Pat Dooley’s Back Nine April 19

The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend that had a lot of positive results for the Gators so we’ll skip over the bad ones. Naw, we have to deal with those, too.

10. I know there are some of you out there who are lamenting that there were so many spring games on TV and more to come but Florida chose not to play one. And I get it because spring games are definitely for nobody but the fans. But obviously what is going on at the stadium with thousands of people receiving the vaccine is going to get us closer to normal faster than a meaningless game. I will say that with all of the other sports that DID have games that meant something, I did not watch one, nor will I pay attention to any stats from one. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the only news that comes out of spring football is bad news. Everything else is simple in the eye of the beholder.

11. Let’s talk about things that did mean something and we’ll start with volleyball. I watched every second of the intense match with Ohio State in the Sweet 16 (those Buckeyes fans must be sick of Gators) and it was some performance by Mart Wise’s ladies. It’s a weird format where you play, then don’t play for two days, then, play two in a row after a late match but your opponent got that day off because BYU won’t play on Sunday. Whatever, the next opponent with a trip on the line to the Final Four is No. 1 ranked Wisconsin. By the way, the announcers for that match Sunday night really knew their volleyball, but if the one dud said, “Smart shot,” I was driving to Omaha to tell him to stop.

12. Not so good was the Florida gymnastics team, although this is where we are when we are not happy with a fourth-place finish nationally. Certainly, we all thought Florida’s gymnastics team would or could win in the NCAA Championships, but give Michigan credit for the third highest score ever in the finals. Florida never had a chance when it had to count a fall on the beam. One of those who fell was Trinity Thomas and that just doesn’t happen. But that lingering ankle injury meant that Florida wasn’t going to Fort Worth with the same team it had earlier in the season. Hey, I really enjoyed watching the ladies this season and fourth place is better than not making the finals. It’s just a shame that UF couldn’t have been at full speed.

13. We turn our attention to baseball where we told people Florida needed to have a big weekend and sweep Missouri. But you can’t sweep a team until you win the first game, so I think asking for a sweep is a jinx. But what do I know? Anyway, these are the mind games I play in my head, a place you don’t want to be. Florida didn’t exactly overwhelm Mizzou, but received excellent relief pitching and took all three including two on Saturday. The gators are now in a race for first place in the SEC East, two behind Vanderbilt and one behind Tennessee and South Carolina. This is a huge week for Florida because all four games are on the road and the Gators need to show they can win away from home (two wins so far).

14. Florida’s softball team won two of three at Alabama and that is great. Unfortunately, Arkansas had a sweep. But we are now looking at a two-team race with nine conference games to play. The combined SEC record of Florida’s last three opponents is 18-26 (I know, stat geek alert) so it should be exciting. But Arkansas only has six SEC games remaining so Florida needs some help from Missouri and LSU and it’s never easy to ask a pair of Tigers for a littler help.

15. We don’t give them enough attention, but congrats to the Florida lacrosse team for clinching a share of the American Athletic Conference championship. Mandee O’Leary’s teams have now won 10 regular season championships in three different conferences. As geeky as I am, I don’t want to take the time to figure out if that has been done in any sports before. I’ll just sit back and be impressed.

16. Like we don’t have enough going on, we’re into the postseason in tennis and golf and I am especially interested to see how the men’s tennis team fares in the SEC tournament starting today in Fayetteville. When I think tennis, I think of Fayetteville, said nobody.

17. I appreciate everyone for sending cards or – like the Martins – sending two days of food and wine to the house. Grief can only be softened with the love that others send your way. I had a couple of moments this week where I started to call my Dad or wanted to make sure we saved something for him. He’s up there checking us all out.

18. OK, let’s not end on a down note. Instead, the Florida Four will give you the four most important football games in Florida’s 2021 football season.

* Georgia. Still is. I don’t think either team can get to Atlanta without beating the other.
* Alabama. I’m not saying Florida has to win the game, but it needs to be competitive to set up the rest of the season.
* LSU. Some believe the Tigers will challenge the Tide in the West. And going into that stadium is never easy.
* Tennessee. Keep the Kardashians in their place.

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