Dooley: 10 of the best moments from Florida’s athletic year

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Florida's Jordan Matthews hits a walk-off three-run homer to give the Gators the 5-3 win over Texas A&M in the NCAA Super Regional on May 26 at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The win sent the Gators back to the Women's College World Series. [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent]

This is the University of Florida.

There are expectations that are out of this world whether it’s academics or athletics. Championships? The Gators have had a few.

This is Gainesville.

Some of us even expect the traffic lights to be synchronized. We are still surprised when the humidity makes us sweat when we check the mail and can’t believe it’s actually raining on a summer afternoon.

We all want so much. We want celebrations and confetti and 72 degrees all year and no traffic on Archer Road.

A little greedy? Sure.

Greed is good when it comes to the athletic landscape here in Gainesville. We expect nothing but the best.

Which is why a year where Florida made two World Series, the NCAA basketball tournament, won the SEC all-sports award again, won an NCAA title and will finish third in the nation in the all-sports standings once baseball numbers are added in is given a shrug.

Meh.

It wasn’t the best of years because we know what the best looks like. But there were still so many spectacular things that happened it’s difficult to limit any list.

Here are my top 10 moments from this academic year for Gator sports. I could give you a counter-list, the 10 worst moments, but nobody wants to relive the 2017 football season:

1. That just happened.

It’s a difficult pick for No. 1, but it had to be the walk-off, three-run homer that freshman Jordan Matthews hit to send Florida to Oklahoma City. It was the last at-bat before the UF stadium was renovated. OK, so maybe it wasn’t that tough a pick.

2. The bang from Lang.

That’s what UF radio announcer Jeff Cardozo called the walk-off homer that sent Florida to Omaha. Austin Langworthy, from nearby Williston, hit a shot that deflected off the glove of Auburn right-fielder Steven Williams to win what might have been the most intense game in McKethan Stadium history in the 11th inning. As a result, Florida went to the College World Series for the fourth straight year.

3. The heave to Cleve.

If this play had propelled Florida to another SEC East title, it night have been No. 1. At the time, it was perhaps the most exciting single play in the history of The Swamp. Feleipe Franks fired the ball down the field on the game’s final play against Tennessee to wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland — who was BEHIND THE DEFENSE! It was the highlight of a sad season.

4. The clean sweep

For the first time ever, Florida walked away with both big trophies at the SEC track and field championships in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Gators also won the national title in the NCAA indoors, so consider this a triple celebration.

5. Season to remember.

Florida’s volleyball team had a special season, losing only once heading into the NCAA Tournament. There, the Gators got all the way to the final, beating Stanford late at night 3-2 before losing to Nebraska.

6. Chiozza the thief.

There were a lot of great moments on the basketball court, but the one that stood out came in Columbia, Missouri early in the SEC season. Chris Chiozza stole the ball, dribbled the length of the court and dropped it in to give Florida a huge win. How many times did you watch it?

7. Caeleb Dressel has gills.

You pick the moment. Was it when Dressel became the first human to break 18 seconds in the 50 free at the NCAA meet or when he became the first human to break 40 seconds in the 100 free? Go ahead and choose.

8. The day of days.

It was Aug. 25 and football wasn’t quite here yet, but the campus was abuzz anyway. On that day, Florida beat the No. 1 team in volleyball (Texas) and the No. 1 team in soccer (Stanford). Anybody else?

9. Witnessing history.

Florida had a pair of sellouts last year in gymnastics and one of them was for defending champion Oklahoma. All the Gators did was win by the slimmest of margins against the nation’s No. 1 team. All Alex McMurtry did was become the first Gator to record two 10s in a single meet.

10. It’s a tie.

Let’s put all of these in the final spot so we don’t forget anything that happened:

• Jackson Kowar’s 13 strikeouts in a CWS elimination game win against Texas.

• The men’s golf team turning in a school record 42-under to win its NCAA regional led by individual champ Andy Zhang.

• Senior Day for Gator basketball that was the perfect send off with a rout of Kentucky.

• Florida winning its NCAA men’s tennis match on the final court with captain McClain Kessler winning the deciding match against Ole Miss to send the Gators to the Elite Eight.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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