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#SundayEverythingSchool: Florida tennis teams win SEC tourney, lacrosse takes Big East

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Winning three conference titles (sort of) on one day seems okay.

@GatorsMTN

Some athletic programs might have relatively quiet Sundays when their No. 2 baseball team is off and their No. 1 softball team is merely finishing out a series it had already won against an unranked team.

Yet on this Sunday, the Florida Gators collected three conference titles. (Sort of.)

Florida's men's and women's tennis teams each defeated Georgia on Sunday in South Carolina to win their respective SEC Tournaments, and the Florida lacrosse team captured its second consecutive Big East title with a 13-8 win over UConn in Gainesville.

None of those titles will count toward Florida's SEC-leading 228 conference titles, as the school only counts regular season triumphs in that tally, and a Big East title obviously isn't an SEC pennant. But all three are fine accomplishments for programs that have had up-and-down recent histories.

Consider:

  • Florida's women's tennis team, the only one of these three programs with a national championship to its name, has been rebounding since the graduation of Lauren Embree, and fell to an unheard-of No. 13 in the nation after losing 4-3 matches to No. 1 Cal and perennial power Stanford on the West Coast earlier this season.

    All the Gators have done since then is blitz the SEC, winning every match against conference competition this spring without ever needing a decisive seventh point and dropping just 11 points in 16 matches — two of them 6-1 affairs in which Florida would have won 4-0.

    The Gators' regular season conference crown was their 29th; every other SEC team combined has 12. Florida's SEC Tournament title, earned with a 4-2 win over Georgia on Sunday, is the Gators' 20th, which is also more than twice as many as the rest of the conference put together.

  • Florida's men's tennis team has long played second fiddle to Georgia in the SEC, much like Georgia's women's team has played second fiddle to the Gators women. Bryan Shelton took over the team in 2012, a year after Andy Jackson coached the Gators to their only SEC Tournament title since 2005, and had significant rebuilding work to do.

    His team is well on its way to establishing a foundation for national contention. Florida hasn't lost to a team outside the national top 15 this year, and placed second to Georgia in the SEC's regular season standings before repaying the Dawgs for a loss in Athens with a victory on Sunday in the SEC Tournament final.

    Next up for Florida? An NCAA Tournament in which they will have their best chance under Shelton to make it out of the round of 16 for the first time since 2005.

  • Florida's women's lacrosse team, meanwhile, has had arguably the best season of the three programs. After losing Shannon Gilroy and Nora Barry to graduation, the precocious Gators have established a death grip on the No. 2 spot in the national polls, having lost only to No. 1 Maryland and defeated top-six outfits North Carolina, Syracuse, and Stony Brook, each in dramatic one-goal games on the road.

    Sunday's 13-8 victory over UConn, meanwhile, just assured the Gators of their second straight Big East title, a somewhat lesser feat for a program set up to dominate the conference for years to come. Florida's dominance of the Big East was the expected outcome of realignment that shunted the Gators to the league prior to the 2015 season — but, then again, given that Florida won four straight American Lacrosse Conference titles despite entering the now-defunct league at the height of Northwestern's dynasty, maybe it doesn't matter so much which conference the Gators vie for.

    Florida's path to an NCAA Tournament final rematch with Maryland should run through Gainesville, as the Gators are likely to be the tournament's No. 2 seed: Only Maryland and North Carolina have better RPIs, and while the Terrapins are a lock for No. 1, Florida's head-to-head win in Chapel Hill should give them the edge for No. 2 over the Tar Heels.

We'll have much more on the weekend in Florida sports on Monday.