Florida faces LSU in 8th annual Link to Pink meet
Published: Friday, February 21, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 11:33 p.m.
It's time again to Think Pink for the Florida gymnastics team.
Who: No. 3 LSU (7-2, 3-1 SEC) vs. No. 2 Florida (6-0, 4-0)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: O'Connell Center.
Tickets: $5 for adults; children 17 & under and UF students with Gator1 card admitted free.
The No. 2 Gators will host No. 3 LSU on Friday night at 7 in the O'Connell Center in the eighth edition of UF's Link to Pink meet.
The annual event in honor of breast cancer awareness is always one of the most popular for the Gators and one of the most meaningful to athletes and coaches alike.
“The team gets really pumped up for this Link to Pink meet,” sophomore Bridgette Caquatto said. “I've had my grandma and a couple of her sisters fight against breast cancer, so it means a lot to me to see all of the survivors come out, and it's for a really good cause.
“Of course, we love the color pink, so we'll have our pink leotards and warmups out there, and it's just a good feeling when you're on the floor competing for a good cause.”
Coach Rhonda Faehn could not agree more.
“It's going to be an incredible Friday, not only because it's for an incredible cause for the fight against breast cancer, but of course for just great gymnastics,” she said. “It's going to be very exciting for our athletes. We're thrilled.”
Coming into this season, five of UF's all-time top 10 gymnastics crowds had attended Link to Pink night, with two of them coming when LSU was the opponent including a meet-record mark of 9,198 in 2010 that currently ranks as the fourth-largest crowd in program history.
The Gators (6-0, 4-0) enter Friday's meet as the only SEC team unbeaten in dual meets this year, while the Tigers (7-2, 3-1) are right behind and knocked off UF in Baton Rouge last year, one of two dual-meet losses for the eventual NCAA champions.
“We're going to put together a lineup for this meet that we would consider similar to the lineup we'll have for postseason,” Faehn said. “We're still not sure of it 100 percent or of the order just yet, but we're working towards that, and I think it will be the closest thing so far this season.”
Of course, UF fans will be looking to see if the Gators, who enter the meet having recorded a single-season program record with five perfect scores, including at least one 10 in each of their last four meets, can produce more magic.
While that's a lofty goal, what Faehn wants to see is her team continue its weekly improvement as the all-important postseason approaches.
“I genuinely believe that if we do our gymnastics like we are capable of doing, we should win,” she said. “But we have to perform well.”
Sophomore Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto feels the Gators will deliver.
“I love the Link to Pink meet,” she said. “Last year, it was the first meet that I competed at, so it's really special to me. Just seeing such a big crowd come together for such a great cause, it's just amazing the vibe in the arena when you are competing. It's truly incredible.
“I want to be a doctor, so anything I can do to help fight breast cancer, I want to do, and just the fact that I can do it with my team and in front of such amazing fans is just exceptional.”
The first 2,000 fans Friday night will receive free Gators Link to Pink T-shirts, and the first 1,000 will also receive Link to Pink posters.
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.