Florida set to take on UCF in new Amway Center

Florida Gators basketball has been dead-set on bolstering its 2010-11 out-of-conference schedule since last season ended. They advanced this cause Wednesday, agreeing to face the Central Florida Knights in a neutral-site game at the brand new Amway Center in Orlando, FL, on Dec. 1.

Though Central Florida is based in Orlando, the game’s location is considered to be a neutral-site because the Knights play their home games at the UCF Arena. Their match-up with Florida will be the first college basketball game played at the new $480 million facility.

The game will hold added significance on two different levels for Gators head coach Billy Donovan. Most notably, Donovan will be going up against his former long-time assistant and new Knights head coach Donnie Jones for the first time since he left the program for the top job at Marshall after the 2007 NCAA National Championship season.

He also will be coaching in the new home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, the team he once agreed to coach before backing out just days later and signing a new contract with Florida in 2007.

UF and UCF last faced-off in basketball on Dec. 20, 2008, in Jacksonville, FL. The Gators prevailed 89-61 and are 9-0 all-time against the Knights.

FOUR BITS: Baseball falls; two tennis Ws, one L

1 » Coming into the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament on a high after winning the SEC regular season title, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball (40-14) was brought down a notch with a 10-6 loss to the defending national champion LSU Tigers in first-round action at Regions Park in Hoover, AL. LSU starter Anthony Ranaudo (4-2) gave up five earned runs in 7.2 innings but still outdueled Florida freshman Brian Johnson (5-4) who was lit up for seven earned runs in just 3.2 innings. Senior outfielder Matt den Dekker (2-5) led the way for the Gators with three RBI and a home run, but his efforts were not enough to stop the Tigers’ offensive onslaught. The loss marked only the second time all season Florida fell in back-to-back games; it did not remove them from the tournament, which is double-elimination. The Gators will compete Thursday in an elimination game that will air live on CSS and online at ESPN3.com.

2 » Though the Florida men’s tennis team was ousted early in the 2010 NCAA National Championship, individual players are still competing for singles and doubles titles. On Wednesday, No. 8-seed junior Alexandre Lacroix won his first-round match in straight sets (6-1, 6-1) over No. 104-ranked Charles Bottoni of East Tennessee State at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA. Lacroix will move on to face No. 32-seed Bassm Beidas of Pepperdine on Thursday. He will actually participate in two matches Thursday, also teaming with senior Antoine Benneteau in doubles competition.

3 » Members of the National Championship runner-up Gators women’s tennis team were not afforded much rest as two were already back in action Wednesday. No. 7-seed freshman Allie Will (47-4) won her first-round singles match against Washington State’s Liudmila Vassilieva easily (6-1, 6-1), advancing to the second round on Thursday.

4 » On the other hand, Will’s classmate Lauren Embree (32-6), who led Florida on Tuesday, surprisingly fell in her singles match. She lost 6-1, 1-6, 6-2 to California’s Mari Anderson and was bounced from the tournament. Both women will compete alongside seniors Marrit Boonstra and Anastasia Revzina in doubles action Thursday.

FOUR BITS: Rosario, Andrews, softball, NFL

1 » ESPN’s Andy Katz reports that Rutgers transfer guard Mike Rosario, who was hoping to enroll at the University of Florida for its Summer A session, will instead join the Florida Gators for Summer B as he is stuck in New Jersey finishing classes. “Rosario might end up being one of the most important transfers Donovan has had in his career,” Katz wrote. “[He] will push Kenny Boynton in practice every day.”

2 » Former Gators dazzler and ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews finished third in her quest to win ABC‘s Dancing with the Stars competition. Andrews got further than many expected on the program and is rumored to have begun a relationship with her dance partner on the show. She is currently in the process of finalizing a new contract (including a significant raise) with the Worldwide Leader in Sports and hopes to expand her horizons beyond college sports and baseball.

3 » Two Florida softball players – juniors pitcher Stephanie Brombacher and outfielder Kelsey Bruder – have been named 2010 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-Americans by the College of Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Named to the third- and second-teams, respectively, each earned at least a 3.30 GPA.

4 » Former Gators inside linebackers Channing Crowder and Andra Davis were both in the news Wednesday. A report from the Sun-Sentinel states that Crowder may begin the season on the Miami Dolphins’ physically unable to perform list if his foot does not heal properly, while another from the Buffalo News infers that Davis is set to start for the Buffalo Bills alongside Paul Posluszny.

FOUR BITS: Shipman playing football, two signees

1 » According to his father, former Florida Gators guard Ray Shipman, who transferred from the basketball team just a few weeks ago, has decided to switch sports. Rather than transfer to play basketball, Shipman will leave to try his hand at playing football – more specifically the position of safety. Shipman was named the state of Florida’s Mr. Basketball in 2008 but never really established himself on the college level.

