FOUR BITS: soccer, volleyball, Raymond, Starks

1 » Coming off a terrific weekend where they managed a draw and victory over a pair of ranked opponents, No. 22 Florida Gators soccer was feeling the momentum heading into a showdown with the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles on Friday. FSU (3-0) put that sense to rest quickly, scoring 10 minutes into the match via a header off a throw-in and holding off Florida for the remainder of the contest (despite UF finding a number of scoring opportunities) to earn a hard-fought 1-0 victory. The Gators got a measure of revenge Sunday by dominating the Florida International Panthers in their first home match in more than two weeks. Florida (2-2-1) won 3-0 over FIU (2-2) thanks to a pair of goals from sophomore midfielder Havana Solaun (13’, 58’) and another from redshirt senior forward McKenzie Barney at 27’. UF has a light weekend ahead, hosting New Mexico on Sunday at 1 p.m. before beginning their league slate next week.

2 » No. 18 Gators volleyball also faced some stiff competition over the weekend while up in University Park, PA competing in the Nike Big Four Classic. Florida (3-2) was swept 3-0 by the No. 2 Texas Longhorns (5-0) on Friday and fell 3-1 to the No. 9 Stanford Cardinal (3-2) on Saturday. Freshman outside hitter Ziva Recek stood out in a big way against Texas, recording 22 kills which “marks the best 3-set hitting performance by a freshman in Florida history and ties her for third-best in a 3-set match in program history,” according to the school. She continued her dominance on Saturday with 15 more kills in the four-set match. Junior middle back Chloe Mann combined for 29 kills over the two games. UF will now remain home for its next four matches as it plays the Slovenian Junior National Team in an exhibition game Monday before hosting the Active Ankle Challenge (in which they will play three games) from Sept. 7-8.

3 » Coming off an Olympic bronze medal in mixed doubles, former Gators tennis star Lisa Raymond hoped to keep the magic going while competing in the US Open, the major in which she has found the most career success, over the weekend. Unfortunately Raymond, as part of the No. 2-ranked mixed doubles pairing with fellow American Mike Bryan, fell to Brazil in first-round action and was eliminated from the tournament. She and partner Liezel Huber, the No. 1-ranked women’s doubles duo in the world, did advance to the third round of that tournament but lost to the No. 16-ranked team from Spain 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. Raymond has won 13 career grand slam titles, five of which (three women’s doubles, two mixed doubles) have come at the US Open.

4 » Former Florida offensive lineman Max Starks, coming off a pair of injuries in as many seasons, has twice now been tossed to the scrap heap by the Pittsburgh Steelers only to be brought back as a major contributor. After signing a four-year, $26.3 million contract in the 2009 offseason, Starks was cut in July of 2011 after neck problems and weight issues gave the team cause for concern. Pittsburgh wound up re-signing him after injuries plagued their offensive line, and Starks started at left tackle for the rest of the season. He then tore his anterior cruciate in the Steelers’ playoff loss and did not have his one-year contract renewed. However, just like last season, Pittsburgh brought him back (this time in July) on a one-year deal. The team announced this weekend that Starks will be their starting left tackle on opening day. “There was no way I was thinking when I get healthy they’ll re-sign me,” Starks told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I wanted to get healthy and figured teams will be out there, and, if I have to wait through training camp and into the season like last year, I’ll do that, prepare for that. It just so happens, there was an opportunity to come back. It was a blessing.”

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Gators soccer notches upset, volleyball sweeps

Florida Gators soccer, coming off a disappointing loss to open the season that dropped the team out of the top 25, rebounded in a major way over the weekend while playing a pair of matches on the road in Chapel Hill, NC.

After fighting tooth-and-nail with the No. 19 North Carolina Tar Heels (0-1-1) on Friday in what would ultimately end up as a scoreless draw following two overtimes, Florida (1-1-1) came back from two goals down to pull off an impressive 3-2 upset of the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils (3-1) in overtime on Sunday.

The Gators trailed by two goals early in the contest, allowing Blue Devils midfielder Gilda Doria (10’) and Cassie Pecht (29’) to find the back of the net. Florida would cut their deficit in half just 10 minutes later as sophomore forward Jillian Graff kicked in a pass from sophomore midfielder Havana Solaun at 39’.

UF knotted the match at 65’ thanks to a bit of luck after a corner kick by senior MF/F Erika Tymrak deflected off a Duke player and was scored as an own goal.

The two teams held even through the end of regulation, but the Gators would come out on top just minutes into extra time when Tyrak once again came through in the clutch by booing the golden goal off a pass from redshirt senior F/MF McKenzie Barney.

Florida is now riding a wave of momentum into Friday’s road match against No. 3 Florida State, which is set to air at 7 p.m. live on ESPN3.com. The Gators will follow that up with two home games before beginning league play on Sept. 14.

No. 18 Florida volleyball (3-0) may not have had been faced with the same challenges that their soccer counterparts were, but the Gators were equally impressive while hosting the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational from Aug. 24-25 in Gainesville, FL.

The Gators swept all three of their weekend opponents, picking up consecutive 3-0 victories over the Florida International Panthers (0-1), Florida A&M Rattlers (0-2) and Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (2-1) over the course of two days.

Junior middle back Chloe Mann (42 kills, 48 points) led the way for Florida with averages of 14 kills and 16 points over the three contests. Joining her with impressive performances of their own were freshman outside hitters Ziva Recek (29 kills, 30 points) and Berkley Whaley (21 kills, 27.5 points).

