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: Florida tennis falls, lacrosse reigns, softball triumphs, gymnastics sets the tone

1 » No. 2 Florida Gators women’s tennis (3-1) lost its first match in more than a year as the No. 4 Duke Blue Devils (7-1) snapped the visitors’ 25-match winning streak (which dated back to Feb. 12, 2012) with a 4-0 sweep on Sunday in Durham, NC. Though the duo of senior Lauren Embree and junior Sofie Oyen took down Duke’s No. 7-ranked team of Mary Clayton and Ester Goldfeld 8-4, Florida eventually lost the doubles point when junior Alex Cercone/freshman Brianna Morgan lost a 6-4 lead and fell 7-6(7-3) in the third doubles match. The Gators responded by winning the first set on five-of-six singles courts. However, No. 9 Oyen was upset by No. 45 Goldfeld (6-4, 7-5) to put the Blue Devils up 3-0 and Duke picked up one additional singles win despite UF leading in all three of the matches that did not finish. Florida, which was pushed out of the top national ranking at the start of the week by new No. 1 North Carolina, will be in Chapel Hill, NC to face UNC on Monday at 2 p.m.

2 » No. 3 Gators lacrosse (3-0) has won its first three matches of the season for the first time in program history after taking down the High Point Panthers (1-1) on Sunday in High Point, NC. Florida, which picked up a 13-7 victory, was led by three goals apiece from sophomore midfielder Shannon Gilroy and senior attacker Caroline Chesterman. Senior A Kitty Cullen and sophomore M Nicole Graziano added two goals each. UF will host Stony Brook in the program’s home opener on Wednesday.

3 » No. 5 Gators softball (12-0) spent its first weekend of the 2013 season plowing through opponents out west in the Kajikawa Classic. One weekend later, the location changed but the game play remained the same as Florida trounced its competition in the Lipton Invitational at the friendly confines of Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL. The Gators outscored their opponents by a combined 54-4 over six games in a three-day span. Florida beat the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks 10-0 on Friday and 9-1 on Sunday, shutout the Savannah State Tigers 12-0 on Friday and 14-0 on Sunday, took down the Western Carolina Catamounts 5-0 on Saturday, and squeaked past the Charleston Southern Buccaneers 4-3 on Sunday in an extra-inning affair.

Four Florida players led the way offensively with sophomore first baseman Lauren Haeger (7/15, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 4 R, 3 BB) at the top of the pack. Also making big contributions were sophomore outfielder Jessica Damico (4/11, HR, 5 RBI, 5 R, 3 BB, SB), freshman second baseman Kelsey Stewart (8/20, HR, 4 RBI, 6 R, 3 BB, 7 SB) and freshman OF Kirsti Merritt (4/9, HR, 5 RBI, 6 R, 3 BB, 2 SB – four games). A solo homer by Haeger in the bottom of the seventh on Sunday against Charleston Southern sent the game into extra innings, and Damico ended the contest in the bottom of the eighth as she tripled to score the final run of the game. Each of UF’s pitchers picked up a pair of wins over the weekend including Haeger (4-0, 11.0 IP, 5 H, ER, 2 BB, HBP, 15 K), sophomore right-handeder Alyssa Bache (3-0, 10.0 IP, 3 H, BB, 14 K) and junior RHP Hannah Rogers (4-0, 15.0 IP, 9 H, ER [3 R], 5 BB, 13 K).

4 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics (6-1, 5-1 SEC) once again proved why it is being labeled as the best team in the country as it came from behind to take down the No. 9 Georgia Gym Dogs (5-5-1, 3-1-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd of 9,971 at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, GA. Florida ousted Georgia 197.30-196.175 despite losing two team events (vault, uneven bars) and barely winning the floor exercise. A strong performance on the balance beam gave the Gators a significant 49.300-48.125 advantage over the GymDogs in the event, catapulting them to victory. Freshman Bridget Sloan picked up her third-straight all-around title with a 39.60 and also won bars with a 9.95.

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Florida lacrosse collapses in 14-13 sudden death overtime loss to Syracuse in NCAA Final Four

A historic season for No. 1 Florida Gators lacrosse came to an end in devastating fashion on Friday as the team blew a seven-goal second-half lead and eventually fell 14-13 in sudden death overtime to the No. 4 Syracuse Orange in the Final Four of the 2012 NCAA Tournament at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium in Stony Brook, NY.

Syracuse (19-3) topped Florida (19-3) in sudden death overtime for the second time this season with the Orange previously defeating the Gators 12-11 in Gainesville, FL on March 3. UF’s 15-match winning streak came to an end on Friday as did the team’s hopes for the program’s first national title.

Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell got things started for Florida, scoring just over two minutes into the first half. Syracuse evened things up five minutes later and was dominating the proceedings a third of the way through the opening half by outshooting UF 10-2, leading 6-0 in ground balls and taking a 3-0 edge in draw controls.

Despite their advantages, the Orange was unable to capitalize early on. Gators junior attacker Gabi Wiegand and freshman M Shannon Gilroy scored consecutive goals 13 seconds apart to put Florida ahead 3-1, though Syracuse quickly answered back again to hold a short-lived single-goal deficit.

