VETTEL: Women's Sports Weekly

Saturday's loss to Tennessee not only cost the Gators an SEC Tournament Championship; it might force Florida to play its first NCAA Tournament first round match away from home for just the second time ever.

Florida is now sitting pretty much on the border where the top 16 teams are likely to host NCAA first and second round matchups. Joining Florida on that border are Tennessee and Florida A&M. The Vols seem certain to host because the NCAA loves to reward teams for making a move into the upper echelon of a sport. FAMU likely did not bid, but the Rattlers are a most dangerous team comprised almost exclusively of experienced European players, many of whom look more like parents than college kids.

It's hard to see FAMU hosting, but they could be seeded above UF if sent to Gainesville. The Gators, on the other hand, could be ticketed to Knoxville or Austin. Florida needs to win their matches in New York this weekend, then wait and see if Florida's remarkable NCAA history gives them the benefit of the doubt. That would mean Florida at home and that scary FAMU team being sent to Knoxville or Austin instead.

I have had several inquiries as to what went wrong for the Gator volleyball team this year. The answer is absolutely nothing. Mary Wise has guided a team over-reliant on freshmen to a superb season including a fourteenth straight SEC title. Florida has lost four games, which is a huge number for UF, but I dread the day Florida has to apologize for going 25-4. Three of the four losses were five game matches and all four were against ranked opponents.

The only legit criticism might be that the past two recruiting classes did not deliver as much as hoped for, forcing this year's freshmen to play too much too early and that would be legit. But a big reason for that is the torn ACL injury suffered by Amber McCray.

No matter how the bids and sites shake out, look for Florida to be a very tough out come tournament time.

2005 Looking Good For Gator Soccer

The Gator Soccer team will need some time to get over its stunning first round loss to UCF in the NCAA Tournament. The loss put a huge damper on a very good season for the Gators, highlighted by Florida's seventh SEC Tournament title. A 16-4-3 record improves Coach Becky Burleigh's mark to 185-43-11 in her ten years of building the Gator program.

Florida's biggest challenge in 2005 will be replacing the scoring tandem of Stephanie Freeman (17 goals) and Ashley Kellgren (6 goals, 11 assists). They'll also miss Monica Hoyles and Christine Johnson, but everyone else will be back.

The main scoring burden will fall on KeLeigh Hudson (5 goals, 4 assists) Melanie Booth (2 goals, 5 assists) and Cherry Pickman (4 goals, 6 assists). Freshmen Jasmine Johnson, Daniela Sanchez and Nikita Waller showed excellent promise this season as did defender Liz Ruberry who inexplicably was left off the SEC All-Freshman team.

At goalkeeper, Jen Gardner took over about a third of the way into the season and posted 7 shutouts in 15 games. Not bad for a player who was redshirted in 2001 after a torn ACL, played sparingly as a defender and midfielder for the next two seasons and the first half of this one, only to end up in goal.

Not A Great Start For Women's Hoops

Life after Vanessa Hayden doesn't look to appealing after one game for the Gator women's basketball team. Florida could not establish an inside threat against an FSU team which had no real size and lost its season opener to the 'Noles, 72-62, Monday night. Florida's three-headed post player (Brittany Davis, Delila Eshe and Briana Phillips) managed a total of eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 44 minutes. That won't get it done.

Florida did make it interesting, igniting a 19-2 run late in the 2nd half to turn a 24-point blowout into a seven-point barn burner but it was too little too late. I liked the back court play of Tishona Gregory and Danielle Santos, and it's pretty much a given Bernice Mosby and Tamia Williams won't often repeat their combined 4-for-20 shooting, but productivity in the paint has to be found.


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