Gigi Meyer, the daughter of former UF head coach Urban Meyer and a member of the FGCU volleyball team, competed in the event as well. She registered 60 assists over her team’s three matches (10 against Florida).

Next up for the Gators is the Nike Big Four Classic from Aug. 31-Sept. 1 in University Park, PA. Florida will take on No. 2 Texas and No. 6 Stanford in the two-day event.

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FOUR BITS: lacrosse, softball, Andrews, Jenkins

1 » The biggest game in the two-year history of University of Florida lacrosse is set for Thursday evening as the No. 6 Florida Gators (12-1, 3-0 ALC) put their 12-game winning streak on the line against the No. 2 Northwestern Wildcats at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Led by sophomore attacker Kitty Cullen, who is tops in the nation in goals (61) and goals per game (4.69), Florida is undefeated (10-0) at home this season and will square off against Northwestern for the No. 1 seed in the 2011 American Lacrosse Conference Tournament. The Gators fell to the Wildcats 19-5 in 2010 but are playing much better in their second season, outscoring opponents 186-95 since losing their season-opening match to No. 3 North Carolina in overtime.

2 » In a game that was rumored to mark the return of senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher, No. 10 Florida softball didn’t end up needing their ace as they routed the Florida International Panthers 8-0 in a run-ruled six innings. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (20-5) has gotten back into stride after two weeks of rough outings. She pitched a complete game and struck out nine batters while only allowing a pair of hits. Senior second baseman Aja Paculba (1-3, 3 RBI) put the game away with a big double in the fourth, but the Gators also received solid offensive contributions from senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (1-2, HR, RBI, R, BB), sophomore pinch hitter Samantha Holle (1-1, HR 2 RBI, R), freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, 2 R, BB) and sophomore designated player Kelsey Horton (1-2, RBI, R).

3 » ESPN announced a new set of endorsement guidelines on Wednesday and, based on the language of the memo, former Florida dazzler and network reporter Erin Andrews will be forced to end her deal promoting Reebok’s ZigTech line of shoes and apparel. According to the guidelines, “Any endorsement related to apparel, footwear or athletic equipment used for training, playing or participating in any sport or event ESPN may cover including the companies that manufacture and distribute any such material” are “subject to strict review and a strong presumption that they will not be approved.” The Oregonian reports that Andrews will be allowed to continue her endorsement of the brand through 2011 but forced to end it on Jan. 1.

4 » Gators senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins has been named to the 2011 Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list, as announced by the organization on Wednesday. The Lott Trophy recognizes “student-athletes throughout the nation who have had the biggest impact on their teams both on and off the field.” Linebacker A.J. Jones represented Florida on 2010’s watch list.

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SIX BITS: gymnastics, track, tennis, softball

1 » Don’t bother asking them to, because it does not look like No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (6-0, 3-0 SEC) plans to slow down anytime soon. Drawing nearly 7,000 fans to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Friday, Florida took down the previously undefeated No. 6 Alabama Crimson Tide (6-1, 1-1 SEC) 197.55-195.45. Gators freshman Mackenzie Caquatto led the team with two event wins (uneven bars, balance beam) and took the all-around title with a score of 39.575, while senior Maranda Smith captured the vault event and sophomore Marissa King won the floor exercise. Florida will be tested once again on Saturday as they face No. 4 Georgia on the road.

2 » Gators sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps and junior jumper Christian Taylor became the fourth and fifth members of the team, respectively, to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships after posting strong individual showings over the weekend at the Virginia Tech Elite Meet. Demps recorded a 6.57 in the men’s 60-meter dash, the second-fastest time in the NCAA this season, during his first race of the year. Taylor won the triple jump with a mark of 16.61m/54-6 for the sixth-straight time in his last six competitions. The duo join jumpers junior Will Claye and sophomore Omar Craddock and junior heptathlete Gray Horn as Florida’s current NCAA automatic-qualifiers off the No. 1 men’s track & field team.

Read the rest of this post…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: gymnastics, track, tennis, softball

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Gators softball advances with wins vs. UCF, FIU

No. 4 Florida Gators softball (46-8) has advanced to its fourth straight 2010 NCAA Super Regional appearance with three straight victories over the weekend as the home team in the Gainesville Regional. After defeating Bethune-Cookman (32-23) 6-0 on Friday, Florida shutout the Central Florida Knights (36-15) 6-0 on Saturday and topped the Florida International Panthers (38-21) 13-3 in the clincher on Sunday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

Junior Stephanie Brombacher (32-6) notched her second and third wins of the tournament on Saturday and Sunday, pitching complete games in all three weekend contests. She helped the Gators finish 10-1 against in-state rivals on the season.

Saturday, junior outfielder Kelsey Bruder (2-4) led the way with three RBI and a home run – her second in as many games, 13th of the season and 98th for the team this year. Sophomore OF Michelle Moultrie (3-4, two runs) and junior second baseman Aja Paculba (2-3, two RBI, one run) provided solid offensive contributions.

A different set of Florida players led the way Sunday with freshman OF Brittany Schutte (1-2) hitting her first career grand slam while totaling five RBI, two runs and two walks. Junior first baseman Megan Bush (3-4) smacked three RBI and came home for two runs, while Bruder (2-3) added another nice performance with three runs scored.

The Gators will face the winner of the No. 13 Arizona State-Long Island game in Super Regional action (likely to be held in Gainesville, FL) May 28-30. The NCAA has announced that all games will be aired live by ESPN.

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