Larry Vettel's Women's Sports Weekly

Carolyn Peck's women's basketball team gets a chance to get even Sunday afternoon when they begin the holiday schedule at Baylor. The Bears beat the Gators twice last season, first knocking Florida off in Gainesville, 71-54 in a strange game which saw Florida players (other than Vanessa Hayden) combine to make just 8 of 49 shots. Then Baylor added injury to insult.

Despite playing without its best player, Stephanie Blackmon, Baylor smacked the Gators 91-76 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in New Mexico.

The Gators will try and earn a measure of revenge, but will be trying to do so without Hayden who averaged 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in the two games last season.

Baylor takes a 7-1 record into a Wednesday night game at Washington and enjoys a number six 6 ranking in the latest AP Poll. The Bears' only loss came to SEC power and top-ranked LSU by a single point opening day. Baylor has Blackmon back, and teamed with Sophia Young has an excellent tandem of forwards that cause match up nightmares. The two are combining for about 32 points and 16 rebounds a game.

Florida would love to have a healthy Tashia Moorhead back for this one, but it's not likely. Moorhead may play, but the 5-11 forward is far from 100 percent. She's hobbled by a bad ankle in addition to a quad muscle problem that has slowed her all year. The Gators are getting just five points and two rebounds from the senior, after Moorhead contributed 12 and six a year ago.

One plus for Peck and company lately has been improved play in the middle. Junior post players Brittany Davis (20) and Delila Eshe (10) combined for 30 points in the Gators' win over Oregon State Sunday. While it's unrealistic to think that tandem can produce similar numbers on a regular basis, perhaps it's a sign they will be doing more and more. On the year, Davis and Eshe are giving Florida 12.5 points and 7.7 rebounds from the post. If they can add about five of each come conference play, Florida will have a much better shot at finishing in the top half of the nation's strongest women's basketball league.

Orley Deserves a Smooch!

That's Florida gymnastics star Orley Szmuch (same pronunciation) I'm talking about. The senior from Los Angeles is building a lasting legacy at the University of Florida is and out of the competitive arena.

As an athlete, Szmuch made an immediate impact on UF as the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2002. She is a four-time All-American who has been a key to Florida's return to prominence under Rhonda Faehn. She earned three of the All-American honors last year in helping Florida to a fifth place finish at the NCAA Championships. Szmuch won seven individual event titles and was once chosen SEC gymnast of the week.

Last month she claimed a spot on the U.S. Team for next summer's World Maccabiah games, making her the third Gator gymnast to participate.

Away from the gym, Orley Szmuch wows just about everyone she meets as well. She received the Office of Student Life Community Service Award at UF and serves on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

You'll get a chance to see Szmuch, her teammates and dozen's of the nation's best gymnasts when Florida hosts the Super Six challenge on January 7.

Swimmers Taking a "Break"

Greg Troy's women's swim team is done with fall competition and will return to the pool January 7. That's the same day the gymnasts open the winter schedule at UF. Florida had a busy and productive fall season, which was capped off by a pair of victories at the US Open in San Antonio. Leah Retrum took first in the 200 butterfly, leading a UF sweep with teammates Rebecca Harper and Meredith Green. Vipa Bernhardt beat the field to the wall in the 200 breaststroke. Florida holds the number three spot in the latest polls and will take that ranking into the 2005 season. Keep those emails coming!

Don't forget to email me your questions and comments, but please do not include attachments! My email address is: .

I look forward to you joining me on the radio, Sunday nights from 6:00-to-8:00 on Gainesville's WSKY-FM 97.3 (877/975-9825 toll free)

Have a great week.

Fightin Gators Top Stories