FOUR BITS: gymnastics, baseball, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (11-1, 5-1 SEC) suffered its first defeat of the season on Friday, falling 196.70-196.10 to the No. 15 Arkansas Razorbacks (5-3, 5-1 SEC) in Fayetteville, AR. Florida captured three individual events with sophomore Ashanée Dickerson winning the vault and floor exercise and freshman Mackenzie Caquatto taking home the even bars; however, Arkansas surpassed UF in their team totals and came out on top. The Gators final match before the 2011 SEC Championships begin on March 19 is against Utah next Friday in Salt Lake City, UT.

2 » Florida’s other top-ranked team, No. 1 baseball, had better luck Friday, taking down the Boston College Eagles 9-3 in the second game of the teams’ three-game series. The Gators (6-0) scored three runs in the seventh inning alone to escape a 3-3 tie and move past the Eagles (2-3) for the victory. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1.64 ERA) got the start for Florida and tossed four innings of shutout ball before giving up an earned run in the fifth and getting pulled at the end of the inning. The Gators led 2-1 at that point on a solo homer from junior right fielder Preston Tucker (3-4, 2 RBI, 2 R) in the third and an RBI from junior first baseman Ben McMahan (2-2, RBI) in the fourth. Junior left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone allowed a batter on via a bunt in the top of the seventh and junior RHP Greg Larson, coming into relieve him, let another batter hit himself on base. Freshman LHP Daniel Gibson, trying to get out of the inning, struck out his first batter before giving up a two-RBI triple to clear the bases and put Boston College up 3-2.

Looking to get out of a jam, Florida utilized the infamous hidden-ball trick to get the final out of the inning. With Eagles shortstop Brad Zapenas (2-4, 2 RBI) on third after his game-tying triple, freshman third baseman Zach Powers corralled the ball as Gibson pretended to wind up. Once Zapenas took a lead, Powers tagged him out, ended the inning and stopped the bleeding. The Gators responded with a three-run bottom of the seventh including a RBI each from Tucker (via a bases loaded walk), sophomore catcher/1B Austin Maddox (1-5, RBI) and sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (3-5, 3 RBI, R). Florida added three more runs in the bottom of the eighth with sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-1, RBI, R) doubling down the left field line to score sophomore C Mike Zunino (BB, R) and Johnson singling through the left side to bring home sophomore SS Nolan Fontana (1-2, 2 R, 3 BB) and Washington. Gibson (1-0) earned the win after juniors RHP Tommy Toledo and LHP Alex Panteliodis combined to strikeout three in 1.2 innings.

3 » No. 4 Gators softball (13-0) earned a pair of victories Friday at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, CA, defeating the San Diego State Aztecs (5-6) 4-2 in the afternoon and the No. 2 UCLA Bruins (10-2) 4-1 in the evening. Junior RHP Stephanie Brombacher (7-0) earned the win in the early game after giving up two earned runs in 5.1 innings. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (6-0), who tossed the final 1.2 innings of the San Diego State game in relief of Brombacher, threw a complete game against UCLA; she struck out 10 and only gave up a single earned run in the second inning. Senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder led the way for Florida offensively, combining to go 4-6 with three RBI and a walk in the two games. Junior CF Michelle Moultrie scored three runs and notched a pair of RBI on a 4-8 outing from the plate.

4 » Struggling all season, Gators women’s basketball (16-13, 6-9 SEC) scored a much-needed 74-69 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (18-10, 9-6 SEC) on the road in Nashville, TN on Friday. Postponed a day due to severe weather, the game marked Florida’s first win on the road against Vanderbilt since 2004. Three Gators junior starters – center Azania Stewart (14) and guards redshirt Jordan Jones (16) and Lanita Bartley (15) – scored in double figures as Stewart also grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double. UF has now won back-to-back contests after dropping four-in-a-row to begin the month of February.

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TWO BITS: Volleyball earns No. 1 NCAA seed

1 » No. 1/1 Florida Gators volleyball earned the program’s first-ever No. 1 national seed on Sunday when the NCAA officially announced the 64-team bracket for the 2010 NCAA Volleyball Championship. One of six Southeastern Conference schools to qualify for the tournament, Florida will take its 22-match winning streak into the event. The Gators finished the regular season a perfect 20-0 in SEC competition, the first team to do so since the schedule was adjusted in 2006. Florida (27-1) will face South Carolina State (17-22) to start off their tournament on Friday at 7:30 p.m. as the first and second rounds will be hosted from Dec. 3-4 in Gainesville, FL. Also in UF’s region are Florida State (21-10) and Georgia Southern (27-8). Though being a No. 1 seed is new for the Gators, hosting NCAA action is not; Florida has started the NCAA Tournament at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center 19 times in the last 20 seasons.

The Gators completed their perfect SEC slate on Friday by defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks 3-0 (25-14, 25-16, 25-12) on the road at the Volleyball Competition Facility in Columbia, SC. Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers notched a team-high nine kills while junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy totaled seven kills, 12 assists, four digs, four service aces and a season-high five blocks.

