FOUR BITS: FSU wins, awards, Sloan, Brombacher

1 » Competing in their fourth and final game of the season, No. 8 Florida State Seminoles baseball (24-9) once again took it to the No. 4 Florida Gators (26-8), turning miscues into runs to prevail 3-1 on Tuesday night in Tallahassee, FL in front of a sold out crowd of 6,357 fans. Florida State improved to 3-1 against Florida with the win; the Gators’ only victory came via a hard-fought 5-4 win in extra innings. Junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis (2-1) picked up the loss for UF but only gave up one earned run while striking out five in 5.0 innings. In for relief, junior right-handed pitcher Greg Larson only allowed two hits but threw a pair of wild pitches that allowed the Seminoles to tack on two runs. Florida was held scorless through the first eight innings on the game before sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (2-4, RBI) knocked home junior right fielder Preston Tucker (1-3, R, BB) in the ninth.

2 » The Second Annual Florida Letterman Awards were held on Monday with a number of UF’s student-athletes bringing home honors. The list of award recipients and their respective sports is below:

- Mr. & Ms. Orange & Blue: Christian Taylor (track and field), Megan Bush (softball)
- Team of the Year: women’s swimming and diving, men’s indoor track and field
- Athlete of the Year: Conor Dwyer (swimming) and Christian Taylor (track and field), Mariam Kevkhishvili (track & field)
- Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Max Lang (track and field); Rebekah Zaiser (gymnastics)
- Performance of the Year: Conor Dwyer (NCAA swimming meet) and Gray Horn (SEC decathlon), Charlotte Browning (NCAA track meet)
- Academic Teams of Year: men’s golf, women’s gymnastics
- Play of the Year: Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Terrell Wilks and Jeremy Hall (4X100 relay 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships); Shara Stafford and Gemma Spofforth (200-meter freestyle at 2010 NCAA Championships)
- Rookie of the Year: Austin Maddox (baseball), Ashanee Dickerson (gymnastics)
- Comeback Athlete of the Year: Tommy Toledo (baseball), McKenzie Barney (soccer)
- Character Award: Bobby Walsh (swimming), Daisy Glasser (track and field)
- Goodwill Gator: Max Lang (track and field), Stephanie Brombacher (softball)

3 » Gators gymnastics got great news Wednesday as Bridget Sloan, the all-around champion at the 2009 World Championships and an Olympian for the United States in 2008, signed a letter of intent to join the University of Florida. Sloan will not enroll at UF for more than a year as she will first pursue participation in the 2012 London Olympics. “Making this decision was by far one of the hardest of my life, and I took a long time and put a lot of thought into it, but it came down to where I felt the most comfortable,” Sloan said according to a Florida release. “Florida seemed like the best place for me academically and for gymnastics, and I’m excited to be a Gator.”

4 » Gators softball’s senior ace RHP, Brombacher may see the mound for the first time in more than a month on Wednesday against Florida International. She has been out of action with a number of lingering arm injuries, most recently having problems with her bicep. However, according to the Independent Florida Alligator, Brombacher “threw almost every day last week” and could be back on the diamond Wednesday either as the starter or in a limited role.

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SIX BITS: swimming, Gal, gym, tennis, lacrosse

1 » During the 2011 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on Friday, the Florida Gators men’s team brought home a pair of National Championships. Competing in Minneapolis, MN, senior Brett Fraser captured the national title in the 200-yard freestyle. He was also part of the four-man team – including senior Conor Dwyer, junior Jeffrey Raymond and sophomore Sebastien Rousseau – that won the championship in the 800-yard freestyle relay.

2 » Former Florida golfer Sandra Gal picked up the first LPGA victory of her career on Sunday, winning the Kia Classic and $255,000. She finished at a 16-under 276 and won on the 18th and final hole on Sunday. “I’m a bit overwhelmed,” she said after the win. “you know, it was close all day long, so I had to kind of dig deep to pull out some shots. I’m just happy to have finally done it. I had a good feeling about today when I woke up.”

