Larry Vettel's Women's Sports Weekly

The Florida gymnastics team has as good a shot as anyone as they enter this year's NCAA Championship Meet in Auburn. This might be as wide-open as NCAA's have been in years which gives Florida a legit shot at bringing home a title. Florida has never won the NCAA Title, coming closest in 1998 when the Gators finished second behind Georgia. That year Florida was less than a point-and-a-half from a national title.

This year you could argue that eight of the twelve teams could bring home the title, which is rarely the case. Certainly all four SEC teams (LSU, Alabama, Georgia and the Gators) have the talent and depth to post the best scores of the weekend. Add in two-time defending champion UCLA, perennial power Utah, Michigan and dark horse Brigham Young and a lot of teams head to Auburn thinking title.

While the openness of the championship hunt is exciting, it also puts more pressure on the first day of competition Thursday night. Three teams from each session will advance to the finals on Friday, which means at least two legit title contenders won't even make the Super Six.

I like Florida's chances of making a run. Rhonda Faehn's team has seven gymnasts who earned All-American honors last year so they should be comfortable competing at this level. Add in talented freshmen Ashley Reed and Tiffany Murry and the Gators have a shot.

Florida is competing in the NCAA Championships for the 23rd time in 24 years, failing to qualify only in 2000. Nine times Florida has advanced to the "Super Six" where the title is decided.

Team Not Seeking UF's First National Title

"Now wait a minute Vettel", you may be thinking, you just said Florida has never won the NCAA Team Trophy. True, but prior to the 1981-82 school year the NCAA did not sanction championships in women's athletics. Up until then teams competed for the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) titles. The first year of NCAA's was also the last year that the AIAW had championships. Florida competed in both meets, finishing 7th at the NCAA meet one week before winning the last AIAW Gymnastics Title ever.

In an ironic twist for the University of Florida, that same year the Swimming and Diving team hosted the NCAA meet and chose not to compete at the AIAW Championships. They won Florida's only NCAA title in that very first meet in the O'Connell Center.

Softball Eyeing SEC Title Run

With three weeks left in the regular season Florida softball coach Karen Johns has her team in hailing distance of an SEC Title. But it is a bit of a long shot. Florida is 13-and-5 in league play while Georgia is setting the pace at 22-and-2. Florida still has 12 conference games to play while Georgia has just six. The Gators need to sweep and have Georgia lose at least three times to get to the top of the league standings.

That may not be quite as farfetched as you think. Georgia has to face two of the other three top teams in the SEC with a series at Tennessee and a home set with Alabama. Florida won its only SEC Title in 1998, and while this one is unlikely, never rule it out until it's out of the question. Or, as Yogi would better state it, "It ain't over until it's over".

Honors for Volleyball Players

Four members of Mary Wise's volleyball team will get a shot at playing for the USA this summer. Outside hitters Jane Collymore and Marcie Hampton, setter Angie McGinnis and middle blocker Kisya Killingsworth will be part of the USA national training team. Two squads will be chosen to compete in the women's open division of the USA Volleyball Championships in Denver May 28 – June 4. USA Volleyball will also have teams competing in three international events this summer.

These kinds of opportunities are a gold mine for the athletes involved and the schools they represent. With four players going to Denver, Florida has as much to gain as anyone. The biggest beneficiaries should be McGinnis who will be a sophomore this year and has the potential to rank with the best at her position in the country and Killingsworth, a phenomenal athlete who needs all the competition that she can get.

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