TWO BITS: Florida soccer advances to Elite Eight; Gators volleyball captures 21st SEC title

1 » No. 10 Florida Gators soccer on Sunday advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2014 NCAA Tournament after taking down the No. 16 Texas Tech Red Raiders 3-2 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators may have fallen short of winning their league crown, but Florida is making a significant effort in NCAA play, moving on to the quarterfinals for the fifth time in program history and first since 2003. UF got on the board first with senior midfielder Havana Solaun striking the ball from 20 yards out; it deflected off the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand, and then the post, before finding the back of the net and putting the Gators up 1-0 at 14′. Florida went ahead 2-0 at 21′ after scoring on a glancing header by sophomore forward Savannah Jordan, which came off a free kick from senior MF Annie Speese. Texas Tech fought back with consecutive goals at 37′ and 64′ to tie thing sup, but Speese notched the game-winning goal at 81′ to send UF forward in the postseason.

The Gators will travel out west to continue their trek toward the NCAA title as Florida will next take on the Stanford Cardinal on Friday at 10 p.m. in Palo Alto, California.

2 » It was an eventful week for No. 6 Gators volleyball, which captured the outright 2014 Southeastern Conference Championship on Friday with a 3-1 win against the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi. The SEC regular-season title is Florida’s second in the last three years and 21st in the last 24 seasons (1991-2008, 2010, 2012), all of which have come under head coach Mary Wise. On Sunday, the Gators won their 18th-straight match of the season, taking down the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Florida has its longest winning streak since 2010 and will play its final games of the regular season on Wednesday vs. South Carolina and Saturday at Texas.

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Florida Gators release 2014 open practice times

Last month, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp announced that eight of the team’s fall practice dates will be open to the public so fans living in or planning to travel to Gainesville, Florida, will be able to watch the Gators prepare with their own eyes.

On Saturday, the times for these eight practices were released.

Florida players will report on Sunday, Aug. 3 with practice set to begin on Monday, Aug. 4. Football practices have been scheduled as follows with all times subject to change due to weather and other mitigating factors.

The first seven practices will be held at the Donald R. Dizney Stadium. The eighth and final practice, set for Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 16, precedes Fan Day for the football and volleyball teams, which kicks off at 3 p.m. across the street at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Thursday, Aug. 7 – 7:40-9:40 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 8 – 7:40-9:40 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 9 – 10:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. – Gator Booster Season Ticket Holders Only
Monday, Aug. 11 – 8:50-11:00 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 12 – 8:50-11:00 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 13 – 8:50-11:00 a.m.
Thursday, Aug. 14 – 8:50-11:00 a.m.
Saturday, Aug. 16 – 9:00-11:00 a.m.

Fans will be allowed to take their own pictures and video but only during certain parts of practice. Additionally, the Gators will make a few players available after each practice to sign fan autographs.

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Florida Gators open eight 2014 fall practices

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp on Monday announced that eight of the team’s fall practice dates will be open to the public ahead of the 2014 season.

With anticipation of the offense developing under newly-hired coordinator Kurt Roper and an overall bounce back to form after a disastrous 4-8 season in 2013, Gators fans living in or planning to travel to Gainesville, Florida, will be able to see much of the preparation with their own eyes.

Muschamp mentioned at the 2014 Southeastern Conference Media Days that the team will report to Gainesville on Sunday, Aug. 3 with practice set to begin on Monday, Aug. 4.

Football practices on the following six dates will be held at Donald R. Dizney Stadium and completely open to the public: Thursday, Aug. 7; Friday, Aug. 8; Sunday, Aug. 11; Tuesday, Aug. 12, Wednesday, Aug. 13; Thursday, Aug. 14.

Florida will also hold a practice open only to season ticket holders on Saturday, Aug. 9 at the lacrosse stadium.

The Gators’ last open practice will be held at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 16. It precedes Fan Day for the football and volleyball teams, which will kick off at 3 p.m. across the street at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

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Northwestern ousts Florida lacrosse from NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals in double overtime

By Jordan McPherson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

In order to advance to the Final Four for the second time in three seasons, the No. 4 Florida Gators had to take down the rival No. 5 Northwestern Wildcats for the third time in as many meetings this year.

Unfortunately for the Gators, which defeated the Wildcats on the road by one point apiece in each of the first two meetings, Northwestern took control at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, and defeated the hosts 12-11 in double-overtime .

UF has now been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the quarterfinal round for the third time in four years. It was the second time in three seasons that a team took down Florida in a double overtime quarterfinal match.

