Florida soccer splits, volleyball sweeps

Coming off back-to-back victories in South Florida, No. 8 Florida Gators soccer looked to continue their stellar start with a pair of contests against ranked opponents on the road in Knoxville, TN over the weekend. Florida (3-1-0) wound up defeating the No. 18 Texas A&M Aggies (1-2-0) 3-2 in exciting fashion on Friday before suffering their first loss of the season 2-0 to the No. 15 UCLA Bruins (3-0-0) on Sunday.

The Gators jumped ahead 1-0 in the 25th minute when junior midfielder Erika Tymrak corralled a through ball from freshman MF Havana Solaun and pocketed it into the net. The Aggies responded quickly with back-to-back goals from Annie Kunz and Kelley Monogue before UF was able to tie it up at 39’. Senior MF Lindsay Thompson sailed a cross from the right wing to the left post, which sophomore forward Taylor Travis headed in for her second goal of the season.

All was quiet in the second half as the clock began to run down. With just 15 seconds remaining, Florida redshirt junior F McKenzie Barney found a cross in the middle of the field and buried the game-winning goal into the net from six yards out.

For the second straight day, Gators senior goalkeeper Brooke Chancey allowed two goals past her on Sunday, but this time her teammates did not accomplish anything on the offensive end to support her. UCLA scored at 35’ and 72’ to put Florida away 2-0, keeping their undefeated season alive while handing the Gators their first loss.

Back in Gainesville, FL at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, No. 9 Gators volleyball was looking to start the season strong by participating in the Active Ankle SEC/ACC Challenge. The ladies won back-to-back contests in the two-day event to earn the team championship, and the Southeastern Conference defeated the ACC 3-1.

Florida (2-0) swept the Boston College Eagles (1-0) 3-0 on Friday, defeating them in straight sets 25-11, 25-15, 25-16. Senior middle-back Cassandra Anderson and senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel led the team with 11.0 and 10.5 points, respectively, while also combining for 13 kills. The Gators notched 14 aces in the match, and senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy and sophomore setter Channel Brown combined for 27 assists.

Continuing their good fortunes on Sunday, Florida similarly swept the North Carolina Tar Heels (1-1) 3-0 via straight sets of 25-17, 25-20, 25-14. Senior OH Stephanie Ferrell earned the tournament’s MVP award after registering 20 kills over the weekend (including 13 on Sunday). Joining her on the All-Tournament Team were Jaeckel (double-double with 12 kills, 10 digs), Murphy (match-high 20 assists, eight kills, seven digs) and redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe (19 digs combined).

The University of Florida has began its 2011-12 athletic season a combined 5-1 and will look to continue its ways as its two women’s teams take part in five more games this week before the football team takes the field on Saturday evening.

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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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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, lax win Thursday

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (5-0) kept their hot streak going Thursday with a solid 4-0 victory over the Boston College Eagles (2-2) in the first of a three-game series taking place at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (2-0, 0.00 ERA) shined, retiring the first 17 hitters he faced in a bid for a perfect game; unfortunately he ended up giving up a hit in the sixth and combined with sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez (S1) to toss a two-hit shutout. Johnson’s streak of retiring 27-consecutive batters through two games also set a school record. Junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R) led the way at the plate, with sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox (1-4), Johnson (1-3, R) and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (1-4) also registering a RBI each. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1-0, 1.50 ERA) takes the mound for game two of the series, Friday at 5 p.m.

2 » Thursday wasn’t all about basketball and baseball as No. 4/5 Florida softball trashed the Indiana Hoosiers (5-6) 7-0 in their first game of the day at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, FL. Freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers tossed a complete game shutout for the win, only giving up two hits and three walks while striking out seven. The Gators scored two in the third, four (with two outs) in the sixth and one more in the seventh to put away the Hoosiers. Junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-3) led Florida offensively by driving in a pair of runs. Freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle, sophomore designated hitter Samantha Holle and freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan each walked twice and were rewarded by their teammates for their efforts, crossing the plate a combined four times.

3 » The early win was nice, but UF softball (11-0) faced a tougher opponent in the evening. Down 4-3 to the No. 11/12 Texas Longhorns (10-2) late Thursday night, the Gators rallied to tie the game first in the seventh and again in the eighth before pulling out a 6-5 victory in nine innings. Senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher (0.36 ERA), the team’s ace, got the start and played nearly the entire game, striking out seven while allowing two earned runs, seven hits and four walks in 8.1 innings. She was replaced in the ninth by Rogers (5-0, 0.49 ERA), who struck out both batters she faced to preserve a 5-5 tie into the bottom of the inning.

Tied at three runs apiece in the top of the seventh after the Longhorns scored an unearned run, RF Taylor Hoagland homered to center to give Texas a one-run advantage. Now down 4-3, Florida’s Moultrie (2-3, 2 RBI, R) tripled to center field to score junior Ellie Langley from third base (she replaced sophomore Kelsey Horton, who hit a pinch-hit leadoff single). Trailing 5-4 in the eighth, a single by senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (1-4, 2 RBI, R) scored senior second baseman Aja Paculba (2-3, R) from second. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Moultrie hit a walk-off single to score sophomore Ensley Gammel from second and give the Gators the victory.