2 » Florida women’s basketball was also busy over the weekend; the ladies were victorious in back-to-back contests to win the 2010 Dead River Company Classic in Orno, ME. The Gators (5-1) defeated the South Alabama Jaguars (3-3) 61-51 on Friday and ended the short tournament with a 52-43 win over the Navy Midshipmen (4-2) on Saturday. Florida junior center Azania Stewart was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament after totaling 24 rebounds in two games. UF redshirt junior guard Jordan Jones was placed on the All-Tournament Team due to her stellar performance including 18 points.

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TWO BITS: W. basketball’s losses, lacrosse’s win

1 » Whether it was the season itself, head coach Amanda Butler’s style or a variety of other factors, three players have left the Gators women’s basketball team. Trumae Lucas, Tessah Holt and Christal Caldwell have all exited the program, which went 15-17 on the season and failed to make the NCAA Tournament after doing so one year ago. The women (short staffed by the transfers) also lost their second-round WNIT game against the Miami Hurricanes, falling 77-64. Sophomore center Azania Stewart had a team-high 18 points with six rebounds and four assists.

2 » On Saturday, Florida lacrosse (5-3) took down No. 17 New Hampshire Wildcats (4-3) 15-3 at home at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Freshman attacker Ashley Bruns scored six goals as the Gators won their first game against a ranked opponent in program history. Florida’s defense only allowed New Hampshire 11 shots and three goals over the course of the entire match.

Extra Bit » The Gators won seven events at the Black and Gold Challenge hosted by the University of Central Florida at the UCF Track and Field Complex on Saturday. For details on each event victory, click here. Track and field returns to action and Orlando, FL, next Saturday to participate in the UCF Invitational.

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FOUR BITS: 200 FR title, WNIT, Murphy, Crowder

1 » Competing in the first night of the finals of the 2010 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship meet, the Florida Gators women’s team has already taken home a national title. UF’s 200-yard free relay team – seniors Gemma Spofforth and Stephanie Napies and sophomores Shara Stafford and Sarah Bateman – won the title behind a school-record 1:27.79 time. The Gators are in fourth place with 107 points after the first day of competition, even with their 101st national title being captured.

2 » Though they failed to reach the 2010 NCAA Tournament, the Florida women’s basketball team (15-16) got off to a quick start in the WNIT with a 61-54 win over the South Florida Bulls (15-16) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Senior guard Steffi Sorensen scored a team-high 16 points as sophomore center Azania Stewart contributed 11 of her 15 points in the second half. The Gators move on to face the Miami Hurricanes (19-13) on Sunday at the BankUnited Center.

3 » Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy of the Florida volleyball team has been announced as one of 24 players selected to the roster of the 2010 U.S. Women’s National A2 team. The 2008 AVCA National Freshman of the Year, Murphy ranked third in the SEC in hitting percentage (.344) and seventh in assists per set (7.04) in 2009. She is the 35th Gators volleyball player to receive this honor since 2001.

4 » One of OGGOA’s favorite all-time Florida football players is Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that one of our all-time favorite Gators’ mom’s is his very own – Pauline. Aside from helping raise Channing and supporting him throught his life, Pauline has started a Football 101 for Women & Friends class that has become quite popular in South Florida. You can read more about it here.

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SIX BITS: 2010 class, Tebow, Smith, awards

1 » Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer spoke candidly with The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley after National Signing Day on Wednesday. He was surprised there was not a worse reaction to his temporary resignation but actually had fun dispelling numerous rumors about his next job. “[Five-star defensive end Ronald Powell called me at 3 a.m. and] wanted to know if I was going to ESPN to replace Lee Corso,” Meyer said. That’s what he had been hearing. I just laughed.” Four-star offensive lineman Chaz Green, Florida’s last commitment, had the same question. In the end, for a man dealing with stress, his 2010 recruiting class gave him the best gift of all: relaxation. “I left my phone on (Tuesday) night but I went to sleep,” he said. “I got up, no messages. What is that? That’s the first time since I have been married I wasn’t on the phone at midnight the day before Signing Day. And we were done with the faxes by noon.”

Five more BITS including Tim Tebow’s new organization, Emmitt Smith’s upcoming honor, the women’s basketball team’s loss and much more after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: 2010 class, Tebow, Smith, awards

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FOUR BITS: What happens to Chuck Heater?

1 » Hiring George Edwards as the Florida Gators defensive coordinator may or may not determine current assistant defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chuck Heater‘s future with the team. Will Heater share the role with Edwards, take on other responsibilities with the team, have his job remain the same or even leave for another opportunity? Right now, Gator Nation does not know. What is apparent is that Heater openly campaigned for the defensive coordinator position prior to the 2010 Sugar Bowl. “I’m interested in having a leadership role, whatever it might be,” Heater said in December. He reportedly turned down an offer to join Doc Holliday‘s Marshall Thundering Herd staff as defensive coordinator – does that become a more attractive option for the 33-year coaching veteran?

