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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Last weekend, the UF's football team's Orange and Blue Debut garnered lavish media attention, while the Gators gymnastics team advanced to the NCAA Championships.

The softball team was at Georgia, the baseball team was hosting Arkansas, the men's tennis team was wrapping up its regular season, and the men's and women's track and field teams were polishing off fine regular-season resumes.

Some more UF sports news was made off the field, with reports that the 2006 BCS national championship trophy was broken during a recruiting visit.

Notice something missing?

Well, UF's men's and women's golf teams weren't exactly twiddling their thumbs.

Both the No. 7 men's and No. 5 women's teams were preparing for their respective SEC tournaments, which begin today. The men are in St. Simons Island, Ga., and the women in Loudon, Tenn.

Coach Buddy Alexander, who filled the time between tournaments by playing in the Par 3 Challenge at The Masters last week with former Gator great Camilo Villegas, knows his men's team's up-and-down season may see its biggest swing this weekend.

The Gators come off a fourth-place finish in the Hootie at Bulls Bay Invitational and a match-play victory against Florida State, another top ten school, successes that leave Alexander optimistic.

"I'm pretty excited about the way my team's played in recent weeks," he said at a Monday news conference.

But he acknowledges this weekend may be an uphill battle.

"The SEC's a different sort of conference this year," Alexander said. "We've got six of the top 12 teams in the country in our league."

And two of those teams are No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama, squads UF is a combined 1-7 against in the 2007-08 season.

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For the women, confidence is as high as it has been in coach Jill Briles-Hinton's 10 years with the program.

That's because the No. 5 Gators came from behind to claim first place in their last tournament, the Bryan Park National Collegiate, and topped the vaunted Duke program for the first time in Briles-Hinton's tenure in Gainesville.

It's also because UF goes into the SEC tournament as the highest-rated squad in the 12-team field, according to the GolfWeek/Sagarin Performance Rankings.

But the Gators haven't won an SEC Championship since 1995, and that field includes three other top-10 schools in No. 7 Georgia, the defending champion, No. 9 Auburn, and No. 10 Alabama.

At her Monday press conference, though, Briles-Hinton was adamant: "(This year) is different."

Despite losing two-time All-American Sandra Gal to the LPGA at the end of the fall season, these Gators have refused to succumb to adversity, Briles-Hinton said.

"The girls stepped it up, worked hard, and are playing well," she added. "They're going to the SEC to prove they can get the job done."

Getting the job done, for these two teams, may just mean they get their own shares of the spotlight that's usually directed elsewhere.

Is there a better way to steal the attention from a broken trophy than by winning some new hardware?

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