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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: lacrosse, Noah, Horford, Brewer

1 » Florida Gators lacrosse continues to make history as, in just the third season of the program’s existence, it was announced Sunday that the team received the No. 1 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida, which won the ALC regular season title for the second-straight year and captured the first ALC Tournament Championship in team history on Saturday, is on a 13-match winning streak heading into the tournament. The Gators will receive a tremendous homefield advantage in the first two rounds (should they advance) before being forced to travel to Stony Brook, NY for the Final Four. Florida is looking to become the fastest program in the sport’s history to go from inception to national title but has a long road ahead of them beginning on Saturday, May 12 at 1 p.m. against Albany at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

2 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was knocked out of Game 3 of his team’s first-round series against Philadelphia after severely spraining his ankle midway through the contest. Noah did his best to continue playing but was badly limping and eventually headed back to the locker room where he was told he would be unable to return to the court. He sat on the bench in a suit and air cast during Game 4 on Sunday and is also expected to miss Game 5 (as well as the remainder of the series should it advance past that point). Noah’s injury is a tough blow for a Chicago team already without point guard Derrick Rose. The top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls may wind up eliminated in the first round while playing without their two biggest stars.

3 » The polar opposite of Noah, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford came off a major injury and returned to action this weekend just as his former teammate appears to be going on the shelf for the rest of the season. Horford, who tore his right pectoral on Jan. 11 and has not played since, was an active participant in Atlanta’s Game 4 on Sunday. He posted 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in 20 minutes of action, not showing much rust despite missing almost the entire season. Horford may only see one more game in 2012 as the Hawks are set to face an elimination Game 5 on Tuesday.

4 » Denver Nuggets F Corey Brewer may have been trending on Twitter during his game Sunday while fans were joking about his hairline, but Brewer is taking his team’s first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers very seriously. According to the Denver Post, Brewer has been “finding fuel” to play hard by thinking about his father who passed away during the season. “He always used to smile when I’d do something good,” he said. “Every time he’d see me, he was always happy. Everybody says we have the same smile. He had it rough. He didn’t have legs. He was blind. But every time I’d see him, he was smiling. He can’t walk, he can’t see and he’s happy every day – so I got to be happy.” Head coach George Karl called Brewer his team’s “energizer, offensively and defensively” and has praised his ability to make an impact especially on the defensive end of the court. Like Noah and Horford, Brewer’s team is also facing an elimination Game 5 on Tuesday.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Florida lacrosse wins first ALC Tournament title

There have been plenty of firsts for the young Florida Gators lacrosse program but few will be as memorable as what the team accomplished on Saturday, defeating the Northwestern Wildcats 14-7 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL to capture the 2012 ALC Tournament Championship.

No. 3 Florida (17-2), the top seed in the tournament, played stellar defense throughout the contest and used seven clutch goals and a career performance by freshman midfielder Shannon Gilroy to upend No. 1 Northwestern for the second time this season and third time in the last two years.

The victory marked the first ALC tournament title in school history and the third conference championship overall as UF has won the league’s regular season title in each of the last two years.

The teams traded goals to open the match, but the Gators went on a 4-0 scoring stretch including two goals each by Gilroy and junior attacker Kitty Cullen to take an early 5-1 lead. UF was able to maintain that four-goal advantage through the break by matching both goals the Wildcats scored down the stretch and taking a 7-3 lead into the half.

Florida and Northwestern took turns scoring in the second half with the Gators’ lead never dipping below three goals for the duration of the contest. In fact, once UF’s lead was cut to three, Florida scored three-straight goals to jump ahead 11-5 with 12:44 left in the match. The Gators held on down the stretch, using a combination of tough defense, controlled ball handling and consistent scoring to outlast the Wildcats and pick up the hard-fought victory.

Joining Gilroy’s efficient, effective and dominating offensive performance (seven goals on nine shots with three draw controls) were Cullen (three goals on six shots) and junior A Caroline Chesterman (two goals on three shots). Midfielders junior Brittany Dashiell and freshman Nora Barry added a goal each.

Florida handed Northwestern their worst loss in nine years and is proving to be a major thorn in the side of a team that has won six of the last seven national titles. The Gators are 3-1 against the Wildcats over the last two seasons with all three victories resulting in ALC titles (two regular season, one tournament). Florida is also the first team besides Northwestern to win the ALC Tournament in the event’s six-year history.

The Gators will now set their sights on the 2012 NCAA Tournament where UF may very well earn the No. 1 overall seed in the event. Either way, Florida will play host at least through the quarterfinals of the event as long as they are awarded a top-four seed.

