4 BITS: Taylor retires, volleyball, Baker, Brown

1 » Former Florida Gators running back Fred Taylor, a 13-year NFL veteran who spent the majority of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, will sign a one-day contract with the team on Friday and officially announce his retirement. Taylor – who has rushed for 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns while catching 290 passes for 2,384 yards and eight touchdowns – was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in 2007 who is only one of 30 players in league history to have rushed for more than 10,000 yards. He was a three-time Southeastern Conference champion (1994-96) and one-time national champion (1996) at Florida and was named as a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC member in 1997. A member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame, Taylor spent his first 10 years in the NFL with Jacksonville before playing his final two seasons with the New England Patriots. The No. 9 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, he is Jacksonville’s all-time leader in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns.

OGGOA will have more on Taylor’s retirement on Friday. Stay tuned.

2 » Looking to avenge a come-from-behind victory by the Gators in the Sweet 16 of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, No. 25 Florida State Seminoles volleyball strode into the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on a mission Tuesday evening. Fortunately for No. 9 Florida (3-0), the Gators were able to push back their opponents and sweep the Seminoles 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-22) in front of a school-record 1,901 students (total attendance: 4,631). Florida has won all nine sets in which they’ve played this season and continues to claw their way to victory each match. Senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy notched a triple-double in the contest with 12 kills, 10 digs and 17 assists. The trio of senior middle-back Cassandra Anderson (eight), senior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell (seven) and senior OH Kristy Jaeckel (six) combined for 21 kills on the evening as the Gators improved to 28-2 against FSU under head coach Mary Wise.

3 » Former Gators wide receiver Dallas Baker is set to make his debut with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL on Sunday and is excited for his opportunity to get back on the field. Baker, who was signed by the Montreal Alouettes in April but traded to Saskatchewan in August, only played in three games with the former team and caught just three balls for 28 yards. He found himself on the bench with the Roughriders and now, after a teammate got injured, he will finally get back on the field. “I’ve always been a guy who’s been in a situation like this, so [waiting] really wasn’t tough at all,” Baker told The Regina Leader-Post. “It was all about being patient and that’s something that I was used to.” Baker also spoke to the paper about his uncle and fellow former Florida star Wes Chandler. “When I got drafted, he was like, ‘Hey, that’s the easy part,'” he recalled. “I thought it was the hard part. He told me the things to do to be a professional athlete. He told me to never get complacent. He also told me, ‘Watch and learn. If you see a vet do something, that doesn’t mean you can do it – especially if you know it’s wrong. [...] But if you see a vet do something like staying late watching film, pick up on that.'”

4 » Though he was released by the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, former Gators defensive end Alex Brown has already heard from at least three teams who are interested in his services this year. “I talked with my agent, and three teams have made contact,” Brown said on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. “We’re just trying to figure out what’s best for my family and what’s a really good situation for me to go in. I would love to go play in a 4-3, so there are a lot of teams out there that still run a 4-3 that could use a defensive end that still has a little bit left. So hopefully I can find a good place that my family and I can feel comfortable with.” One possible destination? The team that drafted him – the Chicago Bears. “It would be crazy to do another Gator Chomp in Soldier Field. That would be nuts,” he said.

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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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Murphy, Wise, volleyball honored with SEC awards

Finishing the season with a perfect 20-0 record in the Southeastern Conference and a No. 1 seed in the 2010 NCAA Championship Tournament, No. 1/1 Florida Gators volleyball (27-1) was honored by the SEC on Monday with a number of awards.

Florida junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy was named the 2010 SEC Player of the Year, head coach Mary Wise was named 2010 SEC Coach of the Year and six Gators earned All-SEC recognition including three to the First Team.

Joining Murphy on the First Team were seniors middle back Lauren Bledsoe and outside hitter Callie Rivers. Junior MB Cassandra Anderson and junior OH Kristy Jackel were named to the Second Team, while freshman setter Chanel Brown earned All-SEC Freshman Team recognition.

Florida will host the first two rounds of the 2010 NCAA Championship at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Opening round action for the Gators begins on Friday when they face South Carolina State at 7:30 p.m.

Photo Credit: Southeastern Conference

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FOUR BITS: Andrews, Smith, SEC title, awards

1 » Two former Florida GatorsESPN reporter Erin Andrews and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith – partied together last night as the ABC television show Dancing with the Stars celebrated its 200th episode. Andrews snapped this picture of the duo doing the Gator Chomp during the event. Enjoy.

