SIX BITS: WNBA, Parsons, Dunlap, Starks, Wuerffel

1 » The 2013 WNBA season opens this week with two former Florida Gators players and two more former coaches spread across the league. Forward DeLisha Milton-Jones will be entering her 15th season as a professional but first with the San Antonio Silver Stars. Guard Aneika Henry joins the Atlanta Dream for her second season after averaging 4.8 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting .468 as a rookie in 2012. Former Florida head coach Carol Ross returns to the same position with the Los Angeles Sparks, and former Gators head coach Mickie DeMoss comes back as an assistant with the Indiana Fever. Gators center Jennifer George, who was selected in the third round of the 2013 WNBA Draft by the Fever, is not on the team’s roster.

2 » Second-year Houston Rockets F Chandler Parsons was asked to prom by a high schooler named Stephanie Flores in May. Though he had to decline her invitation as he was not in Houston, TX at the time, Parsons ensured that the student and her friends had a great time. He and the Rockets sent a party bus to escort Flores and her friends to and from the event, leading her to take the picture below.

Check out four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: WNBA, Parsons, Dunlap, Starks, Wuerffel

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Syracuse eliminates Florida lacrosse from NCAA Tournament for second-straight season

With revenge on their minds and a national title still standing as their primary goal, No. 5 Florida Gators lacrosse entered the Carrier Dome on Saturday looking to oust the No. 4 Syracuse Orange from the 2013 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals and continue their run to the first national championship in program history. Instead, rather than take the first step towards the storybook ending that the senior class had hoped to achieve, Florida faltered against its burgeoning rival, falling 13-9 to a Syracuse team that has gotten the best of UF in the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons.

The fact that the Gators (18-3) were forced to play on the home turf of the Orange (18-3) was purely a matter of seeding. That was not without controversy, however, as Florida was awarded the tournament’s No. 5 overall seed despite topping Syracuse 14-10 in a neutral site contest on March 2 and also registering victories over the teams that were handed the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the event.

Nevertheless, the Gators got the opportunity they wanted – to take down the Orange as a measure of revenge for a controversial come-from-behind victory just one year ago in the Final Four of the 2012 NCAA Tournament – but ultimately came up short.

Continue Reading » Syracuse eliminates Florida lacrosse from NCAA Tournament for second-straight season

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17 Gator Bites for Tuesday, May 7

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» The relationship between Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels and the Florida Gators has soured. According to ESPN 106.3 out of West Palm Beach, FL, Daniels is angry that two former Dwyer players who committed to Florida but have since left the program (quarterback Jacoby Brissett and tight end Gerald Christian) did not get the opportunities they were promised with the team. “I’ve said all along, I don’t think he’s been given the fair shot which was said was going to happen,” Daniels said in regards to Brissett. “It was made clear to him, and to everybody else, that it didn’t matter what Jeff Driskel did, it was [Driskel’s] job and going into next fall, it’s going to be the same way. I think he had no choice. If I was quarterback on that team last year, I might have been able to get some wins, the way their defense was playing.” He continued: “The way Jacoby was handled and the decision that was made…if it was my kid, I wouldn’t expect anybody to treat my kid like that, and I don’t think anybody should treat anybody like that. I think it was a complete lie about how he was going to be given a fair chance and I don’t think there’s anything to dispute that there wasn’t a lie.”

Despite all of this – including similar comments about how Christian “was frustrated and felt like the coaches were lying to him” – Daniels (a Florida alumnus) said he will not dissuade his students from playing for the Gators. “I can’t hold a grudge forever and I still talk to Coach [Will] Muschamp,” he said. “I would never steer a kid away.”

» Former Florida wide receiver Stephen Alli was selected with the second pick in the sixth round of the 2013 CFL Draft by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers over the weekend. Alli, who would have been chosen higher had he committed to playing in the CFL next season, will instead attend graduate school and continue his education at UF.

» He may currently be a free agent hoping for the opportunity to continue his NFL career, but former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow received a shred of good news this week when Forbes named him the most influential athlete in the United States. “A unique set of QB strengths and weaknesses and an affinity for wearing his Christian faith on his sleeve combine to make Tebow a compelling public figure, even as an NFL backup,” staff member Tom Van Riper wrote.

Check out 14 more interesting bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » 17 Gator Bites for Tuesday, May 7

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FOUR BITS: lacrosse, tennis, Moss, Sloan

1 » After having just player receive an individual honor in 2012, Florida Gators lacrosse swept the positional awards and took home a major coaching honor from the American Lacrosse Conference in 2013. Seniors Kitty Cullen (Offensive Player of the Year), Sam Farrell (Defensive Player of the Year), Brittany Dashiell (Midfielder of the Year) and Mikey Meagher (Goalie of the Year) each won the individual awards while head coach Amanda O’Leary was named Coach of the Year. Florida also saw five players – the aforementioned plus sophomore Shannon Gilroy named to the All-ALC First Team – with senior Ashley Bruns and senior Emily Dohony earning Second Team honors. Next up for the Gators is the 2013 ALC Tournament, which starts for Florida in the semifinals on Friday at 4 p.m.