3 » Gators gymnastics was honored Wednesday when a number of players were awarded with spots on 2011 All-Southeastern Conference teams. junior Ashanée Dickerson and freshman Alaina Johnson earned First Team recognition, while junior Nicole Ellis, senior Alicia Goodwin, sophomore Marissa King and senior Maranda Smith were named to the Second Team. Johnson also picked up a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. Joining her with an overall honor was Rhonda Faehn, who won her second-straight SEC Coach of the Year award. It is the fourth of her career.

4 » No. 1 Florida women’s tennis continued their march to the postseason with a pair of impressive shutout victories over the weekend. The Gators (17-1, 6-0 SEC) took down the Ole Miss Rebels (8-6, 1-4 SEC) 7-0 on Friday and the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-10, 0-6 SEC) 7-0 on Sunday.

5 » Following suit was No. 19 Florida men’s tennis (12-5, 5-1 SEC), which took down Mississippi State (9-6, 4-2 SEC) in a 4-3 nail biter on Saturday. With the match tied, No. 6 senior Alexandre Lacroix took No. 84 Artem Ilyushin into a third-set tie breaker to pull out the victory. Lacroix won 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(5) to give UF its eighth 4-3 finish.

6 » No. 9 Gators lacrosse (10-1, 1-0 ALC) continued its spectacular sophomore season on Saturday, taking down the Ohio State Buckeyes (5-4, 0-1 ALC) 10-8 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Ohio State actually outscored Florida 5-3 in the second period but was unable to overcome UF’s 7-3 first-period advantage. Sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen, on her way to likely earning conference and perhaps national honors this season, scored six goals on 11 shots for the Gators. She now has a team-high 49 goals and 53 points on the season.

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FOUR BITS: Bond, Manuel, Dwyer, swimming

1 » Florida Gators guard Jaterra Bonds, who is second on the women’s basketball team in points this year, was named to the 2011 Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team on Tuesday. She won the SEC Freshman of the Week award twice this season and scored a career-high 22 points one week ago.

2 » Former Gators safety Marquand Manuel, a sixth-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, completed an eight-year NFL career in 2009 and has been hired as an intern with the football staff, according to the University of Florida. Manuel, who played under former head coach Steve Spurrier from 1998-2001, totaled 308 tackles (nine for loss), six interceptions, 22 passes defended, eight sacks and six fumble recoveries in his college career. He played in both a SEC Championship and Sugar Bowl and was an honor student at UF. In the league, he saw extensive time from 2002-2006 with Cincinnati, Seattle and Green Bay. Manuel caught and returned an interception 32 yards in the 2005 NFC Championship game to help send Seattle to Super Bowl XL, a game in which he started. He also spent a full season as a starter with Green Bay the following season before being released by the team and bouncing around the NFL until deciding to call it quits.

3 » Florida senior swimmer Conor Dwyer has been chosen as the cover athlete for the March 2011 issue of Swimming World Magazine, which is a College Championships Preview issue. Dwyer is the defending NCAA National Men’s Swimmer of the Year and is having yet another fantastic season.

4 » Gators swimming, under head coach Gregg Troy, has announced a significant restructuring of the program due to the 2012 London Olympics. Troy was named head coach of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Men’s Swimming Team and, with Florida’s blessing, will need some assistance handling both gigs next season. Below is a portion of UF’s release, which can be read in full here.

The University of Florida men’s and women’s swimming program will undergo an organizational restructuring in preparation of the 2012 Olympic year, head coach Gregg Troy announced Tuesday. Assistant head coaches Martyn Wilby and Anthony Nesty have each been promoted to the title of associate head coach, while assistant coach Steve Jungbluth has been named recruiting coordinator. Assistant coach Leah Martindale-Stancil will retain her duties on deck as well as her role as swim camp director, while Erva Gilliam has been elevated to the director of swimming operations.

