Butler 'plants a seed' with NCAA tourney talk


Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 12:17 a.m.

In this space last week, I broached the topic of the Florida women's basketball team's NCAA Tournament chances.

Evidently, there were others who were thinking the same thing. Like, the Gators themselves.

Florida's coaching staff met last week and decided to address the NCAA Tournament to their team. So, head coach Amanda Butler stood before her team prior to Sunday's win at South Carolina and let the Gators know what opportunities lie before them.

Associate head coach Susie Gardner said the decision to talk about making the NCAAs was a gamble, but the coaches wanted to "plant a seed."

"We decided to go ahead and talk to our players about it and make sure they are talking about it in the locker room and in the dorms," Gardner said. "As a coaching staff, you take that chance. Do you put that added pressure on a team? Can they handle success? We felt like we had nothing to lose by telling them."

The Gators enter Thursday's game against Vanderbilt in the O'Connell Center with a 13-6 record and a 3-2 mark in the SEC. The Gators' RPI is 51st in the country, but could get a boost from beating the Commodores (14-6, 3-2), whose RPI is 33rd.

Gardner said she scanned the room when Butler talked about the NCAA Tournament, but didn't notice much of a reaction.

"There was not a reaction. I did not get a sense for what they're thinking," Gardner said. "I think behind the scenes it has come up in conversation. I heard Depree Bowden is talking about it and that is important. If she is talking about it, that means other people are listening to her."

O'Sullivan looking to shape staff

Florida's baseball team will begin practice Friday with a good idea of what it's starting rotation will look like, coach Kevin O'Sullivan said this week.

"We've certainly got some guys who have emerged as candidates for the weekend rotation," O'Sullivan said. "Our biggest goal right now is making sure we solidify our pitching staff."

O'Sullivan is hoping sophomore Kyle Mullaney, of Jacksonville, will become the team's Friday night starter. O'Sullivan also will look at sophomore Billy Bullock, freshman Tommy Toledo and junior Stephen Locke as possible starters.

Mullaney took over as Florida's Friday night starter late in the year and finished the season with a 4-2 record and a 4.25 ERA.

"The one guy I always mention is Kyle Mullaney," O'Sullivan said. "He's really consistent, throws three pitches for strikes and works fast. He's a competitor. He's a guy we're looking for for possibly a Friday night role."

The Gators are hoping Locke returns to his freshman form when he helped lead the team to Omaha in 2005 before undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Toledo is another unknown for Florida. A true freshman, Toledo has yet to throw a collegiate pitch. But he is a highly regarded talent who came to Florida after turning down money from the San Diego Padres, who drafted Toledo in the third round of last summer's draft.

Nice surprise for women's tennis

Florida's fourth-ranked tennis team got a boost recently when highly rated freshman Julia Cohen joined the team and instantly became the team's No. 1 singles player.

All that did was make people forget about the talent of another newcomer sophomore Marrit Boonstra from the Netherlands.

Boonstra launched her collegiate career last week in style. She did not drop a single game in a pair of wins at the No. 5 singles position.

"She's sort of flying under the radar, which I think suits her," Gators coach Roland Thornqvist said. "But wow, what a player. She's tall and she can move like a cat."

The Gators' match against No. 29 South Florida today at the Ring Tennis Complex has been postponed and will be played on Feb. 12.

This and that

Florida's gymnastics team fell two spots to No. 3 in Tuesday's GymInfo top 25. The poll began ranking teams based on season average this week instead of season high score. Georgia is No. 1 and Utah No. 2. ... Former Gator baseball pitcher Chris Knollin (1995-97) is the new head baseball coach at Morton College in Cicero, Ill. .... Florida's softball team was ranked No. 13 in the USA TODAY/NFCA coaches preseason poll.

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