Notebook: Butler excited for next season
Published: Monday, April 15, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 12:01 a.m.
A strong effort that saw her young team reach the semifinals of the Women's NIT, equaling the program's best postseason finish in history, has women's head basketball coach Amanda Butler looking ahead to next season.
UF, which fell to eventual WNIT champion Drexel 67-57 in Philadelphia April 3, was the last of the 11 SEC women's teams that reached the postseason (seven NCAA, four WNIT) to still be playing, finishing 22-15 overall with a team that loses only one senior, Jennifer George.
“We're just really excited and are already talking about next year,” Butler said. “We just have a lot of positives to dwell on and build on, and that's where all of our energy is right now.”
In addition to returning all eight of the other letterwinners from this past season headlined by junior Jaterra Bonds and freshman sensation Sydney Moss, the Gators will welcome four very talented players that had to sit out due to injury or transfer rules in redshirt freshmen Viktorija Dimaite and Cassie Peoples as well as freshmen Chandler Cooper and Antoinette Bannister.
This summer, UF will welcome 2013 McDonald's All-American Ronni Williams from Port Orange Atlantic High School, the state's No. 1 recruit who is ranked No. 13 nationally (ESPN) and is the highest-rated player to ever sign with the program.
WOMEN'S GOLF: First-year head coach Emily Bastel is excited about her team's chances of bringing home UF's first league title since 2008 at this weekend's SEC Championships.
UF last competed as a team at the Bryan National Collegiate Mar. 29-31, finishing fifth.
“We have high expectations,” Bastel said. “We've gone back and forth with a lot of the top SEC schools this year in tournaments, beating them and vice-versa, so I think it's going to be a really exciting championship. There's a lot of teams that can play well, and we're definitely one of them.”
This is the first year that the SEC Tournament will be held at a neutral site, with this year's tourney taking place at the Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., Friday through Sunday.
Second-ranked Alabama, the defending NCAA champion, is the favorite, but fifth-ranked Arkansas, No. 7 Florida and No. 9 Vanderbilt all bring top-10 rankings into this year's event.
WOMEN'S TENNIS: After grabbing a share of the 2013 regular season title with road wins at Kentucky and Vanderbilt over the weekend — the 27th SEC title in 34 years of competition for UF — the second-ranked Gators (19-2, 12-1) head to Starkville, Miss., for the SEC Tournament.
Play begins Wednesday, with UF's first match Friday at 6 p.m. against the winner of the match between Vanderbilt and the victor of the Kentucky-LSU contest.
Four of the nation's top eight squads (UF, No. 3 Texas A&M, No.4 Georgia, No. 8 Alabama) headline what will be a very tough field.
“There's no question we could go to this tournament and you could lose in the semifinals and still be a national championship caliber team,” head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “That's the quality of the field at this event.”
MEN'S TENNIS: No. 17 Florida capped the regular season with an SEC home sweep over the weekend, taking down No. 8 Kentucky, 4-3, Friday and following up with a 4-1 win over No. 13 Vanderbilt Sunday on Senior Day.
“We were excited about the weekend,” first-year head coach Bryan Shelton. “A couple of weeks ago, we were looking at four tough matches, and we ended up winning three out of four matches over teams that were all ranked inside the top 15, including two top-10 teams. It's always good to finish strong.”
UF (14-9, 7-5), which has won three matches in a row and five of its last six, will hope to carry that momentum into this week's SEC Tournament in Oxford, Miss., that begins Wednesday.
The Gators, the No. 3 seed, do not play until Friday at 10 a.m. when they take on the winner of the LSU-South Carolina match.