“The restructuring of our program will provide us with an opportunity on deck to really focus in on the first-hand development of premier performances by our swimmers,” Troy said. “With the number of current and post-graduate swimmers here on our campus that are training towards the 2012 London Olympics, the delegation of administrative duties will allow us more time on deck to really work hand-in-hand with the training of each of our student-athletes, allowing them to compete for SEC, NCAA and Olympic Championships.”

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SIX BITS: awards, softball, lax, swimming, tennis

1 » There are plenty of spring sports underway right now, and the Florida Gators have gotten off to a fast start earning weekly conference honors. For the second-straight week, senior pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (softball) won the SEC Pitcher of the Week award; she tossed three shutouts in the last seven days and has a 0.00 ERA with 35 strikeouts through her first 31 innings of the season. Joining her is sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (baseball), who picked up the SEC Player of the Week award after going 9-for-12 and scoring five runs in his team’s season-opening series. Also making an impact was sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen (lacrosse), who brought home the first ALC Offensive Player of the Week award in school history. She has scored 14 goals in only three games and tied a school record with six on Sunday alone.

2 » Undefeated going into the weekend, No. 5 Florida softball (9-0) completed a shutout sweep of the No. 22 North Carolina Tar Heels (4-4) from Saturday to Sunday. UF took down UNC 3-0 and 9-0 in two games Saturday and concluded their first three-game homestand of the season with a 10-0 win on Sunday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Brombacher (6-0) tossed seven scoreless innings on Saturday and five more on Sunday, only giving up a total of nine hits and two walks over the contests. Freshman P Hannah Rogers (3-0) spelled her in between, allowing only two hits in her five shutout innings.

The Gators hit four home runs on Saturday alone; senior first baseman Megan Bush (4-7, HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB) and junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (5-7, HR, 2 RBI) connected in the first game, while senior second baseman Aja Paculba (3-8, 3 RBI) and sophomore right fielder Kelsey Horton (1-5, 3 RBI) teed-off in the second contest. Florida’s scoring Sunday came from all over the place with senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (2-8, 2 RBI, 4 R) leading the way with a homer, two RBI and three runs scored.

3 » Cullen’s six amazing goals on Sunday helped No. 17 Gators lacrosse (2-1) top the No. 20 Denver Pioneers (0-2) 15-7 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Assisting her was sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns who scored three goals and notched a career-high four assists on her way to seven points and a hat trick.

Read the rest of this SIX BITS post…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: awards, softball, lax, swimming, tennis

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FOUR BITS: swimming, gymnastics, tennis win

1 » The third day of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Swimming Championships, held at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, was just as eventful for the Florida Gators as the previous two. Senior Conor Dwyer, who had already set three SEC records combined, broke yet another on Friday by swimming the 400-yard individual medley in 3:37.75. Freshman Elizabeth Beisel matched his accomplishment on the women’s side, also breaking the SEC record in the individual medley with a time of 4:00.35. Both competitors, in addition to now owning the top SEC mark in the event, broke the pool and school records in the event. Though both teams are performing well, neither leads their gender’s team category. Saturday is the final day of competition.

2 » Performing in their home finale Friday, No. 1 Florida gymnastics (8-0, 5-0 SEC) remained unbeaten by defeating the No. 22 Auburn Tigers (2-5, 2-4 SEC) 196.850-194.950. The Gators once again swept the event titles with sophomore Marissa King winning the vault (9.95), senior Maranda Smith taking the floor exercise (9.90), freshman Mackenzie Caquatto conquering the uneven bars (9.90) and both Caquatto and freshman Ashanée Dickerson winning the balance beam (9.875).

