Notebook: UF women host St. John’s tonight


Florida coach Amanda Butler and her Gators take on St. John’s tonight at the O'Connell Center.

Brett Le Blanc/Correspondent
Published: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 10:45 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 10:45 a.m.

The Florida women's basketball team will look to get back on the winning track tonight when the Gators (3-2) host St. John's (4-0) in the O'Connell Center at 7.

UF is coming off a hard-fought 76-68 home loss to undefeated Florida State (4-0) Thursday.

“It was a really tough battle with Florida State as it always is,” coach Amanda Butler said. “It was disappointing to come up short, but there were some really good individual performances to highlight.

“January Miller was definitely an offensive spark for us. We saw some great things from her, and another double-double from Ronni Williams, who just continues to make the excitement build for what lies ahead for her.”

Miller, a sophomore guard from Orlando who was named the Most Improved Player by the coaching staff at the end of last season, came off the bench to score a career-high 19 points, while Williams, a 2013 McDonald's All-American, finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

The Gators face another unbeaten opponent tonight in the Red Storm, led by sophomore forward Aliyyah Handford who is averaging 25.8 points and 10 rebounds a game.

Senior point guard and former P. K. Yonge standout Jaterra Bonds (17.2 ppg) leads the way for UF.

“We've got a really, really tough St. John's team coming in here,” Butler said. “They've got a very high-powered offense and some individual scorers who are really, really impressive.”

UF travels to the Bahamas this weekend to play in the 2013 Junkaroo Jam. The Gators will take on Illinois State Friday at 1 p.m. and will face either Oregon State or No. 12 Penn State Saturday, either at 11:30 a.m. (if lose) or 1:45 p.m. (if win).

SOCCER

It's never easy to see your season end, but coach Becky Burleigh is feeling good about the future after her young squad fell to homestanding Duke last Friday night in a second-round NCAA game.

The Blue Devils (10-8-5), who went on to advance to the NCAA quarterfinals with a third-round penalty-kick win over Arkansas, scored in the 21st minute against UF and made it stand up for 1-0 upset of the sixth-ranked Gators.

“I was proud of our team's commitment to stick to our game plan and work hard to get the equalizer,” Burleigh said. “But that never came.”

The Gators (18-5-1, 9-2) captured a share of the SEC Championship this year, which turned out to be the only one for UF's four fall sports (football, volleyball, soccer and cross country).

Though the Gators lose four seniors in Caroline Triglia, Haley Reeb, Tiffany Travis and Maggie Rodgers, they will return the vast majority of this year's team and just about every starter.

“The future of this team is bright,” Burleigh said. “It's hard for those four seniors to end like that, but their contribution to our team culture in terms of the way they handled the season is big.”

In related news, junior first-team All-SEC midfielder and former Buchholz standout Havana Solaun, who suffered a torn ACL in the SEC Tournament championship game, had successful surgery Monday.

VOLLEYBALL

While No. 6 Florida and No. 17 Kentucky might be relegated to finishing second and third, respectively, in this year's SEC race, this Top-25 battle in Lexington Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the final regular-season match for both teams still carries some serious weight.

“They're a team that is fighting for the best possible seed in the NCAA Tournament, much like the Gators,” coach Mary Wise said. “Even though neither team can win a conference title, both teams have a lot to play for come Wednesday night.”

The Gators (26-3, 15-2) are coming off a 3-0 Senior Night sweep of LSU Friday, a match that concluded a demanding nine-day stretch in which Florida played five times.

The Wildcats (21-7, 13-4), meanwhile, lost 3-0 Sunday at home on Senior Day to No. 4 Missouri (33-0, 17-0), the 2013 SEC champions.

The NCAA Tournament selection show will be televised Sunday night at 9:30 on ESPNU.

“Right now, it's all about Kentucky,” Wise said. “That won't change until after Wednesday night's match.”

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