Larry Vettel's Women's Sports Weekly

The first part of this season was a most pleasant surprise for the Gator Women's Basketball team. Well, surprising to me at least. I suppose they expected success. Still, Florida shot off to a 12-5 start including three wins in their first four SEC games. That start seems like a distant memory however as the Gators take a four-game losing streak into the weekend after Thursday night's heartbreaking loss to Tennessee.

Now this isn't the greatest Lady Vols squad ever assembled, granted, but it probably didn't have to be for a win to mean the world to this Florida team. The Gators have played Tennessee in women's basketball 35 times and have won exactly once! That win came in 1997 when the best team in Florida's history knocked off the Vols 71-62. That Gator team went on to reach the SEC Tournament final and reached the elite eight of the NCAA Tournament coming up just a basket shy of a trip to the Final Four.

Florida almost was able to overcome that history Thursday night, but missed a shot to win in regulation and ended up losing 91-82 in overtime. But changing history is not as important as this team getting back on track. The recent struggles have dropped the team to 12-9 overall and below .500 in league play. With road trips to Alabama, Kentucky and LSU still to come and strong Georgia and Vandy teams headed to Gainesville, Florida will need to post several surprises down the stretch for this team to reach the NCAA tournament.

Florida has gotten a boost from the return of Danielle Santos but it may be a while before the talented junior guards is fully up to speed. It's time for Tashia Morehead to toss aside her 7.1 scoring average and double it from this point forward. And Florida's post trio will have to play above their heads to keep the Gators post-season hopes alive.

Gymnastics Schedule Is Brutal

Rhonda Faehn's gymnastics team wouldn't know an unranked team if they stepped on it in the hallway. The schedule thus far for the "glitter girls" has been the Super Six, Top 20 Nebraska, Top Ten LSU, Top Five Alabama and Friday night another powerhouse in Georgia. After Georgia there will be a bit of a drop off which might present the opportunity to add some elements or tinker with the lineup, but for the past month it has been quite the challenge.

The Gators already have two wins over Alabama, but a win over Georgia would be extra sweet. It would also give Florida the confidence an SEC Title is now within reach. Florida last won the SEC in 1989 when Florida earned its sixth conference title in nine years. But in the past 15 years, Florida has had to take a back seat behind Georgia (11 titles) and Alabama (4 titles).

With LSU moving up to number four in the latest polls, the SEC now has four of the top seven teams in the country making the SEC meet tougher than ANY NCAA regional and even tougher than the first day of the NCAA finals. Only day two, The Super Six for the national title, will be a higher level meet than the conference championship… and just barely.

Just As Tough In The Pool

In fact it might be the toughest sport of all from an SEC perspective. Florida's swimmers and divers are ranked number three in the nation…. behind Georgia and Auburn. Florida could very well finish third at both the SEC and NCAA meets this year. Greg Troy has done a marvelous job getting both swim teams back among the nation's elite.

Interesting Bit Of Tid

Part of the foundation of Gator swimming and diving was built by Renee Laravie who earned All-American honors in 1978 and 79. Laravie won three individual national titles and swam on two relay teams that also won nationals. She helped the University of Florida to the AIAW National Title in 1979. The Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women sponsored women's college sports until the NCAA added women's athletics in the 1981-82 school year.

She was also the first female student-athlete I ever interviewed when I began doing sports at WRUF in 1979.

That is an interesting bit of tid (tid-bit) as far as I'm concerned, but here's a better one. Savana Kelly, the freshman second baseman on the Gator softball team is the daughter of Renee Laravie-Kelly. Savana homered in her first Gator at-bat, leading Florida to a season-opening win over Florida Atlantic.


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