3 » Competing in the round of 16 at the 2011 ITA National Team Indoor Championships Friday, No. 2 Florida women’s tennis (8-0) defeated the No. 9 Miami Hurricanes (5-1) 4-1. No. 7 sophomore Allie Will, No. 19 junior Joanna Mather and No. 31 freshman Olivia Janowicz all won their singles matches with the No. 30 duo of sophomore Lauren Embree and Mather also taking home a doubles win. The No. 1 doubles pairing of Will and freshman Sofie Oyen did not finish their doubles match (which they led 7-3); No. 36 Embree and No. 40 freshman Alex Cercone were tied in their respective singles matches but also did not finish.

4 » Also victorious in the round of 16 at the ITA Team Indoor Championships on Friday was No. 10 Gators men’s tennis (7-1), which defeated the No. 7 Stanford Cardinal 4-3 and gave head coach Andy Jackson his 400th career victory. Though the No. 15 duo of senior Alexandre Lacroix and junior Nasslim Slilam fell to their No. 11-ranked opponents, No. 9 Lacroix’s three-set 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 victory over No. 7 Bradley Klahn, the defending NCAA singles champion, clinched the match for Florida. Slilam also lost his singles match, but No. 43 sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. was victorious both on his own and when paired up with freshman Andrew Butz. The Gators will advance to the quarterfinals for the second-straight year.

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FOUR BITS: Dwyer, Holloway, baseball, watch list

1 » The second day of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Swimming Championships, held at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, was just as exciting for the No. 5 Florida Gators men’s team as Wednesday’s opening day. Senior Conor Dwyer, who set two SEC records in one race (800-yard freestyle relay) a day ago, broke yet another on Thursday by swimming the 500-yard freestyle in 4:11.36. The No. 8 women also had some celebrating to do as junior Sarah Bateman set the school record in the 50-yard freestyle. The men’s team jumped up to second place overall after day two (70 points behind leader Auburn), while the women’s team took a hold of first place with a new total of 291 points (five above Georgia).

2 » Florida head swimming coach Gregg Troy was named the head coach of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Men’s Swimming Team on Dec. 8. Joining him as a Team USA coach in England for the 2012 London Olympics is Gators head track & field coach Mike Holloway, who was picked as an assistant coach for sprinters and hurdlers on Thursday. “It’s an incredible honor to be chosen by my peers to coach on the United States Olympic staff,” Holloway said, according to the University of Florida. “It’s something that I am very proud of, and I look forward to serving my country.”

3 » No. 1 Florida baseball will begin the 2011 season over the weekend with a trio of home games against the South Florida Bulls. The Gators have announced starters for the series but will be without last year’s ace, junior left-handed pitcher Alex Panteliodis (11-3, 3.51 ERA), as the team is being cautious with his return from offseason hip surgery. Sophomore LHP Brian Johnson (6-4, 4.03 ERA) will start the season on the hill. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (8-4, 3.24 ERA) takes over Saturday, and freshman RHP Karsten Whitson, the No. 9 pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, will start his career in the orange and blue on the mound Sunday.

4 » Johnson and junior first baseman Preston Tucker received nominations to the Golden Spikes Award preseason watch list on Thursday. The award, presented to the top amateur player in the country, is sponsored by Major League Baseball but has never been presented to a Florida player in its 33-year history. Both Johnson and Tucker are preseason All-Americans according to Baseball America.

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FOUR BITS: Jones, SEC records, softball, lacrosse

1 » Though he announced his commitment on Monday, four-star 2012 running back recruit Matt Jones (Seffner, FL) solidified it Wednesday night at a news conference at Armwood High School. Donning Florida Gators gear, Jones not only affirmed his commitment but also promised that nothing would change over the next year, before National Signing Day on Feb. 1 (or earlier if he decides to enroll in the spring). “I’m a Gator for life,” Jones said emphatically, according to the St. Petersburg Times. “Any other coaches are not going to get no feedback or stuff like that, only if they’re saying ‘Good luck’ to our players or stuff like that. I’m truly a Gator. […] I truly believe I’ll rock the Gator Nation.” Jones’s coach, Sean Callahan, praised his student-athlete’s early decision, noting that it is as firm as can be. “He understands what a commitment is now,” Callahan said. “We need to bring some honor in recruiting. Matt’s word is good, our word is good and I honestly believe the University of Florida‘s word is good, too.”