2 » Florida Gators women’s cross country captured the 2010 Southeastern Conference Championship on Monday in Columbia, SC, while competing at the title meet. Florida (60 points) bested the second-place finisher Arkansas Razorbacks (61 points) by a single point to take the crown. It is the fifth time the Gators women have won the conference title and second time in program history that they did so in back-to-back years (1996-1997). The Florida men’s team (69 points) failed in their effort, coming in third behind winner Arkansas (34 points) and the Alabama Crimson Tide (62 points). Monday’s win marks the second 2010 SEC title captured by UF so far this season with the soccer team coming through with a big win over the weekend.

3 » With the game-winning goal in the above mentioned 2010 SEC title game over the weekend, No. 8 Gators soccer senior defender Nicky Kit took home two additional honors on Monday – SEC Defensive Player of the Week and (one of) CollegeSoccer360.com’s Primetime Players of the Week. Kit earned the recognition for her 20-yard free kick goal to end the first half that ended up being a game-winner.

4 » Adding two more wins to their 20-1 record (13-0 SEC), No. 1/1 Florida volleyball also earned some recognition for two of its players on Monday. Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week (fourth time this season) and junior middle-back Cassandra Anderson earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week.

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TWO BITS: soccer, volleyball victorious; Lacroix

1 » No. 7 Florida Gators soccer (8-1-1, 2-0 SEC) continued its hot start over the weekend with a pair of 2-0 road victories against the Kentucky Wildcats (6-3, 0-1 SEC) on Friday and the Vanderbilt Commodores (4-5-1, 0-1-1 SEC) on Sunday. Friday’s contest saw sophomore midfielder/forward Erika Tymrak (47’) and junior MF/F Tahnai Annis (81’) with goals, while freshman F Taylor Travis (14’) and redshirt sophomore MF McKenzie Barney (79’) contributed scores on Sunday. Redshirt senior goalkeeper Katie Franie broke Jordan Kellgren’s (1999-2002) Florida career solo shutouts record with her 22nd on Sunday. The Gators return home for a pair of matches this weekend, facing Mississippi State on Friday and Ole Miss on Sunday.

2 » Also performing well over the weekend was No. 3 Florida volleyball (10-1, 3-0 SEC), which defeated the Ole Miss Rebels (9-4, 3-1 SEC) 3-0 (25-18, 25-19, 25-19) on Sunday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Junior middle-back Cassandra Anderson and sophomore right-side Tangerine Wiggs notched a combined 16 kills and five blocks to lead the Gators. Junior RS/setter Kelly Murphy continued her streak of significantly contributing to her team’s victory with six kills, five digs, two blocks and a team-high 18 assists. Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers added 10 digs and seven kills.

Extra BIT » Florida senior tennis player, No. 9 Alexandre Lacroix, won the 2010 Napa Valley Classic title on Sunday, defeating No. 8 Eric Quigley of Kentucky 10-6 in the final. Lacroix combined to win his three matches 30-15 at earned a USTA wild card for a future event with his victory.

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Florida improves to 8-0 with win over Jacksonville

On the heels of an 85-67 road victory over the Jacksonville Dolphins (0-5) on Friday, the No. 13/17 Florida Gators basketball team has begun its season 8-0 for only the third time in school history. Four Gators scored in double figures on the evening with sophomore point guard Erving Walker leading the way with a team-high 18 points.

Freshman guard Kenny Boynton spread himself out all over the box score with 15 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals on the evening while junior transfer center Vernon Macklin had the best game in his short Florida career with 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting (6-of-6 from the charity stripe) and three blocks. The Gators hit 12 three-pointers on the evening and were 60 percent from behind the arc as a team. Junior forward Chandler Parsons was 2-for-2, Walker was 4-for-5, senior F Dan Werner (13 points) was 3-for-5 and Boynton was 3-for-7 from long range.

For Jacksonville, F Ayron Hardy led the team with 16 points and six rebounds while G Travis Cohn added 15 points of his own. The Dolphins kept the game close throughout the first half, but the Gators pulled away to a nine-point halftime lead and kept their foot on the gas for the remainder of the contest.

Florida won their first true road game of the season and improved to 7-0 all-time at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL. The first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament will be held in the same location in March, and the Gators hope to return to one of their favorite places to play outside of Gainesville, FL.

The Gators three-game road trip continues on Thursday when they take on the No. 8/7 Syracuse Orange at the neutral site St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, FL, at 9 p.m. The game is part of the SEC/Big East Invitational and will air live on ESPN.

Volleyball in NCAA Tournament: No. 14/15 Gators volleyball (25-5) advanced to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 for the 18th time in the last 19 years after defeating the Florida International Golden Panthers (32-4) 3-0 (25-22, 25-15, 25-16) in second round action Friday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Florida out-blocked FIU 12.0-1.0 while being led by sophomore middle blocker Cassandra Anderson, who recorded match-highs in kills (nine on .692 hitting) and blocks (seven). The Gators will face the winner of the State College, PA, subregional next Friday in the O’Dome.

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