Best Gator Teams of the Decade --- Part IV

We have already acknowledged nine of the best teams that the Florida Gators fielded during the just completed decade. Now we get down to the six best teams that wore the Orange and Blue. It's pretty clear what tops our list of priorities when you realize the top five all have one very important thing in common. They all ended the year atop the college sports world in their respective sports.

But first, we'll remind you about the first nine teams our list.

#15 2009 Men's Outdoor Track and Field
#14 2008 Softball
#13 2001 Football
#12 2001 Soccer
#11 2005 Baseball
#10 2002 Volleyball
#9 2000 Men's Basketball
#8 2003 Volleyball
#7 2009 Football

#6 Women's Softball ---- The Gators had a great team in 2008, but this one was even better and phenomenally dominant. Florida posted a 63-5 record with every loss coming to a ranked team. Florida hit 86 home runs, while Florida opponents hit six. In fact six different Gators hit more home runs combined than 68 of their opponents. Here's another amazing stat; Florida second baseman Aja Paculba scored 69 runs on the year. Florida opponents scored 67. The Gators repeated as SEC Regular Season and Tournament Champs and cruised through the Regional in Gainesville winning three straight games. California was sent to the Super Regional in Gainesville for the second straight year and for the second time they lost in two straight close, competitive games. The Gators went back to the College World Series and posted two easy wins setting up a showdown with Alabama. The Crimson Tide would have to beat the Gators twice to advance to the finals while Florida needed just one win. It looked like a second game would be needed when ‘Bama took a 5-2 lead into the seventh inning. Florida had two on and two out when Megan Bush fouled off what seemed like 50 pitches before drawing a walk. Senior first baseman Ali Gardiner followed with a fly to left that just barely left the park giving the Gators a dramatic 6-5 and a berth in the CWS Finals against Washington. The Huskies and National Player of the Year Danielle Lawrie were just too much and beat the Gators twice for the NCAA Championship. It was an amazing season that came up just short. Still it has to be viewed as the best Gator team of the decade not to win the NCAA Title.

#5 2003 Women's Tennis ---- In his first season with the Gators in 2002 Roland Thornqvist coached the Gators to a second place finish in the NCAA Tournament. Year two was exactly one spot better. This team was not dominant at the top of the lineup with No. 15 ranked Alexis Gordon leading the way, but it had incredible depth. Florida had five singles players and four doubles teams ranked in the top 50, meaning the Gators which meant at the bottom half of the singles lineup Florida was almost impossible to beat. In fact, Florida posted an 88-4 singles record in the bottom three places in the lineup. The Gators did stumble twice during the season, losing 4-3 matches to Duke and Vanderbilt but they avenged each of those setbacks, beating the Commodores 4-0 in the NCAA Quarterfinals and Duke 4-1 in the Semis. That set up a Florida/Stanford showdown in the finals. The Cardinal beat the Gators the year before but this time Florida turned about the 4-3 result and got the win in front of a packed house at the Linder Tennis Stadium. Julie Rotondi earned the clinching win for the Gators giving Florida its fourth NCAA Title.

#4 2006 Football ---- Year two for Urban Meyer in Gainesville saw the Florida coach and his staff continuing to try to fit a square peg into a round hole. More specifically they were trying to win more games with a quarterback (Chris Leak) who was a poor fit for the spread option attack. They figured out, but it took a long time. After two easy wins to start the season, Florida got a late touchdown to beat Tennessee 21-20. It was the first of eight consecutive games in which the Gators scored fewer than 30 points yet managed to win. The streak ended with a 17-16 win over South Carolina and Steve Spurrier when Jarvis Moss ended the game with the most important blocked kick in school history. The Gators crushed Western Carolina and then won close games with FSU (21-14) and Arkansas (38-28) to make its case for a spot in the BCS Championship Game. The voters and computers agreed and Florida jumped Michigan for the chance to play Ohio State. The Buckeyes scored first, but Florida dominated the rest of the game with flawless QB play from Leak and Tim Tebow and devastating defensive line play led by Moss and Derrick Harvey.

Florida's second national championship team was not a dominant group. The Gators won two games by a single point and three more by seven points or less. Leak finished his career the Gators All-time leading in passing yards, adding 2,942 yards on the season with 23 TD passes. Tebow chipped in with five TD passes and eight more on the ground. Dallas Baker caught 10 TD passes while defensive backs Ryan Smith (8) and Reggie Nelson (6) combined to pick off 14 passes.

The 2006 Gator football team was far from the best team in school history. Truth be told it was not as good as the two teams mentioned earlier in this countdown. But this team won it all, and that trumps everything else.

We are down to the three best teams of the decade and you know which squads they are. You just don't know the order…. Yet.

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