That is when Gilroy took over, scoring three-straight goals over the final 10:25 of the half, including one 15 seconds before the break, to give the Gators a 7-3 lead as the teams headed into the locker rooms.

The Orange had their chances late in the half but saw consecutive shots bang off the post. UF junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher was also exceptional in the opening period, registering 10 saves on 18 shots and saving all three free position attempts she faced.

Meagher’s offense gave her an even larger cushion in the second half as junior A Caroline Chesterman scored 37 seconds into the period and Dashiell followed with a free position goal to increase Florida’s lead to 9-3.

The Gators continued their scoring onslaught with junior A Ashley Bruns getting on the board and Dashiell notching her third goal of the match (the team’s second hat trick) to extend UF’s advantage to a match-high seven goals. Dashiell soon matched Gilroy with her fourth score of the match, putting Florida up 12-5 with 17:15 remaining.

Not ready to go down without a fight, the Orange scored three-straight goals in under four minutes to get within four of their top-ranked opponent. Gilroy picked the perfect time to score her fifth goal of the evening, tossing it into the net with 7:19 left in the game to give the Gators back a five-goal lead at 13-8.

However, Syracuse completely erased Florida’s five-goal advantage, tying the match at 13 by extending their scoring run to 8-1 to end the second half. The Gators allowed the game-tying goal with just 30 seconds remaining while down two women due to a pair of yellow cards being assessed inside the last minute of regulation.

After both teams went scoreless in the first three minutes of overtime, Florida won a draw control and stalled for approximately two minutes in order to get the final shot of the period. Wiegand eventually took that shot and scored with nine seconds remaining, but the goal was rescinded due to her scoring with an illegal stick.

The match then went into sudden death overtime with the first goal scored sending that respective team into the national title game. The Orange won the draw control and, following a timeout, scored the game-winning goal to send the Gators home for good.

Meagher, after registering 10 saves on 18 first-half shots, only notched five more over the duration of the contest. Syracuse outshot Florida 43-24 and held a 19-6 advantage on ground balls Friday evening.

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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

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FOUR BITS: Beal, Young, Sampson, Bennett

1 » ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford ranked Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal and sophomore center Patric Young as the No. 1 and No. 2 (respectively) NBA prospects in the West Region of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Ford noted shooting and athleticism as Beal’s positives but said his struggles from beyond the arc are an obvious negative. He also said that “NBA teams expect him to thrive” in a true NBA lineup and that he could move all the way up from top six to No. 2 overall behind Anthony Davis if he performs at a high level in the tournament. Ford added that “NBA scouts are convinced Young has the potential to be a dominant defensive big man” no matter what he does offensively in college or the NBA. For further details click here (subscription required).

UPDATE: Young reaffirmed Thursday that he plans to remain at UF for 2012-13.

2 » Still looking to add a big man to their 2012 recruiting class, Florida basketball missed out on another this week when four-star power forward Jakarr Sampson (Akron, OH) decided to play for St. John’s next season. Sampson, who was originally committed to SJU before being forced to spend a year in prep school to improve his grades, recommitted to St. John’s on Wednesday over UF, Kansas and Providence. Sampson recently said he was getting prepared to visit the Gators but will no longer make that trip. “They always had my heart,” Sampson told Rivals.com about his new team. “Even when I left my heart was still here. I got to know the coaches, the players and I couldn’t leave them like that because my heart is still with them.”

3 » Florida’s primary focal point in the frontcourt has always been five-star PF Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV), who has yet to decide what school he will attend. UF, which stands a good chance of landing him, is in his top five along with Kentucky, UNLV, Washington and Oregon. “The coaching staff is really cool,” he told Rivals of the Gators in January. “My mom likes them a lot and they say that they will develop me into a three/four type player. Also, if Patric Young doesn’t go pro, I would be able to practice every day against one of the best big men in the country.”

4 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis and No. 5/6 lacrosse were both victorious in a pair of mid-week matches in Gainesville, FL on Wednesday. Gators tennis (10-1) earned a shutout 5-0 win over the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils (11-1) while Florida lacrosse (7-2) gained a dominant 17-4 victory over the Stony Brook Seawolves (5-2). Weather ended the tennis match early, good news for junior No. 1 Allie Will who was down one set and losing in the second to No. 2 Beatrice Capra. Junior No. 14 Lauren Embree, senior No. 19 Joanna Mather and sophomore No. 39 Sofie Oyen won their singles matches as No. 3 Will/Oyen and No. 11 Embree/Mather also picked up doubles victories. Across campus junior attacker Caroline Chesterman led the way for the Gators by netting all five of her shots for goals. Midfielders junior Brittany Dashiell and freshman Nora Barry each scored two goals, and junior As Kitty Cullen and Gabi Wiegand added two apiece. Janine Hillier, who transferred was Florida’s fourth-leading scoreer a year ago but transferred in the offseason, did not score for Stony Brook.