2 » No. 1 Gators women’s tennis (22-2) was named the top overall seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and will host first- and second-round action in Gainesville, FL from May 11-12 as it looks to advance to the NCAA Round of 16. Florida opens up against Marist College (11-7) in the first round and will face the winner of No. 22 Georgia Tech (14-9) vs. No. 37 Yale (17-3). This will be the 15th consecutive year that UF is hosting the opening rounds of the tournament. Also announced this week were the three women’s tennis players who have earned the opportunity to compete for the 2013 NCAA Singles Championship; competition begins at the conclusion of the team tournament. Senior Lauren Embree (No. 1 overall seed), junior Alex Cercone and junior Sofie Oyen will all play in the 64-player draw with Embree and Oyen also teaming up for the 32-team 2013 NCAA Doubles Championship tournament.

Read two more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: lacrosse, tennis, Moss, Sloan

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Florida lacrosse celebrates program’s first Senior Day with 22-4 rout of Northwestern, ALC title

WEEKEND: Gymnastics wins first NCAA title | Tennis wins SEC Tourney, again

The 13 true seniors (and one redshirt junior) that make up 45 percent of the roster for No. 3 Florida Gators lacrosse ensured their legacies were cemented by rallying together and annihilating the defending national champion No. 4 Northwestern Wildcats 22-4 on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL to capture the program’s third-straight American Lacrosse Conference regular season title.

Florida’s seniors scored 15 of the team’s 22 goals on the afternoon but were led by sophomore Shannon Gilroy, who found the back of the net a team-high five times.

The Gators (16-1, 5-1 ALC) handed the Wildcats (13-2, 4-1 ALC) the most lopsided loss in their program’s history. Florida’s 22 goals were also the most that have ever been allowed by Northwestern in a single game.

“Without a question, it was our best effort,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said after the match. “It was just an amazing effort by everybody out there.”

Saturday’s victory marked UF’s third-straight against its ALC rivals and fourth in the last five meetings dating back to the 2011 season. The Gators also concluded the regular season a perfect 9-0 at home.

Continue Reading » Florida lacrosse celebrates program’s first Senior Day with 22-4 rout of Northwestern, ALC title

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FOUR BITS: swimming, WNIT, softball, lacrosse

1 » The Florida Gators swimming program won its second national title of the season on Friday when the men’s 800 Meter Freestyle Relay team took down the competition at the 2013 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Indianapolis, IN. Freshman Pawel Werner, redshirt junior Sebastien Rousseau, junior Marcin Cieslak and sophomore Dan Wallace swam the race in a school-record time of 6:13.27 to bring home the title for the second time in the last three seasons. A week earlier on March 22, junior Elizabeth Beisel captured the NCAA title in the 400 Meter Individual Medley in 4:00.49. It was her second individual national title (first in the event) as she previously won the 200 Meter Backstroke in 2012. The Gators men’s and women’s swimming programs each finished in sixth place overall.

2 » Florida women’s basketball certainly did not have a successful regular season, but head coach Amanda Butler’s squad has been playing with renewed intensity in the 2013 Women’s NIT and advanced to the Final Four of the event over the weekend with an 85-80 victory over the James Madison Dukes (25-11) in Harrisonburg, VA. The Gators (22-14), which trailed by one with 1:06 to play, jumped ahead on a jumper by freshman guard January Miller with 53 seconds remaining and never lost the lead again. Junior G Jaterra Bonds hit four free throws down the stretch to extend Florida’s lead and help the team move on in the tournament. Freshman forward Sidney Moss led the way for UF with a game-high 27 points, and Bonds added 20 of her own including the game-clinching free throws.

Florida is in the semifinals of a postseason tournament for just the second time in program history (first since 2000) and are two victories away from their first-ever title. The Gators will next take on Drexel on April 3 at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia, PA.

3 » No. 3 Florida softball (35-3, 10-2 SEC) concluded the month of March on Sunday by picking up a road series win over the Ole Miss Rebels (19-21, 1-11 SEC) in Oxford, MS and extending their winning streak to nine games. Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (20-2) threw a pair of complete games on Friday and Sunday morning, giving up six hits and one earned run while striking out 11. Rogers also earned her second save of the season in the second half of Sunday’s double-header, pitching three innings in relief of sophomore RHP Alyssa Bache (6-0). The Gators’ hitting was well-rounded throughout the weekend with junior third baseman Stephanie Tofft, senior right fielder Kelsey Horton, sophomore left fielder Brianna Little, freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz and sophomore second baseman Jessica Damico reach registering at least one multi-RBI outing.

