Larry Vettel's Women's Sports Weekly

The spring of 1987 was pretty good to the University of Florida. The Gator football team signed a running back from Pensacola named Emmitt Smith. The basketball team earned Florida's first NCAA Tournament bid. And the Florida gymnastics team won the NCAA Southeast Regional in the O'Connell Center.

Much has happened since that spring but one thing that hadn't was Florida again winning a regional at home. That is until Saturday night. Rhonda Faehn's "glitter girls" got the job done in the front of the home folks and advanced to the NCAA's in style. Freshman Ashley Reed was sensational and won the individual All-Around while Erinn Dooley and Orley Szmuch had fine nights in their final appearance before Gator fans.

The win was extra sweet for Faehn and Company because it came over Georgia, Florida's traditional nemesis in regional meets. Florida had hosted five times since that win in '87, and finished second to the "GymDogs" each time. Georgia actually had one of its worst performances ever and needed a great final rotation and several mistakes by surprising Denver to avoid being left out of the 12-team national field.

One Meet Left

The Gators will finish their season in Auburn, Alabama beginning April 21 at the NCAA Championships. The event loses a little something since the host team did not qualify. The NCAA drawing was not a good one for the Gators. Instead of seeding the teams one through twelve and putting the six "odd" teams in one session and the "evens" in the other, the NCAA does a blind draw with three regional winners in each session and three runners-up as well. The problem with that inane system is it implies every regional winner is better than every second place team which is, in a word, absurd.

Florida will be in the second session next Thursday along with UCLA, Alabama and Georgia among others. That means four of the top six are in one session. On top of that, Florida and Georgia will be in the same meet for the fifth time… and it could be six if both teams advance.

Softball Rolling towards NCAA's

With a weekend sweep at South Carolina, the Gator softball team is building a very strong resume for another trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Florida program is in just its ninth season of existence, but a bid this year would be the sixth in school history and would mark the first time Florida has advanced three years in a row. Florida takes a 32-10 record into this week and is on pace to break the school record of 45 regular season wins and 47 overall wins.

Florida is doing the job the old fashioned way. Without a dominant pitcher, the Gators have relied on solid efforts in the circle (1.93 ERA). Excellent defense (37 errors to 61 by opponents) and a huge advantage on the bases (89 stolen bases, only 10 allowed). At the plate Lindsay Cameron continues to set the pace with a .396 average and eleven homers. I asked Coach Johns about Lindsay's improvement from three homers and a .239 patting average last year:

"She was really disappointed after last year. She was about as low as an athlete can be because she has a lot of pride, you know her dad's a Gator (Glenn Cameron) and she just said I really need to get better. We really didn't change a whole lot. A lot of it was just stay back, stay in pathway. She was miserable for about four weeks while she worked through it, but she's a great athlete and it's really paid off for her."

Cameron is four homers shy of Emily Marino's single-season record of 15. Her career total of 24 is also four behind Marino's Gator record. With one year left for the junior from Palm Beach Gardens, look for Cameron to put the career record outa sight.

More Scholarships Coming

Somewhat lost in the coverage of the NCAA approving a 12 game for football teams beginning 2006 was some good news for some Gator coaches. Specifically Rhonda Faehn, Mary Wise, Becky Burleigh and Tom Jones. In its never-ending attempt to show compliance with Title IX, the NCAA Management council approved a proposal to increase women's scholarship opportunities in the four sports those individuals coach. Soccer and gymnastics will get two additional scholarships increasing the total from 12 to 14. Volleyball gets one more for 13 and Track and Field adds two for 20. I have no problem with any of that, but I wish the powers-that-be would also do something about under-funded men's sports. The NCAA Board of Directors is expected to make the increases official later this spring.

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