Florida lacrosse ends second season with 13-9 home loss to Duke in NCAA Elite Eight

A dream season for the young No. 4 Florida Gators lacrosse team (16-4) came to an end in the Elite Eight round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Saturday as the second-year program was defeated 13-9 by the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils (15-4) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The 2011 ALC regular season champions, Florida became the first program in the history of the sport to earn a berth in the NCAAs in only its second year of existence. The Gators defeated some of the top teams in the country this season, had a 14-game winning streak at one point and were undefeated at home until their loss to the Blue Devils on Saturday.

Florida scored right out of the gate, taking a 1-0 lead as sophomore attacker/midfielder Kitty Cullen put one in the net off an assist from sophomore A Ashley Bruns. However, Duke responded with a 6-2 run and led 6-3 at the half, forcing UF to face its second-largest deficit of the season.

The Gators came out of the break on fire. Bruns scored via an assist from Cullen less than a minute into the second half, and the team took off on a 6-2 run of their own to retake the lead 9-8 with 17:26 remaining in the contest. Cullen added her second goal of the game and M Janine Hillier scored back-to-back goals at the end of the run.

Florida looked to be in control of the match at that point, but Duke would have none of it. The Blue Devils tied the game 9-9 at 14:16, took the lead at 13:13 and ran nine minutes off of the clock before scoring again with 4:13 left. The Gators failed to control the ball in the waning minutes, allowing Duke to score twice more, end the match on a 5-0 scoring run and advance to the Final Four.

The loss was Florida’s third in the month of May; the team had not dropped a single game after falling to North Carolina in their season opener back in February. The Gators lost their regular season finale 9-6 to Cornell on May 1 and fell 10-9 to Northwestern in the 2011 ALC Tournament Championship on May 7.

UF will remain intact heading into the 2012 season as the young team is composed of one junior, 16 sophomores, four redshirt freshmen and six true freshmen.

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Florida lacrosse falls in 2011 ALC Championship

In only their second year of existence, No. 4 Florida Gators lacrosse was hoping to do the unthinkable, not only win the American Lacrosse Conference regular season crown but also take home the 2011 ALC Championship by sweeping through the tournament in which they earned the No. 1 overall seed. Instead Florida (15-3, 5-0 ALC) fell 10-9 on Saturday to the No. 2-seed and No. 3-ranked Northwestern Wildcats (17-2, 3-2 ALC), who they defeated 13-11 just three weeks earlier.

Squaring off at the VU Lacrosse Complex in Nashville, TN, the Gators hoped to knock the Wildcats off their pedestal. Since the tournament began, Northwestern has been the only victors, and Florida failed in their opportunity to take the crown.

Up three goals, 8-5, with 13:17 remaining, the Gators allowed the Wildcats to go on a 5-0 scoring run to jump ahead 10-8 with 2:22 left on the clock. Sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns scored unassisted with 1:25 to go, but an illegal stick call seconds later took the next possession out of Florida’s hands and allowed Northwestern to hold on for victory.

Sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen, one of the best players in the country and Florida’s leading scorer, was held without a goal and only notched a single point on an assist. Sophomore A Caroline Chesterman led the Gators with three goals, while Bruns and sophomore M Brittany Dashiell each scored a pair of goals.

The Wildcats were led by M Shannon Smith, who scored five goals and delivered two assists for a game-high seven points.

With Northwestern now in their rear view mirror, Florida looks ahead to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. They were awarded the No. 4 overall seed during the NCAA Selection Show Sunday evening and are set to host Stanford in first-round action.

Whether visiting a lacrosse store or even the official Gator SportShop on campus, there is plenty of fantastic Orange & Blue gear that fans can wear to support the team both on campus or on the road. Support the Gators!

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FOUR BITS: Brantley; lacrosse wins big awards

1 » Taking a second look at spring practices across the country, ESPN Insider’s KC Joyner has come to a conclusion that may surprise some Florida Gators fans: redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley played well. Here is what he saw by watching the film. To read the rest of The Football Scientist’s observations, click here (subscription req.).