4 » While baseball and softball had the fun at night, No. 17 Florida lacrosse (3-1) got the day started off right for the Gators with a 16-6 trouncing of the UMBC Retrievers (1-1) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Seven different players scored for Florida with sophomores midfielder Kitty Cullen (five goals) and attacker Ashley Bruns (four goals) once again leading the way.

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LB Stewart becomes Florida’s 16th commitment

It became apparent earlier in the week, when it was reported the Florida Gators were making a late push for his commitment, that four-star linebacker Graham Stewart (Middleton, CT) may ditch the maroon and gold of the Boston College Eagles for the orange and blue. That is exactly what happened Friday as Stewart decided to decommit from Boston College and become the 16th member of Florida’s 2011 signing class.

“Yeah, I did verbally commit tonight,” Stewart told the Orlando Sentinel’s Chris Hays on Friday. “It was always my dream school, but with the coaching change, that had deterred me a bit. But just the overall energy of the place and, of course, it being Florida, it just seemed to be the best place for me to become a better student and a better athlete.”

Head coach Will Muschamp visited Stewart in his home Friday and quickly earned the player’s commitment. OGGOA reported Thursday, via The Hartford Courant, that Stewart was heavily considering a switch.

“It’s a hard situation but also a good one,” Stewart told the paper. “I took two unofficial visits to Florida this summer. I have an offer from them. It’s a great honor that they believe you can play for them.”

Considered the top recruit in the state of Connecticut by Rivals, Stewart is ranked as the service’s No. 16 linebacker in the country. ESPNU lists him as a three-star player and their No. 53 overall linebacker.

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Make it three: Josh Haden to join Florida in Jan.

In a move that has been expected for qutie some time, former Boston College Eagles running back Josh Haden, the brother of both current Florida Gators freshman safety Jordan Haden and Cleveland Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden, plans to transfer to the University of Florida in January.

The Orlando Sentinel caught up with Jordan at Florida Media Day on Tuesday, who confirmed that his older brother would be heading to Gainesville, FL, in the new year. This corroborates what Joe said a few months ago in an interview with NFL.com.

“I have a little brother. He’s a running back at Boston College. He’s transferring now to, probably, Florida,” he said at the time.

Prior reports had Josh picking between Florida, Louisville (head coach Charlie Strong) and a number of other undisclosed schools. He will have to sit out one full season (2010) due to NCAA transfer regulations.

OGGOA will have a number of other updates coming out of Florida Media Day shortly.

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TWO BITS: Josh Haden to UF, point guard recruits

1 » OGGOA tweeted Monday that running back Josh Haden, the brother of former Florida Gators cornerback Joe and current safety Jordan, was deciding between UF and the Louisville Cardinals for football playing purposes after choosing to transfer from Boston College Eagles. Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald has pointed us to this NFL.com video, in which Joe Haden insinuates the decision has already been made. “I have a little brother. He’s a running back at Boston College. He’s transferring now to, probably, Florida,” Joe says. First Draft: Joe Haden (Video)

*NOTE: There is no confirmation of Haden’s decision and Joe could simply be stating where he believes his brother is leaning at the present.

2 » Also piquing OGGOA’s interest this afternoon is a column by The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway focusing on who the Florida basketball program is going after now that they have turned their attention away from five-star guard Brandon Knight (Fort Lauderdale, FL). Unexpectedly, Brockway does not mention four-star Ray McCallum (Detroit, MI), but rather says the Gators are focusing on three-stars Brandon Young (Baltimore, MD), Chris Denson (Columbus, GA) and Will Yeguete (Melbourne, FL).

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FOUR BITS: Antwine done. Marsh, Howard back. Deonte frustrated. Three Hadens? UGA game.

1 » Updating a previous report on the injury sustained by defensive tackle Brandon Antwine (shoulder), it looks as if he could be sidelined for the season, according to Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post. Antwine is deciding whether or not to undergo surgery on his shoulder, which would be the second time in his career an injury would sideline him for the season (torn ACL, 2008). The Florida Gators have struggled to keep the interior of their defensive line healthy this season, relying on back-ups and third-stringers to fill in for most of the games. However, starters Lawrence Marsh (ankle) and Jaye Howard (knee) are both expected to return Saturday against the Georgia Bulldogs.

2 » Fans and media have been frustrated with the production from wide receiver Deonte Thompson this season, but it is actually Thompson who is frustrated with the lack of opportunities he has had to produce for the Gators. Several times on Saturday, Thompson was wide open and visibly seen trying to get quarterback Tim Tebow’s attention. When Tebow did not look his way, Thompson “was seen making hand gestures […] as if to say, ‘forget it.’” Head coach Urban Meyer plans to speak with him about his frustrations. “I’ll have a little chat with Deonte about that,” Meyer said. “Because we don’t need that. We need to go as hard as we can, and that’s what we do right now. I don’t mind guys that play very hard, and I think they share their frustration that competitors have. He plays very hard, he blocks well, he runs good routes. That’s fine. But if you ask (about it) again next week, there’s a chance Deonte won’t be playing.”

Two more interesting BITS after the jump…
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Antwine done. Marsh, Howard back. Deonte frustrated. Three Hadens? UGA game.

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