VETTEL: Zook Coached The Wrong Sport

All indications are that if Ron Zook had been the coach of the women's basketball team he'd still have a job in Gainesville. While Florida cut Zook loose after just two-and-a-half seasons and a 20-14 record (at the time) the Gators are exhibiting far more patience with Carolyn Peck. Also in her third year at UF, Peck has had an equally strange roller-coaster type ride as a Gator head coach.

Peck and her team enter the SEC Tournament Thursday with a mediocre 14-13 record, including nine losses in 14 SEC games. The Gator women have lost eight of ten and probably need to beat Alabama in the first round to get consideration for a Women's NIT bid.

Like Zook, Peck took over a strong program. Florida had won 18 or more games eleven years in a row and had made it to ten straight post-season tournaments, nine times the NCAA. Carol Ross may not have left a loaded team behind, but she did leave a great player in center Vanessa Hayden. But Hayden and Peck struggled to see things the same way and Florida spiraled to a 9-19 record, the school's first losing season since 1988.

Last year, Peck's team performed better than expected and won 19 games including a first-round upset of New Mexico in front of a hostile crowd.

This year, Florida started well with a veteran back court and inexperienced front line. The Gators were 12-5, 3-1 in the SEC before a disheartening loss to Ole Miss began the 2-8 slide the team is in now. On top of that, Florida is without its best player Bernie Mosby for disciplinary reasons.

That Florida took Tennessee to overtime and led Georgia at the half shows this team has some ability. But the bottom line is the Florida program is a long way from the perennial NCAA contender Carol Ross built. Year one was disappointing, year two a pleasant surprise and year three has been both. As a result, Peck's record stands at 42-43, 14-28 in the SEC.

It makes next year an absolutely crucial one for this program. If Mosby does not return, then Florida will not have a single player back who averaged as many as eight points a game this season. The Gators will be over reliant on what appears to be a top-flight recruiting class. That group will have to mature in a hurry if Peck's program is to show progress in 2005-06.

Candice Scott Continues to Amaze

While the women's indoor track team finished a disappointing fourth at the SEC Championships last weekend, there was nothing disappointing about the performance of Candice Scott. Florida's throwing sensation won both the shot put and weight throw and earned the Commissioner's Trophy as the top athlete in the meet.

It's the second time in her career Scott won both meets at SEC's, something no other athlete has ever done. Kudos also to teammates Tiandra Ponteen (400 meters) and Krystle Moss (high jump) who also won titles.

Daddy's Girl Slugging Away

A big part of the fast start (13-3 in Feb.) for the Gator softball team has been the hot bat of junior Lindsey Cameron. Heading into the second month of the season, the Palm Beach Gardens grad is hitting .373 and leads the Gators in hits (19), homers (4) and runs batted in (17). Cameron has 17 career homers, which is second on Florida's all-time list. She's in the top ten in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage and is in the top twenty in every meaningful category.

Of course it comes as no surprise Cameron can really hit. After all her dad, former Gator linebacker Glenn Cameron was known to deliver a hit or two in his time.

Gymnasts Face Major Road Tests

The Gator gymnastics team is getting healthier, and just in time for a major road trip to face number three Utah and number four UCLA this weekend. Orley Szmuch returned from re-injuring her ankle to perform well on the uneven bars against Kentucky last Friday winning the event. The seven-time All-American may add the vault on this trip. Meanwhile Florida's other key senior, Erinn Dooley continues to make progress with her ankle injury. The six-time All-American has been limited to just beam routines this year, but is also making progress towards full-time duty.

Florida has been team resilience this season repeatedly rebounding from injury or illness setbacks to have some other member of the team come through. That track record, plus the improving health of two key veterans gives Florida reason for optimism for what this team might accomplish come post-season. Good performances on the road against two traditional powers wouldn't hurt either.


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