The Wildcats (14-6) thumped the Gators (18-3) on draw controls, 16-9, with Northwestern attacker Alyssa Leonard, the NCAA career leader in the category, registering a match-high seven, more than double anyone else on the field.

It was a back-and-forth game on offense for both teams. After Leonard opened up the scoring 2:41 into the game, Florida went on a 4-0 run over the course of 9:06 in the first half to take a 4-1 lead. The Wildcats finished off the half by similarly scoring four unanswered goals to take a 5-4 lead into halftime.

Continue Reading » Northwestern ousts Florida lacrosse from NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals in double overtime

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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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Florida lacrosse makes history, advances to 2012 NCAA Final Four with 15-2 rout of Penn State

No. 1 Florida Gators lacrosse became the youngest program in the history of the sport to advance to the Final Four after topping the Penn State Nittany Lions 15-2 in the Elite Eight round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida (19-2) had the advantage on Penn State (12-7) all afternoon, outscoring their opponents 8-2 in the first half and shutting them out 7-0 in the second half on the way to a monumental win for the program.

Midfielders junior Brittany Dashiell and freshman Nora Barry scored three goals each for the Gators, which also received two goals apiece from junior attackers Kitty Cullen and Ashley Bruns and freshman M Shannon Gilroy.

Gilroy also notched a game-high six draw controls, and Barry contributed three of her own to give UF a 15-4 advantage. Bruns, Barry and junior defender Sam Farrell each grabbed three ground balls to lead Florida over Penn State 16-7 in that category.

The Gators also outshot the Nittany Lions 34-12 and committed five fewer turnovers (7-12) than their opponents over the course of the contest.

Junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher continued her dominant presence in the net for Florida, allowing just two goals while registering seven saves.

“I’m really proud of our program, the players, the coaches, the support staff,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said following UF’s victory. “This was a monumental win for us. We’ve been preparing for this since we lost to Duke in this same round last year. These young ladies have put in so much hard work. They have the heart, they have the passion and I thought it really showed today. This was 60 minutes of great lacrosse for Florida. I thought our players across the board defensively, in the goal cage, through the midfield, in the attacking end, absolutely I thought this was one of our best efforts.”

Despite their accomplishments thus far, the Gators still have a tough task ahead of them to advance to the program’s first national title game. Florida will take on No. 4 Syracuse in Final Four action on Friday (live on ESPN3.com); the winner of the match will face either Northwestern or Duke for the championship on May 27 at 8 p.m.

UF fell to SU 12-11 in overtime on March 3 and is 1-1 all-time against the program.

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FOUR BITS: lacrosse, Noah, Horford, Brewer

1 » Florida Gators lacrosse continues to make history as, in just the third season of the program’s existence, it was announced Sunday that the team received the No. 1 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida, which won the ALC regular season title for the second-straight year and captured the first ALC Tournament Championship in team history on Saturday, is on a 13-match winning streak heading into the tournament. The Gators will receive a tremendous homefield advantage in the first two rounds (should they advance) before being forced to travel to Stony Brook, NY for the Final Four. Florida is looking to become the fastest program in the sport’s history to go from inception to national title but has a long road ahead of them beginning on Saturday, May 12 at 1 p.m. against Albany at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

2 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was knocked out of Game 3 of his team’s first-round series against Philadelphia after severely spraining his ankle midway through the contest. Noah did his best to continue playing but was badly limping and eventually headed back to the locker room where he was told he would be unable to return to the court. He sat on the bench in a suit and air cast during Game 4 on Sunday and is also expected to miss Game 5 (as well as the remainder of the series should it advance past that point). Noah’s injury is a tough blow for a Chicago team already without point guard Derrick Rose. The top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls may wind up eliminated in the first round while playing without their two biggest stars.

3 » The polar opposite of Noah, Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford came off a major injury and returned to action this weekend just as his former teammate appears to be going on the shelf for the rest of the season. Horford, who tore his right pectoral on Jan. 11 and has not played since, was an active participant in Atlanta’s Game 4 on Sunday. He posted 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in 20 minutes of action, not showing much rust despite missing almost the entire season. Horford may only see one more game in 2012 as the Hawks are set to face an elimination Game 5 on Tuesday.

4 » Denver Nuggets F Corey Brewer may have been trending on Twitter during his game Sunday while fans were joking about his hairline, but Brewer is taking his team’s first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers very seriously. According to the Denver Post, Brewer has been “finding fuel” to play hard by thinking about his father who passed away during the season. “He always used to smile when I’d do something good,” he said. “Every time he’d see me, he was always happy. Everybody says we have the same smile. He had it rough. He didn’t have legs. He was blind. But every time I’d see him, he was smiling. He can’t walk, he can’t see and he’s happy every day – so I got to be happy.” Head coach George Karl called Brewer his team’s “energizer, offensively and defensively” and has praised his ability to make an impact especially on the defensive end of the court. Like Noah and Horford, Brewer’s team is also facing an elimination Game 5 on Tuesday.