It might seem a bit odd to be touting Brantley after a 4-for-14, 45-yard performance in the Orange and Blue game, but consider this: In a three-game sample review of Brantley’s 2010 season, he threw a stretch vertical pass (defined as thrown 20 or more yards downfield) only 5 percent of the time. This is a very low number and indicates the Gators were not very effective at even threatening the long pass.

In the spring game, four of Brantley’s aerials fell under the “stretch vertical” designation and one would have been completed for 40 yards had it not been for a very good defensive play. Brantley also did not force any of these downfield passes into coverage, so the downside on these throws was limited. It bodes well for what the Florida vertical game will be able to do in 2011 — not just for Brantley and Charlie Weis’ new downfield passing game, but for the playmakers in the Gators’ running game as well.

2 » No. 2/3 Florida lacrosse (14-2, 5-0 ALC) is getting prepared for the 2011 ALC Tournament set to begin on Thursday, but in the meantime the conference announced its awards on Tuesday and honored seven different Gators. Florida sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen was named Player of the Year and head coach Amanda O’Leary earned Coach of the Year honors. Also singled out by the conference were All-ALC First Team members Cullen, sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns and sophomore defender Sam Farrell as well as Second Team members sophomore M Janine Hillier, sophomore D Haydon Judge and sophomore goalkeeper Mikey Meagher.

3 » Moving on with his professional career, Gators forward Chandler Parsons is currently working out in Los Angeles, CA and training for camps that he will compete in prior to the 2011 NBA Draft on June 23. The University of Florida’s website caught up with him to pick his brain on a number of topics including the realization that his college career has come to an end. “I can’t believe how fast everything went, it feels like I was just a freshman and now I’m graduated and trying to make a career out this,” he said. “It was a great experience; my time at UF was the best four years of my life. The relationships with my teammates and coaches, the entire staff, those memories will last a lifetime. […] A lot of people look at the NBA Draft night as an end point. For me it’s just a starting point. I know I have things to work on, but I’ve gotten good feedback from people, I’m going to work as hard as I can and do everything possible over these six weeks or so to put myself in the best position.”

4 » Another Gator has had a run-in with the law, but this one went head-on with an Alachua County deputy police officer.

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No. 6 Gators lacrosse makes history with 13-11 win over No. 2 Wildcats to win first ALC title

In only the program’s second season, No. 6 Florida Gators lacrosse (13-1, 4-0 ALC) made history by defeating the No. 2 Northwestern Wildcats (12-1, 2-1 ALC) 13-11 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL to capture at least a share of the 2011 ALC Regular Season Championship and the top seed in the 2011 ALC Tournament.

Florida accomplished this feat in front of the second-largest crowd in school history (1,518) just 419 days after beginning their inaugural season while continuing a 13-game winning streak and concluding the regular season an undefeated 11-0 at home.

Gators sophomore attacker and the nation’s leading scorer, Kitty Cullen registered six goals on the evening including a hat trick in each half. She was responsible for three of Florida’s four second-half goals on the way to a signature win for the program.

The Gators started out hot, scoring five-straight goals (including three from Cullen) to take an early 5-1 lead after Wildcats A Erin Fitzgerald notched the contest’s opening score. Florida kept the pressure on Northwestern through the first half, leading 9-4 at the break after sophomore Caroline Chesterman scored with 26 seconds left.

The five-goal deficit was the Wildcats’ largest of the season; Northwestern had only been down at the half on one other occasion all year.

The Wildcats were intense coming out of the locker rooms, with Fitzgerald once again scoring the half’s first goal. She was followed by a pair of scores, giving Northwestern three goals in under two minutes and leaving UF with a quickly reduced 9-7 lead.

Still up two goals, the Gators used a pair of free position shots from Cullen to jump ahead 12-8 with 14:44 left in the game. The Wildcats responded with three more goals to cut their deficit to 12-11 with 6:37 remaining on the clock.

Cullen would have none of it, hitting an unassisted goal with 5:35 to go to give Florida the 13-11 lead that would end the game. Supporting her team-high six goals were scores from Chesterman (three), sophomore Brittany Dashiell (three), sophomore A Ashley Bruns (two) and sophomore A Janine Hillier (two).

