Jan. 27, 2009

Courtesy of Florida

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The University of Florida was voted number one in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Preseason Poll, released Tuesday afternoon.  The Gators earned 14 first-place votes in the first poll of the 2009 season.

Florida tallied 728 points, 37 more than No. 2 Arizona State.  The defending National Championship Sun Devils received 15 first-place votes.  The two will square off on Feb. 19 at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, Calif.

The No. 1 ranking comes on the same day UF was picked to win the 2009 Southeastern Conference title by the league coaches, tallying 10 first-place votes.  The softball team is currently the third different UF team ranked first nationally (gymnastics and football).

The Gators finished the 2008 season ranked third in the USA Today/NFCA poll, the highest final ranking in program history.  They also recorded the school’s first-ever number-one ranking by both USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball polls.  They finished the season tying for third at the Women’s College World Series and setting an NCAA record with 70 wins.  The players and team also rewrote much of the Florida record book.

Head Coach Tim Walton returns eight of nine starters from last year’s historic team, including five All-Americans – junior Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.), senior Ali Gardiner (Waccabuc, N.Y.), senior Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.), sophomore Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.) and senior Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.). Nelson was also named the 2008 SEC Pitcher of the Year.

The Gators open the 2009 season with a three-game series against Baylor, starting Friday, Feb. 6 at 6 p.m.  It will mark the first home opener since the 2004 season.