ALC Tournament MVP: Junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher
ALC All-Tournament Team: Brittany Dashiell, Shannon Gilroy, Mikey Meagher, junior defenders Sam Farrell and Jamie Reeg

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: Hunter, lacrosse, tennis selections

1 » Florida Gators freshman gymnast Kytra Hunter, who won a pair of 2012 NCAA Championships in the all-around and vault last month, was named the recipient of the Honda Sports Award on Wednesday. The honor, which basically makes Hunter the “gymnast of the year” by recognizing her as the best student-athlete in her sport, is awarded to one female in 12 different NCAA-sanctioned sports. It is the second straight year that a Gators student-athlete has won one of the awards with outfielder Kelsey Bruder bringing home the honor for softball in 2011. In the 36-year history of the Honda Sports Award, Florida has won it 15 times in six different sports (UF student-athletes were honored in two sports in 1982).

2 » One of six Florida lacrosse players to be honored by the American Lacrosse Conference on Wednesday, freshman midfielder Nora Barry was named the 2012 ALC Rookie of the Year after registering 32 goals (on 54 shots) in 17 games during the regular season. Barry’s goal total was the fifth-highest on the Gators, but she led the team in ground balls and also finished second in draw controls. Three Florida juniors – attacker Kitty Cullen, M Brittany Dashiell and defender Sam Farrell – were named to the All-ALC First Team, while Barry, junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher and junior A Gabi Wiegand received second-team nods.

3 » Four members of No. 2 Gators women’s tennis found themselves placed in the brackets for the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships when the selections were announced on Wednesday. Junior Allie Will not only earned the No. 1 seed in the singles tournament but is also one half of the No. 1 doubles team along with sophomore Sofie Oyen. Junior Lauren Embree was placed in the grouping of singles seeds 9-16, Oyen was chosen as an alternate and the pairing of Embree/senior Joanna Mather also made it as an at-large doubles team. Florida has not won a NCAA singles title since 1996 (Jill Craybas) or a doubles title since 2001 (Whitney Laiho/Jessica Lehnhoff).

4 » No. 11 UF men’s tennis also had four players selected for the NCAA Individual Championships as senior Nassim Slilam and juniors Tripper Carleton and Bob van Overbeek all received at-large bids for the singles bracket. (Sophomore Spencer Newman is listed as an alternate.) Additionally, the duo of Slilam/junior Billy Federhofer will compete in the doubles draw. The Gators have not won a NCAA singles title since 1999 (Jeff Morrison) or a doubles title since 1993 (Mark Merklein/David Blair).

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: Leak, Demps, lacrosse, Tebow

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak supposedly signed with the Orlando Predators of the AFL on Monday and the team wants to name him their starter for Saturday’s game, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “We would like to bring him in as the face of the franchise, and I hope he ends up as our starting quarterback,” team general partner Brett Bouchy told the paper. Unfortunately for both sides, Leak was not able to join the team Monday or Tuesday thanks to his former squad the Jacksonville Sharks. According to the Florida Times-Union, even though Leak refuses to play for Jacksonville and the team does not want him back the Sharks have not released him from his contract and still retain his rights. “If the Predators want Leak, they have coach [Les] Moss’ number and we will be more than happy to trade him,” Jacksonville managing partner Jeff Bouchy (Brett Bouchy’s brother) said. “We cannot see any scenario in which Leak will wear a Sharks uniform again.” Leak’s future is now in limbo as he waits to find out if one Bouchy will trade the other something for his services. He has bounced around the CFL and AFL since being passed over by the NFL and actually played for the Jacksonville franchise this season before being replaced as starting quarterback after a five-touchdown performance. “It was an unfortunate situation in Jacksonville, but I’ve moved on,” Leak said. “I’m just very excited about the opportunity to play at home.”

2 » With the 2012 NFL Draft approaching, one name that continues to be notably absent is former Gators running back and current Florida sprinter Jeff Demps, who chose after the season to bypass the NFL in order to concentrate on running track and the 2012 London Olympics. Demps likely would have been a third- or fourth-round pick in the draft but chose an uncertain path that he enjoys over a certain future that did not hold the top spot in his heart. “Just, during the football season, I enjoyed football, but I just felt I had to be on the track,” he told FOX Sports in in yet another article about his decision and future in sports. “I had to follow my heart, and my heart said to be with track. It’s a career decision.”

3 » Gators lacrosse swept the ALC weekly awards on Monday. Junior atacker Gabi Wiegand won Offensive Player of the Week, junior defender Sam Farrell picked up Defensive Player of the Week and midfielder Nora Barry was named Rookie of the Week. It is the first time since the ALC expanded to three weekly awards that one team has swept all three in a single week.

