Larry Vettel's Women's Sports Weekly

The Florida women try and take the nation's best this weekend when the Gator host the SEC Swimming Championships in the O'Connell Center. The third-ranked Gators will need a phenomenal weekend of swims plus some Georgia disappointment to knock off the top-ranked Bulldogettes.

The Gators will be led by seniors Maureen Farrell and Vipa Bernhardt both of whom have good shots at individual conference crowns. Leah Retrum, Candace Weiman, Caroline Burckle and Rebecca Harper will all have to score major points as well. The Gators last won the SEC title just two years ago but are more likely to be battling Auburn for second than upsetting Georgia.

A Big Szmuch For Orley

It was terrible to see Florida gymnast Orley Szmuch on the mat in the O'Connell Center Friday night after re-inuring her ankle. The four-time All-American is a fan favorite and a crucial part of the Florida lineup, but likely won't compete until sometime next month. Once she does come back, it could be that Szmuch, who took a long time getting to 100 percent after the last injury, would be limited to two or three rotations.

Fortunately Coach Rhonda Faehn has a deep, talented roster and this setback could open the door for freshman Nicola Willis or another gymnast to get a chance to show what she can do. Florida has time on its side, since the SEC Championships are not until March 26th with NCAA Regionals two weeks later and the NCAA Championships two weeks after that.

One Gator who is already making great strides is Ashley Reed. The freshman from Davie, Florida wowed the O'Dome with a 39.375 to win the All-Around title against Auburn. It was the highest individual score of the year for the Gators.

Peck's Crew Still Has A Pulse

After a poor performance in a loss at Alabama on Super bowl Sunday, the Gator women's basketball team was in trouble in terms of trying to return to the NCAA Tournament. Florida's 12-10 mark was a long way from tournament worthy and meant the Gators had to finish very strongly to have a shot.

Well, so far, so good. Coach Carolyn Peck's squad got a must win at Kentucky and followed it up with a home with over Mississippi State to end a five-game losing streak and get back within a game of .500 in the conference. The key in the two games has been the re-emergence of Tashia Morehead who scored over 30 points in the two wins.

Sunday will be a huge opportunity for Florida to make a statement when the Gators host Vanderbilt in the O'Dome. Vandy is ranked number 21 and beat Florida 84-73 up in Nashville three weeks ago. A win over a ranked team would give Florida still more momentum--- momentum they will really need with Georgia and LSU the final two games of the regular season.

Could the Gators get in with a 6-8 SEC mark? Well, it seems unlikely, but Georgia did get into the field of 64 with that very mark three years ago when the SEC got eight bids. The Gators RPI is quite strong, but losses to Ole Miss and Alabama could really come back to haunt this team unless they can get two out of three to finish the campaign.

Ponteen Is Too Fast

Whooosh! Did you hear that? It was Florida sophomore Tiandra Ponteen blazing by another hapless runner. The All-American from a year ago continued an amazing indoor season last week winning the 400-meters for the third straight meet. Ponteen has already broken the O'Connell Center record in the event --- a record that had stood for five years. She is already qualified for the NCAA Championships and may well have a shot at bringing home a title. Add Ponteen to Florida's amazing throwers Candice Scott, Liz Wanless and Rachel Longfors and you have the heart of the fourth-ranked Gator roster.

Keep those emails coming!

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

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.


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