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FOUR BITS: Bilas, Lunardi, Young, lacrosse

1 » Speaking with ESPN’s Jay Bilas early in the week, OGGOA was told by the college basketball analyst that he believes the Florida Gators‘ problems begin and end with the players and not head coach Billy Donovan. “I think this is a player issue, I don’t think this is a coaching issue,” he said. “When you’re watching a team and you say, ‘Geez, it doesn’t look like they’re going after it as hard as they’re capable of doing.’ That’s not the coach, that’s the players.” Bilas maintains that Florida losing Will Yeguete is a bigger deal than maybe even fans understood at the time because of “his ability to come in and do dirty work” along with his size, length and the fact that the team does not have to run plays for him while he’s on the court. He is most concerned with the group’s passion, something Donovan has spoken at length about recently.

“I don’t think over the last two-three weeks or so, when I’ve watched them play, they’ve played hard but they haven’t ‘wowed’ you with how hard they played. And they haven’t ‘wowed’ you with how together they’ve been,” he said. “There was a time early in the year where I thought they were really a together group, and they don’t look as connected right now. That probably helps explain it. Maybe Will Yeguete not being there is a part of that. They’ve looked more individual than team lately. They’ve got some really good individual players, but it doesn’t really matter often times how good your individuals are. It’s how good they are collectively. I think Florida is really capable. I’ve watched them a lot this year. I like their team, but they haven’t played nearly as well as they’re capable of playing over the last two-three weeks.”

2 » OGGOA also got a chance to catch up with ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi, who currently has the Gators slotted as a five-seed and No. 17 overall. Lunardi admits that he is “relatively bullish” on Florida compared to some of his colleagues and said that UF’s loss on the road to Georgia did not hurt the team as much as some may think. “I would say [it dropped them] half a seed line,” he said. “It was a road game against a not-terrible team. It’s not like they lost to Georgia Southern on the road. I have them with two losses against teams not under consideration [for the tournament] and that would be at Georgia and at Rutgers, who [are] good but not great BCS teams on the road. Not killer losses in my eyes at all.” Furthermore, Lunardi noted that the Gators could push themselves to a low three or high four seed if they win the 2012 SEC Tournament (which would most likely include defeating No. 1 Kentucky) but must try to avoid losing in the second-round action against either Alabama or South Carolina. “We’ll just have to see where they go out if they don’t’ win the tournament and against who,” he said. “If the team that knocks them out is Kentucky, that’s not going to hurt them.”

3 » After sophomore center Patric Young went through what sounds like his worst practice in a Florida uniform on Wednesday, one in which Donovan came down exceptionally hard on him, he desperately in need of a pick-me-up. Young responded with two quality practices on Friday and Saturday and was then called into the Gators’ coaches offices where there was a phone call waiting to him. According to Florida, former Indianapolis Colts head coach, motivational speaker and mentor to athletes Tony Dungy was on the line to inspire and enlighten Young. “It was unbelievable to think that someone like that would take the time to talk to me,” he told the school’s website. Dungy told Young that he was also stubborn as a youngster but that succeeding in sports requires giving it 100 percent all the time and that he must “suck it up [and] take coaching better and come at it with a different mentality.” Young explains, “My whole life, I guess I didn’t take coaching very well and now, finally, it’s started to affect me. My coach my senior of high school, we butted heads every now and then, too. I wasn’t used to a guy getting on me like that. And Coach D is 10 times worse. He cusses at you and hurts your feelings.”

4 » No. 5 Gators lacrosse (5-2) picked up their first victory against a ranked opponent this season, defeating the No. 15 Georgetown Hoyas (2-1) 12-9 on the road in Washington, D.C. Florida jumped ahead to an early 3-0 lead but fell behind 4-3 before scoring three more goals to take a 6-3 lead with 7:02 left in the first period. The Gators led 7-5 at the break and basically traded goals with the Hoyas the rest of the way though neither team scored over the final 8:15 of the contest. Junior attacker Gabi Wiegand scored five goals on five shots and was supported by two goals each from classmates Kitty Cullen, Ashley Bruns and Caroline Chesterman. Florida will have a quick turnaround as the team returns home to host Temple on Saturday at 1 p.m.

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2012 Florida Gators lacrosse primer: Title or bust?

Entering the program’s third year, No. 4 Florida Gators lacrosse is looking to continue their record pace and become the fastest team in the sport’s history to win the NCAA Championship. The Gators progressed from new kids on the block in 2010 to one of the elite teams in the country in 2011 and hope to continue that progress.

Florida opens their 2012 campaign on the road Saturday at No. 3 North Carolina for the second-straight year and is looking to avenge a tough 10-9 overtime loss.

Following the defeat in their 2011 opener, the Gators went on 14-match winning streak that spanned two months. Florida lost their final regular season game 9-6 to Cornell; however, UF still finished 11-0 at home and captured the 2011 ALC regular season title. The Gators then fell in the conference’s tournament to Northwestern and were ousted in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament by a talented Duke team.

Continue Reading » 2012 Florida Gators lacrosse primer: Title or bust?

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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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