UF notebook: Women's basketball team building
Published: Monday, March 31, 2014 at 4:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 31, 2014 at 4:27 p.m.
The Florida women's basketball team may have fallen in the second round of the NCAA tournament to 14th-ranked Penn State on the Nittany Lions' home floor, but the Gators will take a lot of momentum into the offseason after a successful year that included a fifth-place SEC finish (best since 2008-09) and their fourth straight 20-win campaign under seventh-year coach Amanda Butler.
Who: Florida Atlantic (15-12) at No. 13 Florida (19-9).
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Of note: Florida is coming off posting a three-game sweep of then-No. 8 LSU, which also was accomplished in 1996, 2010 and 2011. … UF also defeated No. 1 FSU last Tuesday. “It was certainly a great week for us, playing some really, really good teams,” UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. … Junior right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson (1-0, 5.65) is scheduled to start for the Gators.
“We have a lot of things to celebrate and a lot of things to grow from,” Butler said.“There were a lot of lessons learned, and a very, very bright future with the young ladies who are joining us and are going to help us make strides and continue to be better.”
UF loses a pair of senior standouts in former P. K. Yonge star and first-team All-SEC selection Jaterra Bonds as well as classmate Lily Svete, but everyone else from this year's squad that went 20-13 is expected to return and will be joined by a highly rated, four-member recruiting class.
“This group had amazing role models in Jaterra and Lily in how you display loyalty, how you approach challenges and how you ultimately be a Gator,” Butler said. “I think there's an amazing amount of confidence that can be drawn from the returners and what they did and how they handled things and how tough they were, building on their talents and really trusting one another.”
MEN'S SWIMMING & DIVING
The Gators capped an outstanding season that included their second straight SEC title with a third-place finish at this year's NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas.
It was UF's first top-three finish since 1991 and first for the Gator men under coach Gregg Troy, who took over the program before the 1999-2000 season and has led them to top-10 finishes every year.
“The men finished up what we felt was a tremendous season from the standpoint of what we were able to accomplish this year,” Troy said. “Maybe we fell a little bit short of our ultimate goal, but we made a whole lot of other ones along the way. I'm just tremendously proud of how well they raced and how they approached the competition.”
Senior Marcin Cieslak won a pair of NCAA titles (200 individual medley and 100 butterfly) en route to totaling 57 points and earning the meet's high-point award to lead the UF effort.
No. 4 UF sits atop the regular-season American Lacrosse Conference standings following a 13-9 home win over No. 11 Penn State on Sunday.
Florida, which has won or shared the last three ALC titles, is 12-2 overall and 3-0 in league play heading into Saturday's noon game at No. 9 Johns Hopkins (10-1, 1-1).
Considering UF's youth after losing 13 seniors from last year's squad, many of whom were starters throughout the program's first four years, the 2014 Gators have even surprised coach Amanda O'Leary.
“I can't say enough about this team,” she said. “If you had asked me in the fall what I thought, I would have been pleased with maybe a .500 record. This team has really gone above and beyond the expectations, and I don't think they expect anything less at this point. We've got to keep this going.”
Top-ranked Florida begins defense of the program's first NCAA title at the Penn State Rec Hall in University Park, Pa., Saturday at 4 p.m. in one of six, six-team regional competitions.
The Gators are the only team in their regional field to have advanced to the 2013 NCAA Championships.
Joining UF will be No. 12 Oregon State, No. 15 and host Penn State, No. 23 New Hampshire, No. 29 Kentucky and No. 36 Maryland.
“So far, we've had a really great week of training,” coach Rhonda Faehn said. “We have a few more practices before we take off on Thursday and will have a day of training to get used to the setting. It's going to be just the start of the most incredible set of events going on through the rest of the season that our whole team has been looking forward to this whole year.”
TRACK & FIELD
Both the UF men and women turned in impressive efforts at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in Austin this past weekend.
Leading the way was the men's 4X100 relay squad of Antwan Wright, Hugh Graham, Jr., Arman Hall and Dedric Dukes who set a new American record of 38.29 with their winning performance.
The meet-record mark was the third-best in collegiate history and second-fastest in the world this year.
“I think overall when you look at the weekend, the men and women both went into a great meet with great competition and everybody put their best foot forward,” coach Mike Holloway said. “I'm very proud of the efforts of everybody who put on the uniform this weekend.”
Next up, UF hosts the prestigious Florida Relays this Thursday through Saturday at the Percy Beard Track.