Josh: This year’s Florida lacrosse team has a chance to be dominant. The Gators lost just one player from last year’s squad, which made it to the national semifinals. No Florida team that finished one game short of the finals the previous season has returned as high of a percentage of its lineup since the last men’s basketball championship run in 2006-07. If the Gators aren’t hoisting the championship trophy in Philadelphia on Memorial Day weekend, it will be legitimately shocking, and you can’t say that about any other team.
Joe: Well, if the Gators’ lacrosse team gives half the effort you spend whining about work and your wrist injury every day, then my argument is dead in the water. Florida is undoubtedly one of the top national title contenders in NCAA lacrosse this season, but coach Amanda O’Leary’s club is not the surest bet on campus. That distinction belongs to the UF men’s track and field team. Statistically speaking, no other squad on campus has a better chance to win it all in 2013 than the men’s and women’s track and field teams. The NCAA crowns a national champion during both the indoor and outdoor seasons, and the Gators men clinched both titles last season. Math. Boom. Now let your whiny rebuttal commence.
Josh: Well, Joe, I wasn’t going to bring my injuries into this, but the fact that you decided to force your one writer who can only type with one hand to rally against you shows how much confidence you had in yourself to win this argument in the first place.
I mentioned the lacrosse team lost one player. That player, Caroline Cochran, played in just one game and recorded one assist last season before going down for the year with an ACL tear. It shouldn’t be hard to find someone to fill her void. The track team is losing Will Claye, AN OLYMPIC MEDALIST. How do they replace him?
Joe: Well, uh, Claye left after the 2011 season. So did Christian Taylor, who won a gold medal for Team USA in the triple jump at the London Olympics. Replacing two Olympians last year, Omar Craddock won the Southeastern Conference and national championships in the triple jump during both the indoor and outdoor seasons. Neither Claye nor Taylor accomplished that in a single season. Craddock is coming back this year. Prominent point scorers Jeremy Postin (weight throw/hammer throw), Eddie Lovett (hurdles) and Sean Obinwa (mid-distance runner) also return.
UF loses heptathlon and decathlon competitor Gray Horn and sprinter Jeff Demps from last year’s team, but Florida still managed to win its first-ever NCAA outdoor title despite both former individual national champions missing the meet. The most significant loss is silver medalist and three-time NCAA champion sprinter Tony McQuay, who decided to turn pro and forgo his senior season. Freshman Arman “Gino” Hall, one of the most promising athletes in UF’s seventh-ranked recruiting class, will replace McQuay in the 400m. Hall is the two-time defending FHSAA Class 4A state champion in the 400m. This team is built for yet another national title run.
Josh: All right, I might have had the athlete wrong, but track has to replace a different Olympian. Not only does the lacrosse team return everyone but Cochran, but it is entering this season significantly healthier. When Florida opened last season at North Carolina, Shannon Gilroy was exactly eight months removed from suffering a left ACL tear in her final high school game. She started the season still rehabbing the injury and scored just one goal in Florida’s first three games.
She worked her way back to full strength and became the team’s most dominant player by the end of the season, scoring 16 goals in the final four games. Seven of those goals came in the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament final win against Northwestern and five were against Syracuse in the Final Four. Having Gilroy at full-strength for the entire season will make what was already a formidable team in 2012 even scarier.
Joe: So, lacrosse is good. We get it. But how many national championships has this team won? Zero. Granted, it’s a young program. The men’s track and field squad has tallied four national titles since the lacrosse team played its first season in 2010. Reaching a championship level of play quickly is one thing. Actually bringing home the hardware is another. With a spot in the title game seemingly in its grasp, Florida blew a seven-goal lead in a 14-13 overtime loss to Syracuse in last season’s Final Four. The first title is always the hardest one to win. Ask the men’s track and field squad. The Gators missed out on three straight NCAA outdoor crowns by a combined five points before winning last season’s championship. Lacrosse is good enough to win it all, but getting over the hump is a daunting task. I’m not saying winning a national title in track and field is any easier, but coach Mike Holloway’s club has tasted the ultimate prize before. And I like their chances again this year.