2 » Losing four assistant coaches (and one graduate assistant) after the 2009 SEC Championship, head coach Urban Meyer has replaced all of them post-haste. Even so, his cornerbacks coach position apparently remains vacant and additional coaching turnover in Heater and/or assistant head coach and defense/defensive line coach Dan McCarney (whose name has popped up as a candidate for the recently available head job with the USF Bulls) may very well occur. Perhaps McCarney would even take Heater as his defensive coordinator? There is still a ways to go before this situation is settled.

3 » Florida women’s basketball (9-6, 2-0 SEC) turned in a thrilling 71-68 double-overtime victory against the Auburn Tigers (9-6, 0-2 SEC) Thursday evening in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Senior guard Steffi Sorensen began the second overtime without a point in the contest but drained three treys to lift her team to victory. The Gators led by 20 points in the first half but gave up the lead in the second half as the Tigers won the rebound (58-46) and turnover (22-15) battles. Sophomore center Azania Stewart led Florida with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

4 » Football has the Swamp Things, basketball has the Rowdy Reptiles, but baseball’s student section remains unnamed – until now. The baseball team is set to throw its first pitch of the 2010 season in just over a month’s time, and the University of Florida is looking to the student body for suggestions on what to name McKethan Stadium’s student section. The winning entry will receive a baseball autographed by head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, Nike Gators gear and the opportunity to throw out a first pitch before a game this season. Submissions are being accepted through Jan. 15 with the voting lasting from Jan. 19-22. An announcement will be made on Jan. 25. Only students are able to apply – visit GatorZone.com for more information.

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Parsons’ buzzer-beater drops N.C. State in OT

Down two with 2.6 seconds left on the clock in overtime and N.C. State Wolfpack guard Farnold Degand on the line ready to shoot his second free throw, the Florida Gators‘ hopes of winning a big out-of-conference game on the road looked dashed. Instead, Degand missed his shot, Florida junior forward Chandler Parsons grabbed the rebound, took two dribbles and threw up a 75-foot buzzer-beating, game-winning three-pointer to give the Gators (11-3) a much-needed 62-61 overtime victory in Raleigh, NC, at the RBC Center.

“It feels like a fantasy,” Parsons said while trying to gain perspective shortly after the game. “I’m waiting for someone to pinch me to wake me up. I’d by lying to you if I said I thought it was going to go in. It was pure luck. But I’m happy I was able to help my team and I was happy we were able to get out of here with the win. North Carolina State is a good team and they are going to have a great season. To be able to pull this out in front of their fans, with that crowd, it’s huge for us.”

One of Florida’s most consistent players this season, Parsons’ remarkable trey was his first made field goal of the game. The entire Gators squad struggled from beyond the arc yet again, shooting a combined 2-of-23 from three before Parsons’ final attempt. UF missed its first 13 three-point attempts and even rimmed out another that would have won the game in regulation.

Florida was within three numerous times at the end of overtime, but N.C. State (10-4) head coach Sidney Lowe directed his team to foul sophomore point guard Erving Walker before he could hoist up a three, limiting his ability to tie the game or take the lead. The Wolfpack missed four free throws in the final 38 seconds of overtime, allowing the Gators to stay in the game even with their poor shooting down the stretch.

Redshirt junior center Vernon Macklin led Florida with 14 points while Walker posted 13 of his own. Junior forward Alex Tyus added 11 points in the contest, his fifth-straight game with double-figure points. Tyus also led the Gators with seven rebounds, while Parsons and freshman guard Kenny Boynton each contributed six boards. For N.C. State, star F Tracy Smith scored 21 points and G Javier Gonzalez added 13 of his own, eight of which were in overtime.

Florida hopes to continue their lucky streak when they open Southeastern Conference play on Saturday, Jan. 9 at noon in Nashville, TN, against the Vanderbilt Commodores. The game will air live on ESPN.

Women’s basketball (8-6) also took home a road win Sunday, toppling the Alabama Crimson Tide 59-53 in both teams’ conference opener. Senior G Lonnika Thompson and sophomore C Azania Stewart led the Gators with 12 points each.

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FOUR BITS: Baseball ranked, Buffalo hires coach

1 » The Florida Gators baseball team has been ranked No. 9 in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason top 40 poll released Sunday. 2009 SEC Eastern Division Champions, the Gators were 42-22 overall in 2009 and advanced to the NCAA Super Regional in the postseason. The only SEC team ranked higher in the poll is the LSU Tigers at No. 2.

2 » Florida women’s basketball (5-5) defeated the Southern Jaguars (6-3) 62-35 in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Sunday in the first round of the Gator Holiday Classic. Sophomore center Azania Stewart scored a career-high 18 points as she led the Gators to victory. Florida will take on the High Point Panthers for the tournament title at 7 p.m. on Monday.

3 » Further fleecing the Cincinnati Bearcats staff, the Buffalo Bulls have hired Jeff Quinn (Cincinnati’s interim coach after Brian Kelly left for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish) as its new head coach. Though Quinn will not start until after the 2010 Sugar Bowl, his hiring spells relief for Gators fans who were hoping neither cornerbacks coach Vance Bedford nor quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler would be hired away for the job.

4 » Seniors quarterback Tim Tebow and softball pitcher Stacey Nelson, along with 28 other Florida student-athletes, graduated on Saturday. Here are two pictures:

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