Larry Vettel's Women's Sports Weekly

Despite Tuesday's surprising shutout loss to Bethune Cookman the Gator softball team has to be pleased with the 13-3 start the team is off to. Florida has posted some impressive wins and seems like a good bet to be very competitive come SEC play. A big part of Florida's success has come from the pitching staff --- and particularly from one most unexpected source.

Gator senior Mandy Schuerman has become Florida's top threat in the circle, posting a 5-0 record with one save and a microscopic 0.34 earned run average. Schuerman has allowed just 18 hits in 41 innings of work. What's surprising about all of this is that Mandy Schuerman was not a factor in Florida's pitching plans last year. After winning seven games as a freshman and three as a sophomore, Schuerman saw Jenny Gladding take over the Florida mound corps.

The return to the circle has been good for the East Bay High School product as well, as evidenced by Schuerman's .304 average with one homer. There's a long way to go, obviously. But it appears that at least one Florida softball player is determined to make her senior year something special.

Resilient Gymnasts Impressive

Florida gymnastics coach Rhonda Faehn has to be delighted with the way her team is handling adversity. Every time someone in the Gator lineup suffers an injury or takes ill, a teammate is ready to stop right in.

The most recent example came last Friday at Arkansas where sophomore Katie Rue stepped it up and claimed her first career all-around title. Freshman Tiffany Murry, not to be outdone steps into the bars lineup and wins the event with a 9.875! Senior Erinn Dooley returns to the lineup on balance beam and voila' she wins as well. The previous week it was freshman Ashley Reed who claimed an All-Around crown.

Not that all of this should be a surprise. Last year the Gators were devastated when Kristen Stucky suffered a major knee injury during warmups at the SEC Championships. Yet they recovered in time to earn a spot in the NCAA Super Six and finish fifth in the nation.

Still with freshmen coming through in the clutch and a veteran group that has succeeded at a very high level, you have to like Florida's chances of making some serious noise at the end of the season.

Believe it or not there are only three more chances to see the Gators in Gainesville this year. One comes up Friday when Florida hosts Kentucky.

New Gator Swimming Star In Making

Florida's third-place finish at the SEC Championships was a bit disappointing, but the performances of one Florida freshman certainly weren't. Caroline Burckle was Florida's top individual at SEC's scoring 54 points and posting a pair of victories. The Louisville, Ky. native bested the field in the 500 and 200-yard freestyles while also starring on the Gators' record-breaking 800-yard free relay team.

Burckle's 200-free victory was particularly noteworthy because it was the second fastest time (1:44.64) in school history. It also set a national age-group records for swimmers 17-18 years old, bettering the previous mark set by another Gator star, Nicole Haislett back in 1991.

Haislett is the last Florida woman to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics, taking the 200-meter freestyle in Barcelona in 1992. Don't be shocked if Caroline Burckle joins Haislett and other Florida greats in bringing home the gold in 2008.

Soccer Transfer Latest Victim Of Lousy Rules

Becky Burleigh has announced nine additions to her roster for 2005, including the transfer of Stacy Bishop from LSU. Bishop is from Land o' Lakes, Florida and has chosen to return to her home state but because of SEC rules which punish student-athletes for changing schools she will have to sit out the upcoming season.

Bishop is a really good player. She was second-team All-SEC last season, scoring nine goals and seven assists for the Tigers. She even assisted on LSU's only goal in a 2-1 loss to Florida last season.

Coaches, administrators, trainers, managers, broadcasters, sports info personnel… even Presidents can switch schools in the SEC and begin duties immediately. It remains a disgrace and an outrage that student-athletes do not have that freedom. It's absolutely indefensible that the self-serving hypocrites who create and enforce these policies do not subject themselves to the same restrictions.

Several months back I wrote in Fightin' Gator Magazine that there should be a student-athlete bill of rights to better protect those who compete on the collegiate level from the dimwits who make the rules. One free transfer (no sitting out) is perhaps the most important right they are entitled to.

Spare me the argument that schools will routinely recruit kids on other rosters. First, tampering is a major NCAA violation and easily dealt with under current rules. Tampering is also justification for denying a release from the original school. Second, it is not the fault of collegiate student-athletes that there is a frightening lack of integrity on some college campuses. Therefore, their rights should not be limited as a means of forcing dishonest coaches to abide by the rules.

Any student-athlete in good academic and behavioral standing should be allowed to change schools between seasons without having to sit out for an entire year. A school seeking the block a transfer must be required to show just cause.

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Have a great week.

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