The Eighth Man

Will They or Won’t They: University of Florida, #20

In addition to our preseason rankings, The Eighth Man staff will be releasing a series of articles focusing on the top 20 teams, counting down from 20 to one. Each article will be written by two members of the staff, one who believes the team will live up to or exceed expectations and one who thinks they will come up short. 


“MASTER OF NONE”
By Daniel Daugherty

Departing Players
Zachary Thorne – Keeper
Jeremy Sparks – Chaser
With only two departing players, University of Florida (UF) looks to build upon last year’s Pot Two finish. Even with only two losses, UF’s road is not paved evenly for them as they hope to rekindle some magic from their runner-up final at World Cup V.

Wrong Direction
UF prides themselves on the ability to adjust to all different strategies and be fluid in their own strategy. This could lead to being a “jack of all trades, master of none.” As important as it is to be able to adjust to what opponents are doing, it is even more important to have an identity and be able to fall back into what your team does best when a game is not going your way. After being the breakout team at World Cup V, they missed out on bracket play at World Cup VI and were knocked out in the Round of 32 at World Cup VII. UF will need to revamp in order to make a jump from a top 32 team to a top 20 team this season.

Weak Region
The South is not full of many top-tier teams, which makes it really difficult for teams like UF to get better without top-level competition. The South is right there with the Mid-Atlanticand arguably the Midwestin needing out-of-region play in order to diversify and see what elite teams are doing that is working. UF has shown in the past that they are willing to go to the Southwest in order to improve, the question is whether or not they will make that effort again this season. Many people in the South point to UF playing against Texas A&M University as the reason for them competing at all at World Cup VII.

Being the best team in the South is not outside of the realm of possibility but is going to be a tough test with Florida’s Finest only getting better. Look for UF to continue to try to be fluid with their strategy and to ultimately fall short of any impressive tournament showings. They will continue to be solid but will fail to make any huge impact on the national stage this season.


SWEET 16 FINISHER
By Sean Pagoada

Past Performances
The University of Florida Gators were ousted in the Round of 32 at World Cup VII, ending their run with a final score of 110*-60 against eventual runner-ups Texas State University. The Gators’ 2013-14 squad was largely made up of new talent, allowing their players to develop and improve with every tournament. Non-SWIM losses to Texas A&M University at Wolfpack Classic and to University of Miami in the Southern Regional Championship finals helped players gain valuable experience against tough competition. With close World Cup VII losses to Bowling Green State University in pool play and Texas State in bracket playboth in snitch rangeexpect this squad to come back seasoned and motivated to make a deeper run at the championship tournament this year.

The Returners
UF will be returning all their players with the exceptions of long-time keeper Zachary Thorne and chaser Jeremy Sparks. The leader of their pass-crazy offense is none other than keeper Dre Clements, with whom you will see chasers Elizabeth Norton and Tori Robbins show a pass-first mentality in order to open up defenses for wide-open shots. These two ladies allow UF to run a two-male beater lineup for most of the game, with Richard Crumrine leading their beating corps and contributing much-needed physicality, as well as conservative play. Coach Tim Derrick will have the chance to move this offense forward with even better passing schemes. While the offense definitely stands out, UF’s defense is what they prided themselves on last season. While Thorne will be missed for his great shot blocking, sophomore Matt Butler will have the opportunity to step up and fill the gap left behind. Nick Zakoske will be one of the heavy hitters on the team, making one-man stops when necessary, and Kate Alicante will be a hustler on defense, rounding out their female chaser lineup. While the Gators will be missing some key beaters (Ashley McDowell and Arielle Plavcan) in the spring, they will have all of the fall semester to train up some new talent. If UF can get one or two more standout players, they will be battling Florida’s Finest for the top spot in the South. Even without that, they have suffered fewer graduation losses than most of the Southern teams.

Expectations
I expect a repeat appearance in the South Regional finals and a Sweet 16 finish come April from the Gators. This should be Clements’ last season leading the UF offense; if the team can play off his passes, they should stand in a good position to rack up points against most defenses. If this team can focus on improving their performance from last season and building up to their potential, then it’ll be happy chomping for the Gators this season.

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