“I was just screaming, ‘Oh my God, we just won.’ It was so exciting,’’ Cullen said. “I’m so happy for me and my team. I wouldn’t want to share this with anyone else. This is what we’ve worked so hard for day in and day out.’’

The reigning ALC Defensive Player of the Week, goalkeeper Mikey Meagher was clutch the entire game, saving 10 shots including two in the final minutes with the Gators shorthanded due to a pair of yellow cards given out by the referees. She did not allow the opponent to score a single goal off a turnover and ensured her team was a perfect 22-for-22 on clearances away from the net.

The loss was Northwestern’s first in 2011 and first in the regular season since 2004. Florida never trailed after scoring their first goal and won the turnover battle 10-13.

Leading a team of 20 sophomores, six freshman and only one junior, UF head coach Amanda O’Leary was understandably emotional after the program-defining victory.

“We’re just so excited,” she said with a smile. “I have chills, goosebumps…I just couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished tonight. We stayed focused when they went on runs. We didn’t let down. The team we are today is certainly not the team who played Northwestern last year.”

The Gators were shelled 19-5 in Evanston, IL one year ago, a win the Wildcats used to help propel them deep into the ALC Tournament. This year is Florida’s turn to capitalize. UF will face Vanderbilt (Apr. 17) and Cornell (May 1) before heading to Nashville, TN to begin the three-day event on May 5.

Photo Credit: Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun

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FOUR BITS: lacrosse, softball, Andrews, Jenkins

1 » The biggest game in the two-year history of University of Florida lacrosse is set for Thursday evening as the No. 6 Florida Gators (12-1, 3-0 ALC) put their 12-game winning streak on the line against the No. 2 Northwestern Wildcats at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Led by sophomore attacker Kitty Cullen, who is tops in the nation in goals (61) and goals per game (4.69), Florida is undefeated (10-0) at home this season and will square off against Northwestern for the No. 1 seed in the 2011 American Lacrosse Conference Tournament. The Gators fell to the Wildcats 19-5 in 2010 but are playing much better in their second season, outscoring opponents 186-95 since losing their season-opening match to No. 3 North Carolina in overtime.

2 » In a game that was rumored to mark the return of senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher, No. 10 Florida softball didn’t end up needing their ace as they routed the Florida International Panthers 8-0 in a run-ruled six innings. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (20-5) has gotten back into stride after two weeks of rough outings. She pitched a complete game and struck out nine batters while only allowing a pair of hits. Senior second baseman Aja Paculba (1-3, 3 RBI) put the game away with a big double in the fourth, but the Gators also received solid offensive contributions from senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (1-2, HR, RBI, R, BB), sophomore pinch hitter Samantha Holle (1-1, HR 2 RBI, R), freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, 2 R, BB) and sophomore designated player Kelsey Horton (1-2, RBI, R).

3 » ESPN announced a new set of endorsement guidelines on Wednesday and, based on the language of the memo, former Florida dazzler and network reporter Erin Andrews will be forced to end her deal promoting Reebok’s ZigTech line of shoes and apparel. According to the guidelines, “Any endorsement related to apparel, footwear or athletic equipment used for training, playing or participating in any sport or event ESPN may cover including the companies that manufacture and distribute any such material” are “subject to strict review and a strong presumption that they will not be approved.” The Oregonian reports that Andrews will be allowed to continue her endorsement of the brand through 2011 but forced to end it on Jan. 1.

4 » Gators senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins has been named to the 2011 Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list, as announced by the organization on Wednesday. The Lott Trophy recognizes “student-athletes throughout the nation who have had the biggest impact on their teams both on and off the field.” Linebacker A.J. Jones represented Florida on 2010′s watch list.

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Top 10 for 2010: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2010, the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From game-winning baskets to displays of pure emotion, Florida experienced some unique athletic moments in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 On the Field Moments of the Year.

