to the weekend rotation.
Florida softball wins weird series despite walk-off loss
By Sunday, Florida softball had its series win at Mississippi State wrapped up. The Gators had held off the Bulldogs in a 3-2 game on Friday night, and pounded Mississippi State pitching in a 16-2 laugher on Saturday.
The way that game ended — in a 5-3 loss — will give Florida plenty to remember.
The Gators struck early, scoring two runs in the top of the first, and would add a third run in the top of the seventh. But Mississippi State rallied in their final frame of play, and sophomore Caroline Seitz blasted a three-run walk-off homer to give the Bulldogs a stunning 5-3 win.
This was the Gators' second such failure to finish off an SEC foe on the road for a sweep in as many weeks, though no one would confuse the Alabama team that erupted on Florida in Tuscaloosa last weekend for the Bulldogs, who improved to 5-7 in SEC play with their Sunday victory. And this Game 3 loss, despite Aleshia Ocasio letting up five runs in the bottom of the seventh, is mostly on Florida's offense, which left 11 runners on base, with three Gators — Nicole DeWitt, Taylore Fuller, and Taylor Schwarz — combining for 10 of those missed opportunities.
Florida's still unquestionably among the nation's best softball outfits, and the Gators' performance against a withering schedule to date has been more than good enough to position Tim Walton's team for a national seed and a return to Oklahoma City for the Women's College World Series. But with pitching and offense that each occasionally go on the fritz, this team is clearly not the unstoppable juggernaut that it appeared to be over its 28-0 rampage to start the season — and that means there's plenty for Walton to work on over SEC play, when he's not getting ice cream with Dan Mullen.
Florida lacrosse trounces Temple
Florida's nascent powerhouse of a women's lacrosse program had hit a lull midway through March. The Gators had lost three straight matches for the first time since the program's first year of existence. And though two of the losses were by one goal, and all three were to ranked outfits, it felt like Florida was floundering.
Two weeks later, that feeling is gone. After dusting Vanderbilt last weekend by a 19-10 count, the Gators continued Big East play with an even more convincing 17-3 win over Temple in Philadelphia on Saturday. Shannon Gilroy paced Florida with four goals, Carly Ross and Devon Schneider added three each, and the Gators outshot Temple by a staggering 40-14 count in the victory.
The win was special for coach Amanda O'Leary, who helped lead Temple to an undefeated national championship season in 1988, but it also re-establishes Florida as the top team in the Big East. Temple had been 8-1, and the only team in the league with either eight wins or fewer than three losses; the Gators merely drubbed the conference's best team by 14 goals on the road.
The Big East was never going to be as challenging for Florida as the American Lacrosse Conference, which Florida joined while Northwestern was in the midst of the best stretch of play in the history of the sport and left, upon the conference's 2014 dissolution, with twice as many regular season conference titles as the Wildcats over their five years in the league together. But if Temple's the best the Big East can offer, Florida may be a lonely power for a while.
Tennis teams take Saturday matches
It was a relatively quiet weekend on the court for Florida's tennis teams. The Florida women continued their perfect SEC campaign with a 4-0 sweep of South Carolina on Saturday, while Florida's men swept the singles points in a 4-1 win at Auburn.
The Gators women are alone atop the SEC, with a perfect 9-0 conference record, but Georgia and Vanderbilt each sport 8-1 marks, and Florida will meet both teams in early April. Florida's men moved into a three-way tie for third in the SEC with LSU and Mississippi by improving their SEC record to 5-3 on Saturday.
Track teams in gear ahead of Florida Relays
I won't pretend to know or care all that much about Florida's track teams' performances at the Texas Relays and UCF Invitational over the weekend — feel free to read more here — but the Florida Relays are next weekend, from April 2 to 4, at the Percy Beard Track Complex, and you should go for at least a little while. Yes, you.