2 » No. 4 Gators baseball (40-13) will begin the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament as a No. 1 seed Wednesday night against the defending national champion LSU Tigers (36-20). The double-elimination event, which is being played in Hoover, AL, will feature Florida in its third game and is set to air live on CSS at 5:30 p.m. The Gators swept the Tigers during the regular season, outscoring them 28-14 in three home games from April 30 to May 2.

3 » Florida softball signed a fifth player to their 2010 signing class on Tuesday, receiving a National Letter of Intent from Ashley Snedeker (Bloomington, MN). “Ashley is a very good addition to our 2011 roster,” head coach Tim Walton said in a release. “She is dynamic and is going to provide us with some athleticism at the plate and in the field. She is a proven winner at every level, and I am really excited to add her to our program.”

4 » Also signing a National Letter of Intent with the Gators Tuesday was sprinter Darshay Davis (Miramar, FL), who is joining the school’s women’s track & field team. “I would like to make the biggest impact as possible as a freshman next season,” Davis told the Miami Herald. “I know I will have more competition. I won’t be on top, but I expect to run pretty fast. At least finish top eight indoors and outdoors in the SEC and NCAA.”

Former Gators safety Jarvis Williams dead at 45

Former Florida Gators hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams, Sr. (1965-2010) passed away Tuesday evening. He was 45-years-old.

Though earlier reports stated Williams suffered a massive heart attack, the actual cause of death was ruled to be an acute asthma attack, according to a medical examiner. A person close to his family confirmed his passing to OGGOA early Wednesday morning.

Williams competed for the Gators as a defensive back from 1984 to 1987 under then-head coach Galen Hall. He started every game (45) for four consecutive seasons (third-most in school history), was twice named first-team All-Southeastern Conference and garnered national honors as a first-team All-American in 1987.

During Williams’ career at Florida, he recorded 239 total tackles including 172 unassisted. His 10 career interceptions ranked third all-time for the Gators when he graduated. He led the 1987 team in tackles (77) and punt return yards (222) and was also a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award (nation’s top defensive back) that year.

Drafted with the No. 42 overall pick in the second round of the 1988 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, Williams would play there for six seasons before finishing his career with the New York Giants. As a professional, he nabbed 16 interceptions (five in 1990) with three sacks and one recorded touchdown.

He played most of his career with fellow Florida safety Louis Oliver, who also made the transition from the Gators to the Dolphins, getting drafted in the first round in 1989.

“Jarvis was just a great person. He’d give you the shirt off his back, he was funny as hell, great teammate, great person. There was nothing bad to say about him,” Oliver told the Palm Beach Post. “He just made the transition from college to professional ball so much easier for me, because he knew the system when I got here. [...] I’ve always known Jarvis to pretty much stay in shape – shooting basketball, jogging, running, and when I got the news that he had a heart attack, that kind of shocked me. I stopped breathing this morning when I got the news. It’s just a sad day.”

After retiring, Williams was honored with an induction into the University of Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame (F Club) as a Gator Great in 2001. He was also named to The Gainesville Sun‘s All-Century Team, as voted by its readers in 1999.

As recently as March 12, Williams competed with a bevy of other Florida players at the Miracle of Life Foundation golf tournament hosted by Emmitt Smith and Darryl Perry.

“[I am] deeply saddened to hear that Jarvis Williams has passed,” Smith said via Twitter. “Man…[he was] only 45 years old. Had the chance and the luxury to play with him. Man…Jarvis [was] such a great football player and person. I still remem[ber] the hit Jarvis put on Melvin Bratton in one of the games when I was being recruited by Florida. Jarvis will be missed. Heartfelt condolences to his fam[ily].”

Oliver on the above clip: “I remember it like it was yesterday – playing it up at UF, Bratton coming over the middle and Jarvis just knocking the s*** out of him. But he did that a lot. He did that in practice, he did that at Florida, he did that in games with the Dolphins.”

OGGOA sends our deepest condolences to the Williams family. We will update this story as more information is made available.

Photo Credit: George Tiedemann/Sports Illustrated

No. 8 Stanford squeaks by No. 3 Florida for title

Starving off a near spectacular comeback, No. 8 Stanford Cardinal women’s tennis (26-1) captured the 2010 NCAA National Championship with a 4-3 defeat of the No. 3 Florida Gators (29-3) on Tuesday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, GA.

The Gators were just two individual games away from defeat but battled back to force third sets in two singles matches while the Cardinal held a 3-2 lead. Florida sophomore Joanna Mather took down Stanford’s Carolyn McVeigh 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 in the second-to-last match, tying the score 3-3 and leaving the title in the hands of the final two competitors – senior No. 65 Marrit Boonstra and No. 33 Mallory Burdette

After losing her first set 6-4, Boonstra fought back to even her match with Burdette by winning the second set 6-7 (4). Down 2-0 in the third, Boonstra pushed ahead with a valiant effort to take a 5-4 lead. However, she ended up losing her final three games, allowing Burdette to tie it up and eventually reign victorious 7-5.