2 » Competing in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Swimming Championships at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Wednesday, the No. 5 men’s team broke two SEC records while capturing a pair of gold medals in relay races. The foursome of seniors Conor Dwyer, Brett Fraser, Balazs Gercsak and sophomore Sebastien Rousseau were victorious in the 800-yard freestyle relay with a record time of 6:13.74; within that race, Dwyer’s 200-yard freestyle split of 1:31.73 also set a conference mark, one once held by former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte (2005). Florida’s other event victory was the 200-yard medley relay, which was won in a time of 1:24.94 by Dwyer, Fraser, redshirt sophomore Marco Loughran and freshman Marcin Cieslak. The men’s team is in third place overall after day one, while the No. 8 women’s team holds on to second place (Auburn leads both standings).

3 » No. 5 Florida softball (6-0) continued their hot start to the season with a 7-0 drubbing of the Jacksonville Dolphins (2-3) in their first road game of the year. Senior pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (4-0) tossed five innings of one-hit ball, striking out eight and walking one. Supporting her effort was senior second baseman Aja Paculba, whose grand slam in the fifth inning (the team’s third of the season) solidified the victory. The Gators will face their toughest test of the season over the weekend when they host No. 22 North Carolina for a three-game series including a doubleheader on Saturday.

4 » Also in Jacksonville on Wednesday was No. 17 Florida lacrosse (1-1), which won their first game of the season after suffering a tough overtime loss to No. 3 North Carolina over the weekend. The Gators took down the Dolphins in impressive fashion, 18-9, behind stellar offensive play by sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen (four goals), junior attacker Caroline Cochran (three goals) and sophomore M Caroline Chesterman (three goals).

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Dwyer, Beisel, Debut

1 » Contrary to a bevy of reports stating that he is definitively out for Super Bowl XLV, Pittsburgh Steelers starting rookie center Maurkice Pouncey considers himself probable for the game with a self-described “pretty bad” high ankle sprain. “I hope so. Right now it’s 75/25, and I’m hoping to play,” he told ESPN’s Chris Berman during media day on Tuesday. “I feel great out the cast, man. I’ve been walking around pretty good. Hopefully I’ll get on the bike today and get some pool action in later. It feels pretty good. Everybody’s been pretty positive about me. It’s a nasty little purple color, but it’s getting better. I don’t know why everybody’s trying to rule me out early. Offensive linemen don’t get ruled out until the last day.” If he is able to step on the field, Pouncey will be the only former Florida Gators player to participate in the championship.

2 » With National Signing Day set for Wednesday, some things appear to be getting clearer with the two recruits from Dwyer High School that the Gators have their eyes on. According to the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter, Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels “has a good idea” of where four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) is going and believes he will end up choosing Tennessee over Florida. Daniels also expects four-star quarterback Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL) to make his declaration at halftime of his high school basketball game on Friday. Brissett is choosing among Florida, Miami, Wisconsin and Washington and is thought to be favoring UM.

3 » For the third-straight year, Florida freshman swimmer Elizabeth Beisel has been named Rhode Island Female Athlete of the Year and will be honored as such at the state’s annual banquet on Feb. 20. Beisel also took home Female Swimmer of the Week honors from the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday. Joining her with recognition are Male Swimmer of the Week senior Conor Dwyer and Freshmen of the Week Hilda Luthersdottir and Marcin Cieslak.

4 » The University of Florida announced Tuesday that the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut spring game will be moved from 1 p.m. to noon in order to air live on Sun Sports on April 9. Last year the game aired live only on UF’s GatorVision; it is unknown if the contest will be broadcast live online as well.

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