UF notebook: Gymnasts up to challenge
Published: Monday, January 13, 2014 at 5:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 13, 2014 at 5:05 p.m.
After surviving a strong challenge from homestanding, No. 4 UCLA Saturday night by the narrowest margin (0.025) possible in a 196.65-196.625 win in the season-opener, preseason No. 1 and defending NCAA champion Florida (1-0) opens SEC action on the road at No. 18 Auburn this Friday night at 8.
The Tigers (1-0) also won their season opener, downing Texas Women's University 194.875-189.825 last Friday in front of a crowd of 5,032 at the Auburn Arena, the site of this week's meet.
“I really thought we had a great opening meet,” coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It's always a challenge because you're starting out with so many new routines and new things, and having to do it under a really high-pressure situation. I thought our team responded very well.”
As expected early in the year, there were mistakes and misses, but all in all, Faehn noted there was plenty to be pleased with, starting with the performance of junior All-American Kytra Hunter who captured both the all-around (39.375) and floor exercise (9.925) titles as UF opened the season on the road for the first time since 2010.
“Kytra did a phenomenal job,” Faehn said. “She did amazing on all the events. Her scores don't really reflect how well she performed. I really attribute that to her fall training. She's been very disciplined day-in and day-out. She trains very efficiently and effectively.”
UF hopes to use a midweek bye to put Sunday's 82-68 road loss to No. 12 LSU in the rear-view mirror.
The Gators (13-4, 3-1), who had their nine-game winning streak ended, will try and start a new one when league rival Georgia (12-5, 0-4) comes calling at the O'Connell Center at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“It was just a regular week in the SEC,” coach Amanda Butler said of Florida's 1-1 slate that included a 59-52 home win over No. 25 Arkansas on Thursday prior to Sunday's loss.
“There were a lot of things to be encouraged by, and a lot of things to grow from. It was just a tough week, but that's every week in this league.”
A slow start by UF and a huge rebounding edge (50-29) by LSU were key in Sunday's loss, although redshirt junior Kayla Lewis had an outstanding effort with a 15-point, 17-rebound double-double.
“The problem was Kayla grabbed 17 rebounds, which is amazing for anyone at any point in the season – especially on somebody else's home floor in the SEC – but the next person only had three,” Butler said. “So that's where the issue was.”
SWIMMING & DIVING
The UF men's and women's teams return to the pool by competing at two venues this weekend.
Nine members of the No. 3 Florida men's team (eight swimmers and one diver) will travel to Dallas, Texas, for the SMU Classic on Friday and Saturday, when they will compete against some of the nation's other top teams, including defending NCAA champion Michigan, Purdue, SMU, Southern Cal and North Carolina.
The remainder of the men as well as the fifth-ranked UF women's team will stay home and take on Florida Atlantic in a dual meet in the O'Connell Center beginning Saturday at 1 p.m.
“It gives a chance to see our athletes in a much more controlled setting,” coach Gregg Troy said of the two-day men's meet in Dallas. “It's a little bit similar to a championship meet at the end of the year because you swim two evenings.
“Overall, these meets give us a chance to see what's happened the last two weeks and make some adjustments as needed.”
UF opens its 2014 dual-match season Jan. 25 when the Gators host the ITA Kickoff Classic, a feeder event for the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
UF, which is ranked No. 2 in the ITA National preseason rankings, will take on Louisville in its opening match at 10 a.m. while Missouri meets Harvard in the other first-round match in Gainesville, The consolation and final matches are the following day.
This year's seven-member team features three seniors in Olivia Janowicz, Alexandra Cercone and Sofie Oyen. The other four players are all underclassmen in sophomore Brianna Morgan and freshmen Kourtney Keegan, Belinda Woolcock and Stefani Stojic.
Six Gators (all but Stojic) are ranked among the nation's top 40.
“This team is going to be very interesting to manage,” coach Roland Thornqvist said. “This is the first time in a long time that we've had six players who are very even in their ability.”