Notebook: Gymnasts don’t mind sharing
Published: Monday, April 21, 2014 at 3:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 21, 2014 at 3:31 p.m.
Twice was definitely nice for the Florida gymnastics team.
Who: Jacksonville (13-25) at No. 6 Florida (27-13)
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: McKethan Stadium
Notes: The Gators are 18-6 at home this season. … Gators have won six consecutive games. … Junior catcher Taylor Gushue led the Gators with a .538 (7-for-13) batting average in wins last week over Florida Gulf Coast and a series sweep of Georgia. … Freshman pitcher Kirby Snead, a Santa Fe High School product, tossed 6.1 scoreless innings over two appearances last week.
Pitching matchup: Jacksonville right-hander Justin Russell (4-2, 4.22) vs. UF righty Karsten Whitson (1-0, 4.29).
Quoting UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan: “We’re six games above .500 in SEC play, it was certainly a very good weekend for us.”
The top-seeded Gators racked up a share of the 2014 NCAA title, their second in a row, by tying No. 2 seed Oklahoma, last year's NCAA runner-up, for this year's crown Saturday night.
It was the first tie in the 33-year history of the event (1982-present) as both teams posted scores of 198.175 in the Super Six competition, the highest winning total in NCAA Championship history.
The score broke the previous mark of 198.125 recorded by 2004 champion UCLA.
“What an incredible weekend,” coach Rhonda Faehn said. “I was so proud of all our athletes. They competed their hearts out and really put together the best weekend of gymnastics that we've done all year. They just left it all out there on the floor, and the results couldn't have been any better.”
One year after Florida joined UCLA, Alabama, Georgia and Utah as the only programs to win NCAA titles, Oklahoma, led by coach K.J. Kindler, also joined the list.
“It was a great way to share the title, with Oklahoma, and welcome them to the championship group,” Faehn said. “K.J. and I are very similar. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her. We've known each other for a long time, we're both from Minnesota, and we both have small children. There are so many parallels in our lives.
“She's very similar to me in having a hard work ethic and just believing that all the work we put in will pay off. She's done a tremendous job.”
For the third straight year, a UF athlete also brought home an individual event title, as sophomore All-American Bridget Sloan, the 2013 NCAA all-around and balance beam champion, added the 2014 NCAA uneven bars title to her impressive list of accomplishments Sunday.
“The individual event finals was a wonderful competition,” Faehn said. “I always love that opportunity because it's the best of the best that qualify for that. The athletes are out there competing right beside one another, so they're really just appreciating great gymnastics across the board and cheering for one another. It's a really nice environment.”
The Gators will head to postseason play on a seven-match winning streak after claiming their fourth straight American Lacrosse Conference regular-season title with an exciting 13-12 win over seven-time NCAA champion and fifth-ranked Northwestern on the road Saturday.
The ALC crown is the third outright for UF (15-2, 6-0), which will return to the same Lakeside Field site in Evanston, Ill., as the No. 1 seed for the ALC Tournament May 1-4.
Following their big win, the Gators, whose only ALC Tournament title came at home in 2012, moved up to the No. 3 spot in the latest IWLCA poll released Monday.
“It was a fantastic game Saturday against Northwestern,” coach Amanda O'Leary said. “They're a tremendous program and had beaten the No. 1 team in the country (defending NCAA champion North Carolina), so for us to go in there and come out with a victory is a testament to the hard work that our players have put in over the course of the season.”
The win continued what has been a stellar year for a young UF team that had to replace 13 seniors, many of whom were four-year starters and helped build the program into a national power.
“We'll start focusing back on the basics at this point,” O'Leary said. “You always want them to peak at the right time, but again it's a young team and we hope that they have some more learning, growing and maturing to do. There's a lot of unknowns.
“Our focus right now is the ALC Tournament and heading back to Northwestern and trying to accomplish that second part of the championship.”
Senior third baseman Stephanie Tofft was named SEC Player of the Week.
Tofft batted .700 (7 for 10) with six runs scored, one double, three home runs and 10 RBI in UF’s three-game sweep of the Aggies. Tofft homered in every game of the series, and recorded her second five-RBI game of the season on Saturday. She leads the Gators with 51 RBI and 19 in SEC play, and is tied with Kirsti Merritt for the team lead with six home runs in conference games.
Florida will host South Florida at 6 p.m. Wednesday.