OGGOA RELATED: Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

10 » FLORIDA WINS INAUGURAL LACROSSE GAME (2/20/10)
When Florida decided it wanted to start another women’s athletics program, the University Athletic Association did extensive research and found out that women’s lacrosse would be the perfect fit. In preparation for their first season, the Gators and head coach Amanda O’Leary secured the country’s No. 1 recruiting class (according to Inside Lacrosse Magazine). All the hard work and preparation to get the team ready paid off on Feb. 20 when lacrosse debuted in the brand new Donald R. Dizney Stadium to a boisterous crowd of 2,114 spectators. Florida defeated Jacksonville 16-6 behind four goals and four assists from freshman sensation Ashley Bruns. All-in-all the Gators faced 16 championship-caliber teams and played so well that they reached the 2010 ALC Tournament semifinals. In just their second year of existence, Florida women’s lacrosse is ranked as the No. 17 team in the country going into the 2011 season.

9 » NEAR VICTORIES/HEARTBREAKING LOSSES (5/25/10 * 3/18/10 * 10/9/10)

It is rare for teams to go undefeated and even less likely that an entire athletic program can go through a season without its share of close losses and nail biting finishes. Such was the case for the Gators in 2010. On May 25, No. 3 women’s tennis was barely defeated by the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal for the 2010 NCAA National Championship. Stanford won 4-3 after Florida rallied when they were just two individual games away from being defeated. The Gators forced third sets in two singles matches; sophomore Joanna Mather took down her opponent but senior No. 65 Marrit Boonstra was not as lucky. Losing her first set 6-4, Boonstra fought back to even her match with No. 33 Mallory Burdette by taking the second set 6-7 (4). Down 2-0 in the third, she pushed ahead with a valiant effort to take a 5-4 lead but ended up losing her final three games, the match itself and the championship.

Returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons, No. 10-seed Florida got in a bit easier than some might have expected. Matched up against the No. 7-seed Brigham Young Cougars in the event’s opening game, the Gators fought hard but could not stop Cougars star guard Jimmer Fredette. Allowing BYU to jump ahead 59-46 in the second half, UF came back behind freshman G Kenny Boynton and junior forward Chandler Parsons. Florida missed potential game-winners during regulation (Parsons) and the first overtime (Boynton) and eventually fell to Brigham Young 99-92 in a double-overtime heartbreaker with Fredette adding to his game-high 37 points.

Though losing a national championship and NCAA Tournament game are both difficult, Gators fans will probably look back on No. 12/14 Florida’s shocking loss to the No. 9/12 LSU Tigers on Oct. 10 as the worst near-victory of the season. Wearing orange jerseys for the first time since 1989, the Gators came back from a 12-point deficit when freshman wide receiver Andre Debose returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, sophomore running back Mike Gillislee rumbled in for a touchdown and redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley completed a two-point conversion to sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. to cap a 10-play, 80-yard drive. All Florida wanted when its defense came out was a stop, but LSU put together a 62-yard game-winning drive that included numerous third down conversions and a converted fake field goal attempt on fourth down from UF’s 36-yard line with 35 seconds remaining. Back-to-back passes to WR Terrence Toliver (of 28 and 3 yards, respectively) and the Tigers left The Swamp with a 33-29 victory. Players have noted that the loss was a negative turning point in the season, one that may or may not have led to the team dropping their third-straight game one week later at home to Mississippi State.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: On the Field Moments of the Year

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FOUR BITS: Addazio, baseball, lacrosse, Tebow

1 » According to OrangeBloods.com, the Texas Longhorns have decided to hire current Florida Gators offensive coordinator Steve Addazio as the team’s new offensive line coach. Addazio, who has struggled calling plays for Florida for the last two seasons, is a terrific offensive line coach and recruiter and should do quite well at Texas if the report is accurate. He was named ESPNU‘s recruiter of the year after helping corral the Gators’ 2010 recruiting class and served as interim head coach for Urban Meyer after he briefly stepped down and then during his recovery last offseason. It is worth noting that OrangeBloods.com previously reported that current Florida defensive coordinator Teryl Austin had been hired to the same position at UT; however, that has neither been confirmed nor denied since it was initially mentioned two weeks ago.

Addazio was recently named one of three head coach candidates for the open Temple Owls job. He reportedly interviewed for the position on Monday.