4 » Could QB Tim Tebow already be winning over New York Jets players through a few days of offseason camp? According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Jets No. 2 wide receiver Jeremy Kerley was pleasantly surprised how well Tebow has been performing already and offered up some praise for his new teammate. “Different than Mark, different than Mark,” he said of Tebow as a quarterback. “His ball comes out a little bit stronger, but he’s accurate, he’s more accurate than what I thought he was going to be. But he’s a good dude, he has a great personality, he’ll bring a lot of personality to the team.” The Ledger asked him how much more velocity Tebow throws with as compared to Mark Sanchez. Kerley’s answer: “A LOT, a lot more velocity. No dis to Mark, he brings it man.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No. 5 Florida knocks off No. 1 Northwestern 8-7, captures second-straight ALC title

For a program only in its third season of existence, Florida Gators lacrosse continues to make plenty of noise. No. 5 Florida (15-2, 5-0 ALC) took down the previously undefeated No. 1 Northwestern Wildcats (14-1, 4-1 ALC) on Saturday, outscoring their hosts 8-7 at Lakeside Field in Evanston, IL to capture their second ALC regular season title in as many seasons.

UF clinched a share of the 2011 ALC title by defeating Northwestern 13-11 last season before winning the championship outright a few days later after beating Vanderbilt. The Wildcats got a measure of revenge on the Gators in 2011 by prevailing over their new rivals for the ALC Tournament Championship in a 10-9 slugfest. Florida will be the No. 1 seed in the tournament for the second-straight year.

Three Gators juniors – midfielder Brittany Dashiell and attackers Ashley Bruns and Gabi Wiegand – each scored two goals in Saturday’s contest. Junior goalkeeper Mickey Meager was equally clutch for the orange and blue by picking up seven saves on 14 shots over the course of the match.

Florida got out to an early 2-0 lead and scored the final three goals of the opening period to hold a 5-2 advantage at halftime. Northwestern scored three goals to open the second period (including two by Erin Fitzgerald) to even things out at 5-5, but it took Bruns less than 30 seconds to put UF back ahead 6-5 with 25:39 remaining.

The Wildcats soon evened things up and then took their only lead of the game, 7-6 with 20:51 left, but were unable to maintain their momentum. Gators freshman M Nora Barry tied the match a minute later on an assist from freshman M Nicole Graziano and both sides went scoreless over the next 14 minutes.

Wiegand (four points) then stepped up unassisted at 5:47 and scored what would become the game- and championship-winning goal for UF.

Northwestern has now lost two total regular season matches since 2004 after dropping late-season contests to Florida in each of the last two seasons. UF also ended NU’s 24-game winning streak.

The Gators will return to Gainesville, FL as they prepare to host the 2012 ALC Tournament May 3-5. Florida, as the No. 1 overall seed, receives a first-round bye and will participate in semifinal action on May 4 at 7 p.m.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Gator Bites for Monday, April 16

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. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah continues to play a major role for his team, posting a line of 20 points and 17 rebounds (13 offensive) on Sunday night to help lead Chicago past Detroit in overtime. Noah now has 21 double-doubles on the season though that was his first in the month of April.

» Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford told OGGOA on Friday that it is “realistic” to believe that he will be able to return to his team for the playoffs after tearing his pectoral early in the season. Horford, who has missed almost the entire shortened season, said he doubts he will be at 100 percent when the playoffs begin because he will not have the proper time to practice and condition. However, he hopes to be able to contribute in some way and help his team win.

» Unlike Horford, Golden State Warriors F/C David Lee will not see a basketball court again this year. Lee, whose Warriors are out of the playoffs and vying for a better draft slot, will be benched for the remainder of the season after injuring his groin last week. He was already dealing with a hip injury and will be rested mostly for precautionary reasons. Lee averaged nearly a double-double this season, posting totals of 20.1 points and 9.6 boards per game.

» Julie Quittner of Gainesville Television Network sent over a copy of her interview with former Florida Gators running back Chris Rainey that aired on Friday. In the piece, Quittner asks Rainey directly about the allegations made recently in a Sporting News column about former Florida head coach Urban Meyer. Below are a few standout questions/answers from the interview:

Did you see the incident when Billy Gonzales was apparently choked by Percy Harvin at practice and apparently he wasn’t disciplined for it? Is that a situation where maybe guys like that got away with certain things?
Rainey: “I heard that story from players; I ain’t never saw it and just like I said, players like that…certain players even the coaches are scared of and there are certain players that the players were scared of but you can’t just answer a question like that because they’re good in sports and you just can’t do nothing about it.

What do you mean by scared?
Rainey: “Scared, like a player if you’re scared of another player…just like that. Coaches can be scared of players.”

What do you have to say to the fact that [safety Bryan Thomas] said at one point that the program got “out of control”?
Rainey: “It wasn’t ever ‘out of control’ they just were scared of certain players and when the younger guys can’t do nothing but watch and see, you’re scared for your life too, so you just got to be quiet because if you say the wrong thing, you might get beat up from him or get in trouble by a coach.”

Do you remember incidents here that happened with [those elite players] specifically that you can remember them getting special treatment or something being covered up for them?
Rainey: “I don’t remember everything being covered up, but I just know a lot of stuff that happened through my college career…like you see people doing bad stuff off the field, fights, getting in trouble in school, whatever it is but if they made it to the NFL, they made it. It’s too late now.”

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, April 16

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 Page 2 of 5 « 1  2  3  4  5 »