TWO BITS: Florida soccer advances to Elite Eight; Gators volleyball captures 21st SEC title

1 » No. 10 Florida Gators soccer on Sunday advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2014 NCAA Tournament after taking down the No. 16 Texas Tech Red Raiders 3-2 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators may have fallen short of winning their league crown, but Florida is making a significant effort in NCAA play, moving on to the quarterfinals for the fifth time in program history and first since 2003. UF got on the board first with senior midfielder Havana Solaun striking the ball from 20 yards out; it deflected off the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand, and then the post, before finding the back of the net and putting the Gators up 1-0 at 14′. Florida went ahead 2-0 at 21′ after scoring on a glancing header by sophomore forward Savannah Jordan, which came off a free kick from senior MF Annie Speese. Texas Tech fought back with consecutive goals at 37′ and 64′ to tie thing sup, but Speese notched the game-winning goal at 81′ to send UF forward in the postseason.

The Gators will travel out west to continue their trek toward the NCAA title as Florida will next take on the Stanford Cardinal on Friday at 10 p.m. in Palo Alto, California.

2 » It was an eventful week for No. 6 Gators volleyball, which captured the outright 2014 Southeastern Conference Championship on Friday with a 3-1 win against the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi. The SEC regular-season title is Florida’s second in the last three years and 21st in the last 24 seasons (1991-2008, 2010, 2012), all of which have come under head coach Mary Wise. On Sunday, the Gators won their 18th-straight match of the season, taking down the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Florida has its longest winning streak since 2010 and will play its final games of the regular season on Wednesday vs. South Carolina and Saturday at Texas.

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FOUR BITS: Young, Noah, Wambach, Lochte

1 » Waiving two players on Friday, the New Orleans Pelicans whittled their roster down to 15 ahead of the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. Former Florida Gators center Patric Young, an undrafted free agent who was picked up by New Orleans and impressed during training camp, continued to flash during preseason action and earned a spot on the Pelicans’ regular-season roster. Young will be New Orleans’ fourth center (behind Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey) but may be able to work his way up the depth chart if he continues giving tremendous effort like he did last Thursday. On the floor as the clock ticked down against Dallas, Young slammed home a dunk with 2.1 seconds remaining to help his team pull out an 88-85 victory. “As far as having another guy that can come off the bench and doesn’t need the ball in his hands, I think I can step into that role right away,” he told The Times-Picayune. “My goal is just to come here with a great attitude and stay humble. I’m going to chase after rebounds with the mentality of, ‘If I don’t get this rebound then I’m out the league.’ It may be a little extreme, but I want it more than the next guy.”

2 » Former Gators C Joakim Noah has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Chicago Bulls for the last few seasons, but his body has held him back on numerous occasions. A multitude of injuries, primarily to his lower body, have either kept Noah off the court or – more often – forced him to play through pain that most players would not. With another NBA slate starting Tuesday, Noah admitted through gritted teeth that he “still ha[s] a ways to go” in recovering from left knee surgery. “It’s fine. It’s a work in progress. It’s getting better. I’m happy with where it’s at. Let me live, man. Geez,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times, trying to keep his situation close to the vest. A source close to Noah told the paper that his “knee is going to be an issue all season long,” and the Bulls appear prepared to limit his minutes on a game-by-game basis. “There’s a plan,” Noah explained. “We take it day by day and se how it feels, see if there are any setbacks.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Young, Noah, Wambach, Lochte

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Billy Horschel: ‘I love representing Gator Nation.’

Former Florida Gators golfer Billy Horschel capped the best three weeks of his young career – and life – last month when he won the 2014 Tour Championship, brought home a total of $11.44 million by clinching the 2014 FedExCup title and, most importantly, was in the delivery room when his wife gave birth to their first child.

Playing the three best weeks of golf as a professional, Horschel first pocketed $2.03 million by winning the 2014 BMW Championship and finishing second in the 2014 Deutsche Bank Championship. Adding his Tour crown and FedExCup bonus, Horschel boosted his payday to $13.47 million in a three-week span and $14.8 million for the PGA Tour season.

Despite his hot streak, Horschel was not chosen to play for the United States in the 2014 Ryder Cup due to his success occurring too late in the process. Instead, he was able to spend more time at home at his recently-expanded family.

Two days after Horschel set up his family for life, his wife and fellow former Florida golfer, Brittany Horschel, gave birth to baby Skyler on Sept. 16.

Quite a month, huh?

OnlyGators.com got a unique opportunity to speak with Horschel this week as he prepares for the 2014-15 golf season. One of the hottest names in the sport, Horschel was not an easy get considering he is one of the hottest names in the sport. Nevertheless, the PGA Tour was more than accommodating.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s start with what’s important: how are the wife and baby?
BILLY HORSCHEL: “Skyler and Brittany are doing really great. They’re both healthy. Brittany is loving being a mom. She’s doing a heck of a job. We’ve been very blessed in the sense that Skyler has been a very, very easy baby. She sleeps well, doesn’t fuss a lot. If you could sort draw up the ideal baby – in the way for her to act for the parents to not go crazy – in my opinion, this would be it. We’ve been very blessed and very lucky.”