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SIX BITS: Macklin, lacrosse, softball, Gilbert, Meyer

1 » Former Florida Gators forward/center Vernon Macklin was recently set down to the NBA Development League for no other reason than that the Detroit Pistons wanted to see him get some in-game action rather than sit stationary on the end of the team’s bench during NBA games. According to M Live, Macklin has been playing for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and has been dominating. In his first five games with the team, Macklin is averaging 16.6 points and 17.2 rebounds (10.6 on the defensive glass) in more than 36 minutes a game. He will remain with the team through April 7 before returning to the Pistons. “He’s playing with a lot of energy and effort. He’s gotten better each and every game,” Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. “It’s great for him to get that experience. We see continued development. We see progress in Vernon.”

2 » No. 4 Florida lacrosse (11-2) hit two major milestones on Wednesday, recording their first-ever shutout while registering the highest goal total in school history in a 29-0 beat down of the Fresno State Bulldogs (2-6) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Freshman midfielder Nicole Graziano scored a game-high and career-high six goals on seven shots, and freshman attacker Nora Barry joined her in dominating on offense with five goals on six shots. The duo also combined for six ground balls and six draw controls in the contest. Junior As Ashley Bruns and Gabi Wiegand combined for six goals and three assists with Bruns becoming the first player in team history to eclipse 200 career goals. In addition to scoring the most goal sand allowing the fewest in team history, the Gators set or tied a number of other records. Florida had the most points (41), assists (12) and draw controls (24) in team history, tied their records for shots (44), first-half points (17) and second-half points (12) and also committed a record five fouls, the fewest in team history. The Gators accomplished all of this without Juniors A Kitty Cullen and M Brittany Dashiell, two of the team’s leading scorers.

3 » Despite falling to a ranked opponent, No. 4 Florida softball (29-3) suffered a tough 4-1 defeat on Wednesday in Gainesville at the hands of the No. 21 South Florida Bulls (30-5). Freshman right-hander Lauren Haeger (9-2) tossed a complete game, allowing four runs (two earned) on eight hits along with five walks and four strikeouts. In addition to going up arguably the nation’s best pitcher in Sara Nevins, the Gators committed a pair of costly errors that put them in a 4-0 hole through three innings. A solo homer by Haeger (1-3, HR, RBI, R, BB) in the bottom of the fifth was the only run to cross the plate for Florida, which left eight base runners on including three in the bottom of the sixth and two in the bottom of the seventh with the game-tying run at the plate. UF defeated USF 3-2 in extra innings on Feb. 12 but will not have another chance to earn revenge.

4 » Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will receive a bump in responsibility next season as head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed on Wednesday that he will help protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side as the team’s new left tackle. Gilbert, who played both left and right tackle in college, was drafted to eventually hold down the former role but was relegated to the latter position in 2011 due to experience and depth issues. “We fully expect him to [move],” Tomlin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I probably had more concerns about him being the right tackle than I did him being at left tackle just because of his college experience.” Gilbert is the second Gators offensive lineman to recently be drafted and become an starter for Pittsburgh as center Maurkice Pouncey won his job out of training camp two seasons ago.

5 » Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer sat down for an interview this week with CBSSports.com’s Dennis Dodd to discuss a number of topics mostly concerning his return to the sidelines and how the Ohio State program is coming along heading into his first season at the helm. However, Meyer also touched on a few things at Florida including what he called an “awful” team that the Gators fielded for his first season in 2005. “We’re not a good team. As a matter of fact, we’re bad, a really bad football team – not aligned, selfish. We had some really good players on defense. On offense we’re a mess. Chris Leak wasn’t ready. Then we lose to South Carolina,” he recounted. “I remember walking to my radio show and there are some boos. The phone calls were absolutely brutal. I’m looking at [Mick Hubert] and I’m just getting greased. I’m thinking to myself, ‘What are you doing here?'” Meyer said the Florida State win really turned things around both on the field and off the field in recruiting. He also spoke about other issues he faced including “the Spurrier culture” in the SEC.

6 » While the Denver Broncos were in the process of signing quarterback Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow was in Tampa, FL helping open up the new D1 Sports Training facility while working out with, meeting and greeting children, teenagers and adults. Despite so much being on his mind about his NFL future, Tebow was obviously thinking about plenty of other things during this special occasion (photo gallery).

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