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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Jill Briles-Hinton saw this coming since last year.

For a team that had never won an NCAA Regional before, you wouldn't think a ragtag group with just three seniors - and only one of them that was in the lineup - would win their first regional crown.

But the No. 4 Gators with one senior, one junior and three freshmen did win their first ever regional title last weekend and now are among the favorites headed into the NCAA Championships, which starts today in Albuquerque, N.M.

It didn't take long for Briles-Hinton to realize what this team was capable of, either. As soon as Jessica Yadloczky and 16-year-old Hannah Yun announced they were Gainesville-bound, Briles-Hinton knew she had a championship-caliber team.

The freshmen have backed up what Briles-Hinton saw in recruiting them, too, as Yun helped seal the regional victory with a birdie on the par-5 18th and Yadloczky finished tied for 10th overall and was UF's second best finisher.

After her first collegiate match at the Mason Rudolph back in September, Yadloczky finished ahead of eight All-Americans. Yadloczky is ranked 15th in Golfweek's Individual Ratings Index and Yun is 22nd.

"They've brought spice," Briles-Hinton said of the freshmen. "They've brought a huge competition and desire and determination."

The Gators haven't been named national champs since 1986, which means even the team's elder statesman Tiffany Chudy was still in diapers. But now UF has its best chance in awhile.

And winning it all certainly hasn't been a taboo subject.

"You can talk about it," Briles-Hinton said. "They know they can win. You also have to talk about how to go about winning it. There's no problem with talking about it as long as you talk about how you're going to do it."

While the Gators as a program aren't a stranger to the national scene - they finished 6th overall in 2006 - this year's team has some traits that past teams have lacked.

"They have some fortitude," she said. "They don't quit. They withstand adversity, and they just don't quit. They've given themselves their best chance to win."

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