“My heart just aches for Marrit,” Gators head coach Ron Thornqvist said after the loss. “She has given this program everything she has. It’s just not fair for it to come down to a result like this for her. She’s going to be hurting for a long time. Our players will echo when I say that they love her for all she has done for them and how she gives them her heart. Marrit gave herself a chance in the match, leading 5-4 and was playing good tennis. It seemed like Mallory relaxed at 5-all and I thought that was the difference.”

The Gators won the doubles point with victories from the No. 29 duo of freshman Lauren Embree and Mather as well as the pair of freshman Carolina Hitimana and senior Anastasia Revzina. However, Florida’s No. 5-ranked team of Boonstra and freshman Allie Will uncharacteristically fell 8-4 to No. 2 Hilary Barte and Lindsay Brudette.

In singles action, No. 9 Embree held No. 4 Barte set-less with a 6-4, 6-4 victory. Mather joined her with a singles win, but No. 8 Will (6-3, 6-3), Boonstra, No. 102 Revzina (6-2, 6-2) and No. 107 Hitimana (6-3, 7-5) were all out-matched by Stanford.

“That was probably one of the better matches I’ve been involved with in a match of this magnitude,” Thornqvist reflected. “I thought we played terrific in doubles all year and today was no different. For some reason, we got off to a slow start in singles. It looked really grim there for a while, but just like we talked about all year long, we were resilient. I really thought our team showed tremendous courage, heart and pride. In the end we came up short, but I was really, really proud of our effort and our play in a championship round like this. Stanford played at a high level from the beginning of the match. In the first 20 minutes of singles, balls were whipping past us left and right. For us to slow that down and use our athleticism and neutralize some of that pace was great.”

The Gators women will now break apart from the team and compete in singles and doubles for individual NCAA National Championships beginning on Wednesday. Embree and Will are set to represent Florida in singles action, while Will/Boonstra and Embree/Revzina will pair in the doubles draw.

With the victory, the Cardinal captures their 16th title in 29 years and first over the Gators. Florida and Stanford squared off in the 2003 championship match with the Gators winning 4-3, but the Cardinal began their revenge with a 4-0 semifinal victory in 2006, the last time the two teams had faced until Tuesday.

Photo/Quote Credits: University of Florida

TWO BITS: SEC baseball awards, Pearl’s praise

1 » Champions of the 2010 Southeastern Conference regular season, No. 4 Florida Gators baseball received two major awards and 14 honorable placements on Tuesday. Kevin O’Sullivan was named the 2010 SEC Coach of the Year, third baseman Austin Maddox was named the 2010 SEC Freshman of the Year and junior left-hander Kevin Chapman was named to the All-SEC First Team as the relief pitcher. Other honors awarded: All-SEC Second Team – sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker, Maddox, freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana and senior outfielder Matt den Dekker; All-Freshman Team – Maddox, Fontana, catcher Mike Zunino, pitcher Hudson Randall, DH/P Brian Johnson; All-Defensive Team – Tucker, Fontana, den Dekker.

2 » Tennessee Volunteers head coach Bruce Pearl heaped the praise on the Gators basketball program and head coach Billy Donovan on Tuesday, claiming that Florida is easily the most talented team in the SEC going into the 2010-11 season. “Billy Donovan has had several years of really, really good recruiting,” Pearl told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “They will be by far the most talented team in the SEC.” Pearl made this declaration while acknowledging the fact that Kentucky is bringing in easily the best recruiting class in the nation.

Photo Credit: University of Florida

Three Gators earn SEC track & field awards

Florida Gators track & field captured three end-of-season honors from the Southeastern Conference on Monday. Head coach Mike Holloway was named the SEC Men’s Head Coach of the Year, senior thrower Mariam Kevkhishvili was named the SEC Women’s Field Athlete of the Year and sophomore jumper Christian Taylor was named the SEC Men’s Field Athlete of the Year.

The University of Florida took home more total awards in this period than any other school, with Ole Miss, Auburn and Tennessee each receiving two honors.

Holloway is racking up the awards this season. He has already been named the 2010 SEC Indoor Women’s Head Coach of the Year, 2010 USTFCCCA National Men’s Indoor Head Coach of the Year and 2010 USTFCCCA Indoor South Region Men’s and Women’s Head Coach of the Year.

One of the most accomplished athletes in school history, Kevkhishvili is hoping to complete an undefeated season and is on the watch list for The Bowerman. A four-time National Champion and seven-time All-American, she won the 2010 SEC Outdoor Championship for shot put (her third in four years) and leads the nation with a career-high mark of 18.46m/60-6.75.

Taylor also had a great year, winning the 2010 SEC Outdoor Championship in triple jump and as the third leg of the 4×400-meter relay team. He also finished second in individual point standings at the event.

The Gators track & field program has already captured three titles this season. The men won the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championship and 2010 SEC Outdoor Championship, while the women took home the 2010 SEC Indoor Championship. Both programs begin competing for their 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championship in the next few days.

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