Football

Florida punter Tommy Townsend celebrates after his team knocked off Michigan in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. It was UF's first New Year's Six bowl victory since 2010.

It’s that time of the year again.

Track and field ended their season at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Baseball was struck down by Dallas Baptist at the Lubbock Regional, and Alabama silenced the Gators softball team at the Women’s College World Series.

The UF sports season is over, and as is tradition, it’s time for the alligatorSports Awards. Every summer, our writers hand out awards to the teams, players and coaches on Florida’s athletic staff based on the Gators’ performances during the year.

Today, four of our writers are making the case for Florida’s best team over the 2018-2019 school year from a pool of four UF teams: football, softball, men’s track and field and men’s tennis.

 

Evan: UF football fans had little to be excited about entering the 2018 season.

The year prior, the program was a total dumpster fire, complete with an array of heart-breaking losses, lackluster performances and death threat accusations from the head coach, Jim McElwain.

First-year coach Dan Mullen changed the culture of the program far quicker than many believed capable.

The Gators went 10-3 in 2018, winning their first New Year’s Six Bowl since Urban Meyer led UF to a Sugar Bowl victory in 2009.

Despite an early-season home loss to Kentucky that snapped a 31-game winning streak against UK, the Gators quickly turned the season around, manhandling Tennessee in Neyland Stadium, upsetting Mullen’s former school in Mississippi State and upending a fifth-ranked LSU team in the Swamp to open the eyes of the college football world.

The most impressive part of the season to me, though, was the home game against South Carolina.

Down 31-14 in the second half, UF rattled off 21 unanswered points to defeat the Gamecocks 35-31.

The win was the first of four straight for Florida, including a 41-14 drubbing of in-state rival Florida State, the first win over FSU since 2012.

Florida football is a top-10 program once again, and for that, the 2018 squad deserves to be this year’s alligatorSports Team of the Year.

 @evanmplepak

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Dylan: It wouldn’t be racing to conclusions to say men’s track and field is the team of the year.

In fact, I believe the race isn’t even close.

Men’s track and field was the only team to take a national championship home this year, winning the NCAA Indoor Championships back in March. The star-studded squad also secured second place in the NCAA Outdoor Championships this month.

The team was led by junior sprinter Grant Holloway, one of the greatest athletes to ever represent the Gators. Holloway, who is expected to leave the team en route to the 2020 Olympics in Japan, won eight individual national championships in his career, a UF record.

Holloway also broke records in the indoor 60 meter hurdles at 7.35 seconds and the outdoor 110 meter hurdles in 12.98 seconds.

In the outdoor championships, Holloway, Raymond Ekevwo, Hakim Sani Brown and Ryan Clark were a part of the national title team in the 4x100 meter relay.

Senior AJ McFarland also set a record, finishing with the highest weight throw in school history.

Florida’s success on the track, along with the finish to Grant Holloway’s UF career, make the Florida’s men’s track and field squad the Florida team of the year.

@dylanoshea24

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Joseph: The UF softball team was by far the best team to represent the Gators this year.

It compiled a strong 49-18 record and won an SEC Tournament championship. It went undefeated in the NCAA Regional and capped off its run with a walk-off win against the No. 12 Tennessee Volunteers from junior Jaimie Hoover to advance to the Women’s College World Series.

It was also Amanda Lorenz and Kelly Barnhill’s last season with the Gators. It’s not like the team needed any more attention, but college softball and UF were saying goodbye to two of the most dominant players to ever play the sport. Unfortunately, both players’ careers ended in heartbreak.

It’s difficult to forget Barnhill walking off the mound with her team down 11-0 to Alabama during the final game of her storied career. UF would go on to lose the game 15-3.

Nonetheless, the softball team gave Gainesville something to cheer for and be proud of.

@JSalvador_14

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Sam: Despite falling short of its national championship goal, the Florida men’s tennis team is my pick for alligatorSports Team of the Year.

Florida’s season was historic. After an Elite Eight appearance in 2018, the Gators went a step further with their first SEC regular season title and Final Four appearance since 2005. They also went undefeated in the conference for the first time in 16 years and had their best record since that last Final Four season.

This is a program that has never won a championship. The 2019 squad is arguably the best in school history.

For that, they deserve to be recognized. Coach Bryan Shelton did a brilliant job getting the most out of his young players. Sam Riffice, one of the top recruits in the country, had a fantastic freshman season for Florida and finished as the No. 23 player in the country. Oliver Crawford, in his sophomore season, was the No. 7 player in the country at season’s end. Expect men’s tennis to be a regular on this list in the future if those two continue to improve.

@samcampisano

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Evan Lepak is a Sports Journalism student at the University of Florida, currently covering UF baseball. He's also covered both UF cross country and UF swimming and diving. He has been with the Alligator since Summer 2018.

Joseph Salvador is a Sports Journalism student at the University of Florida and was previously Sports Editor for Broward College's newspaper The Observer. He has been with the Alligator since Summer 2019.

Sam Campisano is the sports editor of The Alligator. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017, and previously covered men's golf, swimming, soccer and women's basketball.