Notebook: UF men swimmers set for NCAAs
Published: Monday, March 24, 2014 at 4:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 24, 2014 at 4:47 p.m.
The top-ranked Florida men's swimming and diving team, fresh off winning the SEC title for the second straight year last month, heads to Austin, Texas, for the NCAA Championships Thursday through Saturday.
Who: Florida (15-9) vs. No. 1 Florida State (19-4)
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Baseball Grounds in Jacksonville.
TV: Sun Sports. Radio: 103.7-FM
Of note: UF defeated then-No. 2 FSU 3-1 at McKethan Stadium last Tuesday. The teams conclude the three-game series April 8 in Tallahassee. … FSU moved into the top spot of the Baseball America College Top 25 rankings Monday for the first time since May 21, 2012. … UF junior catcher Taylor Gushue (team-leading .349, 18 RBI) went 7-for-11 (.636) in the weekend series loss at Texas A&M. … The Gators will host No. 8 LSU (20-4-1/3-2-1 SEC) at McKethan Stadium this weekend. … Florida State holds a 125-102-1 (.550) advantage in the all-time series, while the Seminoles have a 10-8 (.556) edge at neutral sites.
The Gators qualified 14 swimmers and five relays for this year's meet and enter as one of the top favorites along with defending champion and No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 California, which won back-to-back national titles in 2011-12, and No. 4 and host Texas, the 2010 NCAA champ.
Florida last won an NCAA men's title 30 years ago in 1984, the second of back-to-back crowns.
“We haven't been in that situation lately,” coach Gregg Troy said. “All those 'favorite' things, that's all stuff on paper. It depends on how you do on the day of competition.
“We try to put our mind on what we want to do individually in our lane. If we take care of business in our lanes, the focus is correct and we do the things that we've practiced, we'll be fine.”
Leading the way will be a quartet of senior standouts in Sebastien Rousseau, Marcin Cieslak, Brad deBorde and Connor Signorin.
“When you've got guys that have been there before, you feel pretty comfortable that they're going to handle the pressure of the situation,” Troy said. “It's three days, and they know what to expect. They know what they're looking at, and that also rubs off on the younger guys. It gives you a lot of experience on relays, too. They've seen exchanges and they know what's going on, so it's a plus.”
After playing ranked opponents on all five road trips this season, the No. 4 Gators (10-2, 2-0) will finally get to play one at home when they host American Lacrosse Conference foe and No. 11 Penn State (6-3, 2-0) Sunday at noon at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
Prior to that, UF will make the short road trip to DeLand to face Stetson (0-11) Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The Gators, whose only losses have come at No.1 North Carolina and at No. 2 Syracuse, swept both games last week, downing a tough Dartmouth squad, 14-7, at home Tuesday and then going on the road and staging a come-from-behind, 10-9 win over No. 20 Ohio State in ALC action Saturday.
“It was a great week for us,” coach Amanda O'Leary said. “We came up against two formidable opponents and came out with wins against both, so I'm really proud of this team.
“Penn State is another tremendous opponent. They are a very, very good program, so it will be nice to see how our team responds at home.”
Fresh off a pair of 4-0 home sweeps over Auburn and Alabama this past weekend, the No. 16 Gators (9-6, 4-2), who went 4-1 on their season-high, five-match homestand, will try and carry that momentum with them as they face three consecutive road matches.
UF, which has moved up to fourth in the SEC standings, will face Arkansas (11-12, 1-6) Friday at 4 p.m. before taking on LSU (10-9, 1-6) Sunday at 2 p.m.
“I can't say enough about our fans who keep coming out and supporting us and really pushing us through this part of the season,” coach Bryan Shelton said. “Overall, I feel like our play is getting better. Our guys are starting to gather some momentum.
“We're going to face some tough opposition on the road now, and the fans won't be cheering for us, they'll be cheering against us. We'll have to collectively come together as a team and create our own energy out there on the court.”
TRACK & FIELD
With a pair of top-three NCAA Indoor finishes now behind them, the UF men and women begin gearing up for outdoor season in earnest when they compete at the annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in Austin Wednesday through Saturday.
A small contingent of hurdlers and middle-distance runners did compete last week at the FSU Relays in Tallahassee, but most of UF's top athletes will be making their outdoor debuts this week.
“We had some good performances last weekend at FSU, and it was a good way to get the season kicked off,” coach Mike Holloway said. “We go to Texas this weekend, and it's always a wonderful meet. They have a new coaching staff there and they've made some changes to the competition — the schedule and stuff like that — things that I think will just enhance the meet and make it even better.”
Florida received the top seed in the University Park Regional of the NCAA Gymnastics tournament April 5 at Penn State’s University Park. Also competing at the regional are Oregon State, Penn State, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Maryland.
The top two teams and the top two all-around competitors (who are not on an advancing team) from each regional will receive an automatic berth to the national championships in Birmingham, Ala., April 18-20.