4 » No. 2 Florida lacrosse (13-1, 1-1 ALC) is undefeated no longer as it suffered a tough upset loss at the hands of the No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions (7-3, 2-0 ALC) while on the road in State College, PA. The Gators fell 16-11 on Saturday as the Nittany Lions battled back from a three-goal first-half deficit to outscore the visitors 10-2 in the second half and pull off the victory. Florida will close out the regular season in April and next takes on Johns Hopkins on April 6 at noon in Gainesville, FL.

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Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.

12 » MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.

Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.

[Read: The Silver Lining - "Failure" is not a dirty word]

11 » FLORIDA SWEEPS FSU IN FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, BASEBALL

For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

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SIX BITS: Westbrook, Alli, Brantley, lax, Dunlap

1 » At a Gator Gathering in Orlando, FL on Tuesday, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced that sophomore Tevin Westbrook (6’5” 268 lbs.) will switch from defensive end to tight end over the summer. Westbrook, who appeared in three games as a true freshman but did not see much action in those contests, was one of the last players to commit to Florida in 2011 and did so knowing that he would not play much right away as the team had plans to develop his talents. There were rumors that Westbrook was considering transferring following the spring but he has apparently decided to take on this new challenge. He committed to UF over offers from Connecticut, North Carolina, Purdue and South Florida.

2 » Muschamp also touched on a number of other topics during the event. He noted that redshirt junior wide receiver Stephen Alli will miss approximately three months of action after having successful surgery on a stress fracture in his leg, depleting the team’s pass catchers even further, and added that linebacker Graham Stewart, who the school announced last week decided to transfer, will move on to UConn.

3 » Four-star defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, a pledge to the Gators since Jan. 28, wrote Monday on Facebook that he is now a soft commitment to Florida. UF’s third-highest rated recruit according to Rivals at No. 82 overall and best overall recruit according to ESPNU (No. 18), Brantley wanted to reassure Gators fans that while his commitment status has changed he is not planning to play for any other team but Florida. “I feel like I rushed myself into a commitment, that is all,” he told InsidetheGators.com of his decision to open his recruitment slightly. “Not ever, I am not decommitting,” he added. “Florida is at number one, like way in front of the pack, but then you have Bama at two and three is USC and Florida State.” Other schools have continued to recruit Brantley, but he was quick to note that the Gators have been in constant contact with him as well. In addition to visiting other campuses, Brantley also plans to speak with Muschamp and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to get a better feeling of what Florida’s depth chart will look like upon his arrival.

4 » Gators lacrosse received a special distinction on Tuesday, just one day after learning they will be the No. 1 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. As the newest top 25 polls were released, Florida learned that they are the new unanimous No. 1 team in the country. UF took down previously top-ranked Northwestern for the second time this season on Saturday to win the 2012 ALC Tournament and is now both the fastest program in school history to receive a No. 1 ranking and the fastest program in collegiate women’s lacrosse history to earn that distinction. NCAA Tournament action for the Gators begins on May 12 at 1 p.m. against Albany.

5 » Cincinnati Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap is ready for his breakout. After leading Cincinnati in sacks as a rookie with 9.5 (all of which he registered in the final eight games of the season), Dunlap slowed down a bit in his sophomore campaign and only registered 4.5. Slowed by a foot injury in the preseason and a hamstring injury that nagged him over the final few games, he struggled to be completely healthy and consistently effective; Dunlap hopes to improve on both in 2012. “When you get there you expect to get the sack. It’s better to be there than not be there,” Dunlap told the Cincinnati Enquirer of being around the quarterback but not bringing him down. “When I was starting to get them then the unfortunate situation [injury] happened. Now I want to have a complete season. The hamstring is one of those things that really doesn’t go away until you give it good rest. This year I didn’t want it holding me back.”

6 » Cleveland Indians outfielder Johnny Damon, an 18-year MLB veteran and long-time Gators fan who actually committed to Florida before deciding to play professionally, recently provided financial support to the UF College of Medicine in order to aid research opportunities. The $16,000 contribution from Damon’s foundation will be used to help study “a genetic condition called glycogen storage disease type III, which prevents children and adults from properly processing sugar stored in the body,” according to UF. Researchers are currently doing work on the Faroe Islands (where one in 3,000 people have the disease compared to one in 100,000 in the United States) to learn about the disease and determine if they can find a solution that could not only help people with the disease but also “potentially change the course of care for [people with] high blood pressure and other common conditions.”

“Johnny Damon has no connection to this disease, so his willingness to help means a lot to me,” said David Weinstein, M.D., a professor of pediatrics in the UF College of Medicine and director of the UF Glycogen Storage Disease Program. “We hear often about problems in sports, but we don’t frequently hear about athletes who go out of their way to help people. We could not do this without his support.”

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