Larry Vettel's Women's Sports Weekly

This weekend was like the R.E.M. song, "it's the end of the world as we know it." The Florida women's tennis team lost two matches… in the SAME WEEK. Florida fell to Vanderbilt on Friday and Kentucky on Saturday. It was just the second loss in 32 meetings with the Commodores and the first after 28 straight wins over the Wildcats.

Keep in mind two regular season losses is as many as any Florida teams have had in the last ten years. You have to go back to the 1994 season to see a Florida squad with more than two regular season losses. For Coach Roland Thornqvist it had to be an even bigger shock since Florida had lost only three regular season matches in his first three years.

As for two consecutive losses, you have to go back to 1986 when the Gator women twice lost back-to-back. If you are curious about consecutive SEC losses, don't ask. It had never happened before.

Both Vanderbilt (#5) and Kentucky (#6) are top ten teams, so it's not like the Florida program has fallen off the map. Still, after dominating the SEC all these years (258-9 all-time) it's bizarre to see Florida in this situation.

It's going to remain a tough go for Florida this year. The Gators were stunned by the departure of junior Alexis Gordon after last season, and when you take the number one player (104-20 career) out of a tennis lineup it affects every position in the lineup. You can't plug your number seven player into the top slot and deal with those losses. Instead you move every player up one spot… thus weakening your lineup top-to-bottom.

Still, Thornqvist (78-5 first three years) and assistant Dave Balogh have earned more than a little patience and you gotta believe things will get better in a hurry.

Show Me the Way To Go Home

Florida Softball Coach Karen Johns certainly has challenged her team to learn to deal with unfamiliar surroundings this season. The 21-6 Gators have played 18 of their 27 games away from home, including two trips out west to Las Vegas and California.

The Gators have responded with an excellent record and showing the resolve to overcome travel hassles and pratfalls (bus flat tires, missed flights) along the way. What's remarkable about this team to me is that fast-pitch is a pitching dominated game yet Florida is succeeding with solid, but far from dominant performances in the circle. The most amazing stat of all is in base stealing. The Gators have swiped 71 bases… their opponents only seven. That's a lot of extra strides around the base paths and helps for account for Florida scoring almost twice as many runs (120) as their opponents (66).

WNIT Well Worth The Effort

Despite a disappointing end to the season including the suspension of top player Bernice Mosby, Florida made the right call in accepting a bid to play in the WNIT. Florida will try for its 15th win of the season in Tampa against South Florida; a team Florida beat 58-50 back in early January. Playing in the game isn't without risks. The 14-14 Gators will end up with a losing record if they don't win, but I am of the mindset that any time you get a chance to play, you should. I understand Auburn being angry about being left out of the NCAA field, but I think pouting and rejecting the WNIT is the wrong reaction.

Don't Take Indoor Squad For Granted

There wasn't much of a reaction in the local media world when the Florida Women finished second at the NCAA Indoor Championships. It's human nature I suppose to lapse into expecting some of the accomplishments we see Gator teams and athletes produce, but that doesn't make it right. As we all learned during last fall with soccer and volleyball, nothing is guaranteed and thus each accomplishment deserves to be celebrated.

So way to go Gators for that second place finish. There are a hundred other track teams that would love to be in your shoes.

Leading the way for Florida was the incomparable Candice Scott with her third national title in the weight throw. Scott re-set her own collegiate record in the event for the fourth time this year. Sophomore Tiandra Ponteen also claimed a national title, winning the 400-meters by an eyelash - literally. Florida also got All-American performances in the shot put (Liz Wanless, Scott), weight throw (Rachel Longfors) and the 4 X 400 relay (Ponteen, Natalie Knight, Zanquandia Joseph and Nadine Palmer).

Ton Jones has now guided Florida to three consecutive second place finishes at the NCAA Indoors. That's nothing to take for granted.


Fightin Gators Top Stories