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The UF men's swimming and diving team celebrates back-to-back SEC titles in a memorable snapshot from 2013-14.

Tuesday July 1, 2014Scott Carter: Five More Team Moments to Remember from Gators in 2013-14

The UF men's swimming and diving team celebrates back-to-back SEC titles in a memorable snapshot from 2013-14.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – It’s that rare time of year when the UF sports calendar is quiet.

The opening of the 2014-15 Gators season is Aug. 22 when the UF soccer team hosts Miami.

Before we look too far ahead, let’s take a moment to look back at another memorable 2013-14 for Florida athletics.

If you missed it last week, GatorZone.com colleague Chris Harry offered his top 10 team moments of the past year.

The original plan was for me to offer my top 10 team moments a couple of days later. Once I started, I realized several overlapped.

So, instead of simply recording a not-so-memorable cover song – Guns N’ Roses’ version of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ comes to mind – why not highlight five team moments that didn’t make the cut on GatorZoneChris’ list.

Without further adieu, here they are:

 

1) TWICE AS NICE

The Florida men’s swimming and diving team owned an 80-point lead entering the final day of the Southeastern Conference Championships in February.

After snapping Auburn’s 16-year grip on the conference title the previous year, the Gators had back-to-back on their minds.

Back-to-back it was.

Florida closed the meet in championship form, swimming away from second-place Auburn and third-place Georgia to win the program’s 35th SEC title, the second most of any athletic program in SEC history (Kentucky men’s basketball has won 45 SEC crowns).

Gators swim

The Gators won nine individual titles during the five-day meet at Georgia’s Gabrielsen Natatorium, highlighted by SEC Swimmer of the Year Sebastien Rousseau’s titles in the 200 free, 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley.

To celebrate, the Gators jumped in the pool as a team after accepting the championship trophy.

“Winning the first time was really great,’’ Gators coach Gregg Troy said. “Coming back to have the opportunity to repeat I think talks a little about the character of the team and the guys.”

The Gators went on to place third at the NCAA Championships, the program’s highest finish under Troy and top overall finish at the national meet in 23 years.

 

2) LUCKY NO. 13

The UF soccer team spent Halloween 2013 on the field trying to win the program’s 13th SEC regular-season title.

The Gators got the treat they were after.

Soccer

No surprise, freshman Savannah Jordan was in the middle of the action.Florida won 5-1 at Georgia to capture a share of the league crown with Texas A&M and earn the No. 1 overall seed in the SEC Tournament.

Jordan scored two goals that pushed her season total to 20. That total is the most by a Gator freshman since Abby Wambach scored 19 in 1998. Jordan finished 2013 with the nation's second-highest goals total (22).

Jordan’s dynamic play was one reason Florida, picked to finish second in the preseason coaches’ poll, added yet another SEC title to its collection under head coach Becky Burleigh.

“It never gets old,’’ Burleigh said.

 

3) A BRIEF RESPITE

The mood around the Florida football program was sour entering the Tennessee game in late September.

Coming off a 21-16 loss at Miami in which Florida committed five turnovers, the Gators sought to quickly put the loss in the rearview mirror.

And then in the first quarter, starting quarterback Jeff Driskel suffered a season-ending leg injury.

Football celebrates

The Swamp groaned.

In came backup quarterback Tyler Murphy, who provided the jolt the Gators needed. In his first game action in four years, Murphy threw for a score and ran for one to lead the Gators to a 31-17 win.

Sophomore defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. starred as well, earning SEC Player of the Week honors for his three tackles for loss, one sack, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

The Gators followed that performance with wins at Kentucky and at home against Arkansas, momentarily regaining their balance following the loss of several key players to season-ending injuries, including star defensive tackle Dominique Easley three days after the Tennessee win.

We all know the story lacked a fairy tale ending, but for a short while, the Gators found a way to win during their first losing season in 34 years.

 

4) CLUTCH CLUB

The odds were stacked.

If the UF women’s golf team was going to advance to the NCAA Tournament for a fourth consecutive season and 24th time in school history, the Gators needed to come through in the clutch.

Like, real clutch.

Women's golf

The Gators were at the NCAA Central Regional in Stillwater, Okla. To advance, they had to finish in the top eight.

After the final round was complete, the Gators were tied for eighth. The team they were tied with: host Oklahoma State.

The tiebreaker was a one-hole playoff. The Cowboys had a large gallery on their side. The Gators had their coaches and few others in their corner.

Florida won the playoff behind a stellar performance from junior Sarah Schober. In the middle of a pressure-packed situation, the Gators rallied and were NCAA Tournament-bound.

“The girls were so tough,’’ head coach Emily Glaser said. “They were ready for the playoff.”

 

5) IDENTITY BUILDER

The UF volleyball team departed for Texas and the Nike Big Four Classic in early September in search of an identity.

The Gators had won home matches against New Orleans, LIU-Brooklyn and Duke without breaking much of a sweat.

They knew what waited at the Nike Big Four Classic – No. 1 Penn State, No. 2 Stanford and No. 6 Texas – would provide a strong gauge of where they stood among the nation’s elite.

Volleyball

First, the Gators made a trip to UT-San Antonio for warm-up match, easily disposing of the Roadrunners in three sets.

Next up: No. 2 Stanford.

In its fourth and final year, the Nike Big Four Classic offered the four powerhouse volleyball programs an opportunity to face elite competition and promote the game. The Gators stepped onto the court against the Cardinal ready for a test.

They walked off with a four-set victory, defeating their highest-ranked opponent in three years.

The frontline of Ziva Recek (19 kills), Chloe Mann (15 kills) and middle blocker Simone Antwi (13 kills) was outstanding as the Gators learned they could compete with the elite. They lost the next day to No. 1-ranked Penn State, however, a confident team headed back home from the Lone Star State.

The Gators didn’t lose again for five weeks, winning 13 consecutive matches until a loss at Missouri. Florida finished 28-4 as Coach Mary Wise guided the program back to the NCAA Tournament for a 23rd consecutive season.

 

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