2 » Gators baseball has earned a No. 2 ranking in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason poll, which the organization released on Monday. Florida is coming off a season in which they finished 47-17, won the 2010 Southeastern Conference Championship and participated in the 2010 College World Series in Omaha, NE. The Gators are returning eight starters, 11 pitchers and 22 total letterwinners and begin their 2011 season with a three-game series against South Florida from Feb. 18-20.

3 » Participating in its inaugural season last year, Florida lacrosse is already making national waves after being ranked No. 17 in Lacrosse Magazine’s preseason poll. The Gators, who finished the 2010 season 10-8, reached the finals of the 2010 American Lacrosse Conference Tournament and was only the sixth team in Division I history to have 10 or more wins in its first season. Inside Lacross ranked Florida’s 19-person 2010 recruiting class No. 1 in the nation; every player is returning the team this year.

4 » Denver Broncos interim head coach Eric Studesville plans to start former Gators star quarterback Tim Tebow for his team’s final two games this season, according to numerous reports. Similarly, Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan has decided to start former Florida signal caller Rex Grossman for his team’s two remaining games after Grossman’s strong performance on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Tricia Coyne/Gainesville Sun

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FOUR BITS: Tebow has “it,” Lewis, TPC, lacrosse

1 » Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels continued his praise of former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow to the Denver Post Thursday, citing that his first-round pick has the “it” factor. “There are people with a great deal of God-given ability who are fun to watch, and it’s really interesting to see what kind of seasons they’ll put together,” McDaniels said. “Then there are guys who will say they won’t fail, our team’s not going to fail, and they have a ‘I’m not going to let you down’ attitude. And that’s what you notice with Tim.”

The coach also said Tebow has a good chance to get on the field early – not years down the line like all the NFL Draft experts and other scouts project. “To me, (his football IQ) gives him an advantage, an opportunity to play earlier than other people have played,” he continued. “Everybody keeps talking about it will be two, three years before he can play, and I think they don’t know this guy. His mental capacity, and the way he works, and the fact that he’s on such a fast pace, will give him the chance to compete apples-to-apples. It’s all going to be about his production and performance. There are a lot of rookies who can’t run plays because they can’t figure it out yet. That’s not going to be the case with Tim. He’ll be able to do the things [veterans] do. […] You know what Tim doesn’t know about our playbook? Only what we haven’t told him yet.”

2 » Baltimore Ravens veteran linebacker Ray Lewis spoke out about Tebow’s progression into the NFL to ESPN’s Colin Cowherd on Thursday. Needless to say, the future Hall of Famer champion feels Tebow has received much more help than other players have coming into the league. “The thing I was more shocked by, is you see all the people who were willing to help him,” Lewis said. “I don’t know many people who were willing to help other athletes like that. Jon Gruden loved him to death. You see all these people who took out their personal time to really work with him and make this big issue, big issue, big issue. I don’t know why he was any different than anyone else. Every young child has that dream, that same dream that Tebow had. So I don’t know why he was bigger […] than any of the other guys. He went to a big program, and, yes, he might be a favorable person, but nobody else in the league, definitely not veteran players, see themselves differently than any other player.”

3 » Four former Gators golfers are currently competing in The PLAYERS Championship in Ponta Vedra Beach, FL, each hoping to take home a PGA Tour title. After a full day of action, Camilo Villegas and Brian Gay (-2) were tied for 47th with Mark Calcavecchia (+1) and Chris Couch (+2) bringing up the rear in the 100s. Each player will tee off for their second round from 1-2 p.m. on Friday.

4 » Florida lacrosse (10-7) stunned the crowd watching the quarterfinals of the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament in Columbus, OH, Thursday night by rocking the No. 20 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (10-7) 14-3. Freshman goalie Cara Canington made a school-record 14 saves on 15 shots as classmates midfielder Kitty Cullen and attacker Ashley Bruns led the way with six and three goals, respectively. The ladies will advance to face No. 11 Vanderbilt at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in the semifinals. The Gators lost to the Commodores 12-7 in Gainesville, FL, earlier in the season.

Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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