Keep an eye on these 2 in spring semester
Published: Tuesday, January 4, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2005 at 12:34 a.m.
The spring semester at the University of Florida begins today. And with it comes a new season for 10 Gators sports programs.
Some teams will have the potential for great things, like Pat McMahon's baseball team, which is already ranked 22nd in the Collegiate Baseball poll. The late addition of junior college transfer pitcher Alan Horne, a former first round Major League pick, could mean even better things.
Speaking of promise, Florida's men's tennis team returns eight players from last year's team which made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The women's golf team, which finished in ninth place in the 2004 NCAA East Regional Championships, has the top freshman class, according to the Golfstat freshman impact ratings released in November.
Other programs have big questions like the women's tennis team, which must replace Alexis Gordon, one of the top singles players in the nation. Gordon left the team in the fall due to personal reasons.
Then there's Florida's softball team, which struggled last season after losing standout pitcher Jenny Gladding to a season-ending arm injury. Florida went 35-6 with Gladding and 6-14 after her injury. With Gladding now graduated, the Gators will move on this season without her.
But in between the good and bad, there will be two Florida programs worth keeping tabs on this spring. Two programs with realistic national title hopes. They are Mike Holloway's men's track and field team and Rhonda Faehn's gymnastics squad.
Florida's men's track team returns 10 athletes who combined to earn 22 All-American honors in leading Florida to the SEC Indoor title, the NCAA East Regional title and runner-up finishes at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championship meets last season. It was Florida's best season ever.
Meanwhile, down the road at the O'Connell Center, Faehn's gymnasts are ranked sixth in the GymInfo preseason poll. The Gators finished fifth nationally last season with a freshman-laden lineup. Now, Savannah Evans, Breanne King, Samantha Lutz, Katie Rue and Chantelle Tousek are all sophomores. And they will team with seniors Erinn Dooley, Kimberly Schatz and Orley Szmuch to comprise a formidable team.
Oh, and let's not forget a four-member freshman class that arrives with serious credentials, including Nicola Willis, who competed for Great Britain in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Florida will get a chance to see where it stacks up early. The Gators host the Super Six Challenge (vs. Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa and Penn State) Friday.
You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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