Photo by Bobby McDuffie / Getty Images

Unfair.

That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about the way this pandemic has gripped the collegiate sports world and robbed so many student athletes of a proper ending to their respective seasons.

I especially feel for those select seniors who didn’t know their last time out competing was it for them in a college uniform.

On Tuesday, the Southeastern Conference announced the decision to cancel all regular season conference and non-conference competitions for the remainder of the 2019-20 athletic year, effectively ending the postseasons for winter sports, along with the regular seasons and postseasons for spring sports.

“This is a difficult day for all of us, and I am especially disappointed for our student-athletes,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a release. “The health and well-being of our entire conference community is an ongoing priority for the SEC as we continue to monitor developments and information about the COVID-19 virus.”

The NCAA has said athletes who participated in spring sports will be granted eligibility relief, which is huge for those that missed a majority of their regular seasons at no fault of their own.

Unfortunately, according to CBS reporter Jon Rothstein , it’s unlikely that winter sports’ athletes will receive any kind of eligibility relief, despite sports like basketball and gymnastics losing postseason play.

Although the seasons for many of Florida’s athletic programs came to crushing ends, plenty of success had been accomplished before society as we know it got turned on its head by the coronavirus.

Men’s Basketball: (19-12, 11-7 SEC)

Florida started this season with the highest expectations it has had under coach Mike White. Ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press Preseason Poll, the Gators were a lot of people’s dark horse to make a Final Four run.

With two McDonald’s All-Americans, the most-coveted graduate transfer on the market, and three returning sophomores who figured to take that next step on the roster, those expectations were fair.

Unfortunately, UF never really lived up to those expectations, despite all the preseason accolades.

Inconsistency plagued this particular Florida team, and White was never able to will that out of his players as the regular season went on.

It wasn’t all bad, though.

These Gators racked up marquee victories over Auburn, LSU, Providence, Arkansas and Xavier, earning themselves a Charleston Classic Championship in the process.

The team had done enough to earn a five seed in the SEC Tournament, hoping a productive weekend in Nashville would give it some momentum heading into its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in a row under White.

We’ll never end up knowing what this team could’ve done in the postseason. It’s fun to think about, but just like the team’s regular season, it’s almost just as frustrating.

Gymnastics: (10-0, 7-0 SEC) Ranked No. 2 (Road to Nationals Rankings)

UF gymnastics was hoping for perfection; while the team achieved it, there will always be an asterisk next to that 10-0 record.

That shouldn’t take away from what the Gators did to get there, however.

Florida completed its first ever perfect slate in the SEC with a 7-0 conference record. It defeated nine teams who ended the season ranked in the top 20, according to the Road to Nationals standings.

Sophomore Trinity Thomas was honored eight separate times in 2020 as SEC Gymnast of the Week, earning four perfect scores this season.

Her and senior Rachel Gowey each earned 10s during the team’s victory over Penn State on March 7, making it only the fourth time in the program’s history that 10s were earned in multiple events.

Women’s Basketball: (15-15, 6-10 SEC)

The 2019-20 campaign was a huge step forward for coach Cam Newbauer, and his team. The year prior, the Gators won just eight games and sat at the bottom of the SEC standings.

This season, UF finished with its best record since the 2015-16 season.

Freshman Lavender Briggs lived up to her five-star billing, averaging 15 points per game to lead the team. The Gators also managed to defeat two top-25 teams this season, the most under Newbauer in a single season.

At 15-15, UF was hoping for an NIT bid, but now it’ll just have to use this season’s improvements as a stepping stone into 2020-21.

Baseball: (16-1) Ranked No. 1, according to Baseball America

After a underwhelming season in 2019, Florida was ready to prove such a season was just a fluke.

And the Gators did just that.

Who knows how UF would’ve fared during the gauntlet of an SEC schedule it didn’t get the chance to face, but through the 17 games the Gators did play, there was no doubt which team was the best in college baseball during that span.

Players like Jacob Young (.450 batting average and a 17-game hitting streak) and Jud Fabian (led the team with five home runs and 13 RBI) were tearing the cover off the ball.

On the mound, Hunter Barco (2-0, 1.40 ERA) and Tommy Mace (3-0, 1.67 ERA) both looked poised to have fantastic years.

Now, those who come back and forego the MLB Draft will just have to channel the hot start this season into 2021.

Softball: (23-4, 3-0 SEC) Ranked No. 7, according to Softball America

2020 was supposed to be a “prove it” year for this UF squad.

Replacing two of the best players in program history in Kelly Barnhill and Amanda Lorenz wasn’t going to be easy, especially not with 13 freshmen and sophomores on the roster. Coach Tim Walton and his team didn’t care, however.

Florida proved once again why it’s known as a perennial softball power.

The Gators took down four ranked opponents this season, including a 5-2 victory at home over a top-15 team in Florida State before the cancellations began.

Collectively, UF had five batters hitting over .300. The team was led by Charla Echols (8 HR and 28 RBI) and Kendyl Lindaman (7 HR and 22 RBI) in that category.

In the circle, Natalie Lugo and Rylee Trlicek did the most damage, going a combined 16-4 this season. Both finished the shortened campaign with ERAs under two.

With eligibility relief being granted to those who played spring sports, I’d expect for this team to be primed for a trip to Oklahoma City in 2021.

Lacrosse: (6-2) Ranked No. 8, according to the IWLCA Poll

Like many of the other spring sports, the lacrosse team was impressing early.

The Gators defeated two top-three teams in #1 Maryland and #3 Stony Brook, helping UF rise to as high as fourth in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Poll.

Florida’s two starters who led the way for the team were Shannon Kavanagh and Brianna Harris.

The duo started in all eight games for the Gators, scoring 61 of the team’s 108 goals and contributing to 20 of the team’s 43 assists.

With the experience the team had and the confidence it had built with its impressive victories, UF lacrosse could’ve had a special year.

The team’s going to be a lot to handle in 2021.

Leave a Reply