Continue Reading » Billy Horschel: ‘I love representing Gator Nation.’

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Mike Slive to retire as SEC commissioner in 2015

The Southeastern Conference on Tuesday announced that Commissioner Mike Slive, who will have served in the role for 13 years, will retire on July 31, 2015. Slive also personally announced that he will be “beginning treatment for a recurrence of prostate cancer for which he was treated in the late 1990s.”

“I have been blessed in more ways than I can count and I will have as much passion for this job on my last day as I did on my first,” said Slive in a press release from the league.

“I consider my health situation a temporary detour in a remarkable road that has allowed me to meet amazing people, experience incredible events and celebrate historic victories. I will relish my final year in this position and look forward to being the biggest fan of the SEC for many years to come.”

The prognosis for the Slive to recover is “good,” but he will nevertheless leave his post at the SEC six days after his 75th birthday. At that time, he will “serve in the role of consultant to the conference for a period of four years.”

Continue Reading » Mike Slive to retire as SEC commissioner in 2015

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TWO BITS: Florida vs. VCU, Horschel, DiMarco

1 » According to head coach Shaka Smart (via the Richmond Times-Dispatch‘s Tim Pearrell), the VCU Rams will serve as Florida Gators basketball’s opponent for UF’s annual secret scrimmage ahead of their exhibition contest and the 2014-15 regular season. VCU will travel to Florida for an on-campus scrimmage scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 1. The Gators took on Georgia Tech (in Valdosta, Georgia) in 2013, faced Rollins College in 2012 and squared off against UCF in 2011. Playing against Smart will mark the second time in four years that head coach Billy Donovan will face one of his former assistants (Donnie Jones, 2011) in the closed scrimmage.

College basketball teams are allowed to play a combination of two total scrimmages or exhibition games, and Donovan has always opted for one of each. UF will play its exhibition game against Barry University at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida, on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Florida vs. VCU, Horschel, DiMarco

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Bonner, McCray, Villegas headline UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2015 inductees

Seven former letterwinners – including Gator Greats Matt Bonner (basketball), Nicole McCray (volleyball) and Camilo Villegas (men’s golf) – will be inducted as members of the UF Athletic Hall of Fame’s 2015 class.

The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Tuesday that the honors will be bestowed upon these former players at the Hall of Fame Banquet on April 10 in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Inductees are divided into three distinct categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners.

The remainder of the 2014 class includes Gator Greats Camilo Benedetti (men’s golf), Beth Farmer (women’s track & field, cross country), Candice Scott (women’s track & field) and Stephanie Zunich Donley (women’s swimming).

Read more about each inductee and their career accomplishments…
Continue Reading » Bonner, McCray, Villegas headline UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2015 inductees

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Billy Horschel wins Tour Championship and FedExCup, brings home $11.44 million on Sunday

Former Florida Gators golfer Billy Horschel capped the best three weeks of his young career on Sunday by winning the 2014 Tour Championship and bringing home $11.44 million – a $1.44 million winner’s share as well as a $10 million bonus for clinching the much-desired 2014 FedExCup title.

Horschel finished -2 (68) on Sunday and -11 for the tournament, which was held at East Lake Golf Course in Atlanta, Georgia, edging competitors Rory McIlroy and Jim Furyk by three strokes each.

He opened the event by shooting four-under 66s on Thursday and Friday, extending his lead with a one-under 69 on Saturday to enter Sunday with a two-stroke lead.

Paired Rory McIlroy, winner of two majors in 2014, Horschel shot a two-under 33 on the front nine Sunday before bogeying 10. After four consecutive pars on holes 11-14, he birdied 15 to regain his one-stroke lead.

Continue Reading » Billy Horschel wins Tour Championship and FedExCup, brings home $11.44 million on Sunday

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Billy Horschel leading Tour Championship, planning to stay and play if wife goes into labor

Billy Horschel is playing the best golf of his young career.

The 27-year-old former Florida Gators golfer, who has finished 1-2 in his last two tournaments and earned $2.03 million already this month, is currently leading the 2014 Tour Championship by two strokes and has no plans to let anything deter him from winning the entire thing.

Horschel (-8) has Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Chris Kirk (all -6) on his heels as he looks to win a share of the event’s $8 million purse. Also on the line for Horschel and a number of other golfers is the FedExCup title and the $10 million bonus that goes with it.

Having already earned nearly $3.4 million this season, he is hoping to close out a victory over the weekend with plenty on his mind as his wife and fellow former Florida golfer Brittany Horschel is pregnant with a baby girl due in two weeks.

So, what would Horschel do if his wife suddenly goes into labor this weekend?

Continue Reading » Billy Horschel leading Tour Championship, planning to stay and play if wife goes into labor

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