No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (5-1, 4-1 SEC) scored the second-highest total in program history on its way to defeating the defending national champion No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-2, 3-2 SEC) on Friday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Florida took down Alabama 198.100-196.850, avenging the Crimson Tide’s 0.075-point victory over the Gators in the 2012 NCAA Super Six.
UF’s huge score was fueled by phenomenal all-around performances from freshman Bridget Sloan and senior Ashanée Dickerson. Sloan’s mark of 39.675 is second nationally only to a 39.700 from Florida sophomore Kytra Hunter, and Dickerson’s 39.650 was highlighted by a career-best 9.975 mark that won the floor exercise.
Sloan and junior Mackenzie Caquatto shared the uneven bars title with dueling 9.950s. Caquatto doubled up in event titles with a score of 9.925 to win balance beam.
These great feats for the Gators came on a night where Hunter, an All-American the nation’s top-ranked all-around performer, fell on both bars and beam. However, when the team needed her to come through in the final event, Hunter registered a 9.950 on floor to help her team to a huge win.
A total of 8,074 fans – the ninth-largest crowd in program history – filled the O’Dome and created an electric atmosphere for Florida throughout the night. Equally impressive was the Gators’ registering such a huge score with Hunter battling a stomach flu and junior All-American Alaina Johnson still sidelined with a stress reaction in her back.
Read about what Florida lacrosse and softball did over the weekend…
No. 3 Florida lacrosse (1-0) opened its 2013 campaign on Saturday with an incredibly impressive 5-3 victory over the No. 5 North Carolina Tar Heels (0-1) in Chapel Hill, NC. UF defeated UNC – one of the best programs in the country on a year-to-year basis – for the first time in school history (1-3).
The Tar Heels scored three quick goals to open the first half but never found the back of the net again. Trailing 3-0 with 20:19 left in the opening period, the Gators got a big goal from senior attacker Kitty Cullen to stop the bleeding and held their hosts scoreless from that point forward.
Florida scored five unanswered goals in the contest including four in the second half from (in order) senior midfielder Brittany Dashiell, senior A Ashley Bruns and senior A Gabi Wiegand (back-to-back).
After going up 5-3, the Gators ran clock for the duration of the contest to earn the first victory in a program history against an ACC opponent. Florida also registered its first-ever win after trailing at halftime, breaking an 0-11 streak amassed over three seasons.
No. 14 Gators softball also opened its 2013 season over the weekend with five games in three days as part of the 2013 Kajikawa Classic at the Tempe Sports Complex in Tempe, AZ. Florida (5-0) won every game and defeated three ranked opponents on its way to an incredibly impressive opening weekend for a young squad.
Competition started on Friday with UF routing the Creighton Bluejays 13-3 in a run-ruled five-inning game before returning to the field in the early evening to earn a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the No. 5 Oregon Ducks. On Saturday, Florida shutout the Cal State Northridge Matadors 7-0 and picked up another impressive win by coming from behind to take down the No. 3 California Golden Bears 7-4. The Gators wrapped up the three-day event with a 14-3 win over the No. 13 Arizona Wildcats on Sunday.
In Friday’s opener against Creighton, Florida was led offensively by freshmen center fielder Kirsti Merritt (2-3, HR, 5 RBI, R, 2 SB) and second baseman Kelsey Stewart (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, BB). Sophomore right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger (1-0, 4.0 IP, 3 H, ER, 8 K) picked up the victory with some help from sophomore RHP Alyssa Bache (1.0 IP, H, ER, 2 R, 3 K). Junior RHP Hannah Rogers (1-0, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 8 K) earned the win against Oregon after senior pinch hitter Ensley Gammel (0-1, RBI) grounded out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth.
Five players knocked in runs for the Gators on Saturday against the Matadors with freshman catcher Taylore Fuller (1-3, 2 RBI, R, SB) leading the way. Merritt (2-3, 2 R) and Stewart (2-5, 2 R, SB) registered four of the team’s seven runs as Bache (1-0, 7.0 IP, 5 K, 4 H, 5 BB) got her first win of the season. In as a designated player, Haeger (3-4, 3 RBI, R) powered Florida in its evening contest against Cal but got plenty of help from freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R) as UF propelled Rogers (7.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 6 K) to 2-0 on the young season.
The Gators made it clear to the Wildcats on Sunday that they would not be playing around, posting five runs in the opening frame and six more in the top of the seventh. Four Florida players hit home runs in the game with Stewart (3-4, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, BB, 3 SB), Schwarz (1-4, HR, 2 RBI, R) and Gammel (1-2, HR, RBI, 2 R, 2 BB) hitting solo shots and sophomore PH Bailey Castro (1-1, GS, 4 RBI, R) smacking a grand slam. Schwarz and Gammel went back-to-back in the seventh, and Castro launched her bomb four batters later after UF had loaded the bases. Haeger (2-0, 5.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K) got the win with some assistance from Rogers (2.0 IP, H, BB, 2 K).