[stextbox id=”alert” color=”050505″ bcolor=”6cc3f8″ bgcolor=”ffffff” big=”true” image=”null”]School Name: University of Florida
Team Name: Florida Ultimate
Captains: Alton Gaines, Cole Sullivan, Alex Hill
Jersey Colors: Blue and White tops, Gray shorts
2010 Record: 38-6
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get involved with Ultimate at Florida?
Alton Gaines: I first started playing Ultimate my freshman fall, five years ago. Like the vast majority of our team, I had never seen anybody throw a flick before I stepped onto campus. I ended up getting recruited by an A team player my first week of class when I was out playing pickup, so I went to tryouts, made the A team, went to a tournament and got absolutely hooked on the game.
What is Ultimate at Florida all about? Give us a little history of your program.
Alton: Ultimate at the University of Florida is about working our butts off. It’s a widely known fact that we run a tight rotation and the only reason it’s successful is because we dedicate ourselves at the track and at practice to be in the best shape possible to play Ultimate. The modern history of the Florida Ultimate program, in my opinion, begins with Tim Gehret. Before Tim the program had been regionally very competitive, and had its share of success, but nothing at the elite collegiate level. Tim brought a quiet intensity, desire, and skill level that took Florida to the next level. The addition of Kurt Gibson to the equation now meant that Florida had two players that were almost always guaranteed to present hopeless matchup problems. In 2005 a very talented Florida team had a finals appearance in Centex and narrowly missed its first national appearance. That taste of success lit a fire underneath the program, and there was a paradigm shift in the team treated Ultimate. Florida went from being a team that did its best to win the party and didn’t worry about playing ultimate until it showed up bleary eyed and hungover 15 minutes before gametime, to a team that dedicated itself completely to conditioning and practice. This culminated in the 2006 championship team, a team that can throw its hat in the ring for being one of the best college teams to ever cleat up.
Who are some of the alumni you and your team look up to?
Alton: Of all our alumni, I’d have to say I look up to Kurt the most. Not only did he teach me pretty much everything I know about the game, but knowing what he went through with colon cancer, watching him beat it and come back stronger from it, was just incredible, and I’ll always look up to him for that.
Who is your favorite team to play against?
Alton: Winning nationals was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The 2009 season left us all with a bitter taste in our mouths, and it was so much fun to see all of our hard work finally payoff, and to win it with my best friends? Wouldn’t trade it for the world. Obviously the most memorable game of my career would have to finals from last year; another game that really sticks out for me was a game against Colorado Mamabird at Vegas in 2007, which was back when they had Jolian, Beau, Martin, and Mac. Even though we ended up losing in a close game, its was incredible watching those guys duke it out with Kurt and Brodie deep, you’d be hard pressed to find a game even at the club level with that kind receiving fire power. We always seem to have tough games with Georgia, Wisconsin, and Carleton, anytime we play one of those teams its easy to get fired up to play hard.
Are there players on your team who deserve consideration for Callahan, All-Region, or Freshman of the Year?
Alton: I think that Cole Sullivan’s name ought to be thrown out there in the Callahan discussion, but since it’s essentially a popularity contest, I doubt he’ll get the consideration he deserves. In terms of all region, Cole Sullivan and Miguel Palaviccini should be first team locks with Alex Hill and Nathan Sage finding spots on the second or third teams. In true Florida tradition, our best thrower is also our best receiver, as Cole Sullivan will likely be involved on one end or the other of most of our scores. Alex Hill looks to have a prominent role behind the disc, and Alan Baird should become a dominant force in the air this year. Miguel Palaviccini is one of the fastest players in college ultimate and can get the disc seemingly at will, and routinely shuts down the opposition’s primary cutter. On defense, I (Alton Gaines) and Coleman Hoover will play big minutes and hope to generate our fair share of D’s.
Losing valuable players like Brodie Smith leaves some big shoes to fill. Do the Gators have what it takes to improve in Brodie’s absence? (In the 2010 Championship game, Brodie Smith had 10 assists, 2 goals, and 14 D’s.)
Alton: Replacing a player like Brodie is impossible, he was an absolute nightmare of a matchup for other teams and is pretty much impossible to defend against, trust me, I spent three years worth of practice trying. I do indeed expect us get more production out of the middle and bottom of our roster. In the past our top players had favorable match ups in every game. It really didn’t matter who was guarding them, Kurt, Tim, and Brodie were going to do pretty much whatever they wanted. This years team figures to be a little more balanced and we hope to see our 4-7 dominate on the field more than they have in the past, instead of leaning so heavily on our top couple of players.
The 2010 Championship game was extremely heated. What is your take on the final?
Alton: As for this past year’s finals, both teams played hard and I have the utmost respect for the players on Carleton. It seems a lot people were put off by the number of fouls we called; we simply called fouls when we felt we were fouled. It seems silly to me that people should expect us to allow teams to mark us illegally just for the sake of the games watchability, its like expecting NASCAR drivers to crash on purpose just to get people to watch more races. Until Ultimate gives more power to observers, I don’t expect much of change in the way the game is played.
What are your team goals for 2011?
Alton: Our goal as a team is, as always, to win the Region.
Which team has the best shot at winning the 2011 USA Ultimate College Championships?
Alton: I would have to say that the early preseason favorites for the national championship would have to be Carleton and Pitt; I know that they’re both returning a ton of talent. I’ve heard good things about UNC, and I expect Colorado and Oregon to be contenders this year, with Wisconsin making resurgence after a down year by their standards.
Skyd would like to thank Perry Nacionales for providing some of the pictures for this article.