Giving Other Sports Their Due - Part 4

We're midway through our six-part look at some of the finest seasons that did not result in a National Title for Gator sports other than football and Men's basketball.

I really didn't plan it this way, but for the third segment in a row we'll salute one team that plays outdoors (baseball) and one that plays inside (gymnastics). These two seasons represent two of the six best in Florida history, at least from our perspective.

#12 Men's Tennis 2000
#11 Women's Tennis 1980

#10 Soccer 1996
#9 Women's Basketball 1997

#8 Women's Tennis 1988
#7 Volleyball 1992

#6 Baseball 2005 -----
With the way things have gone for Gator baseball in the last three years it might be hard to remember how recently one of the greatest baseball seasons in school history occurred. The 2005 Gators did something no other Gator team had done before.

The Gators were coming off a season in which they had advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals for the first time, falling to Miami in their bid to make it to the College World Series. The first part of the season was solid with the Gators winning 30 of 40 including 13 wins in 18 SEC games. Then coach Pat McMahon's team hit a bit of a slump losing seven of nine to puts its SEC Title hopes in doubt. However with a 14-9 SEC mark the Gators won six of their last seven conference games including a season ending sweep of Vanderbilt to clinch their first SEC Title in seven years.

After splitting four games at the SEC Tournament the Gators hosted a Regional at McKethan Stadium and quickly dispatched Stetson (8-3), North Carolina (5-2) and Notre Dame (23-3) to make a return to Super Regional play. FSU came to town for the showdown with a trip to Omaha on the line. Tommy Boss threw a complete game in an 8-1 victory, and Alan Horne almost did the same (8 1/3 innings) in the 8-5 win that sent the Gators to the College World Series for the fifth time.

The Gators ran into SEC rival Tennessee out in Omaha and posted a 6-4 win. Then Florida had to overcome a raucous crowd to beat Nebraska 7-4 to move within one win of the CWS Finals. Arizona State slowed the Gator express 6-1 and appeared to be on the to ending Florida's dream with a 3-0 lead in the elimination game. Brian LeClerc and Adam Davis homered to power Florida to a 6-3 come from behind win the school's first trip to the finals. Texas took the Gators out in two close (4-2, 6-2) games to claim the National Title, but this Gator season was one for the books.

#5 Gymnastics 2007 ----- Rhonda Faehn knew the challenge she was taking on when she came to Gainesville in the spring of 2002. Florida had to reach the two top programs in the nation (Georgia, Alabama) just to be contenders for a conference title. Well in 2007 they did just that. Faehn blended an experienced squad with a superb freshman class and assembled the best team in school history.

Florida opened the year impressively with a win at the Super Six invitational, beating Penn State, Nebraska and LSU among others. Two weeks later the Gators knocked off Alabama and eight days later only some curious late scoring allowed home standing Georgia to earn a tie with the Gators. Florida raced through the rest of the season without a setback and then headed to Little Rock, Arkansas for the SEC Championships.

The Gators hit their routines over and over again and was tied with Georgia heading into the final rotation. Florida posted its finest road score on the floor exercise (49.450) to claim the Gators' first SEC Title since 1989. Faehn was named Coach of the Year and Amanda Castillo picked up freshman of the year honors as well.

The Gators headed to Ann Arbor, Michigan for the NCAA Regional and dominated the host Wolverines and the rest of the field. The Gators then went to the NCAA Championships in Sale Lake City, Utah and claimed third place, missing out on second by .025 of a point.

The 2007 Gators had six members of the team earn a school record 15 All-American honors. Castillo (4) led the way, followed by Corey Hartung (3) and Ashley Reed (3).

Four down to two to go in our countdown.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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