With football and basketball both in the spotlight and Florida Gators gymnastics winning a third straight NCAA National Championship last week, it was easy to overlook two other tremendous accomplishments made by Gators athletic programs in the form of regular-season league titles won this month.
1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow‘s dream of returning to the NFL has not died despite Tebow entering the world of broadcasting and refusing to either change positions or play in a lesser league (CFL, AFL) in order to get noticed by teams. According to the Boston Globe, which spoke with Tebow’s throwing coach of the last two years, the player may be considering entering the first-ever NFL Veteran Combine on March 22. “[Trainer Tom] House told us on Friday that he isn’t sure if Tebow will be attending the combine, but ‘he went from being a little inaccurate and didn’t throw a whole lot of spirals, to throwing very accurate and real good at spinning the ball.'” OnlyGators.com has spoken with the NFL’s regional combine officials on multiple occasions over the last few weeks but was told that an official roster would not be released either at all or at least until much closer to the event.
No. 5 Florida Gators soccer (16-3-1, 9-2 SEC) put together a heck of a regular season but has not received the attention it’s deserved due to the tumultuous and something-new-happens-every-day nature of its football counterpart.
Nevertheless, Florida is currently on a month-long, eight-match winning streak while being led by freshman forward Savannah Jordan, who is putting together one of the greatest goal-scoring seasons in program history.
Jordan on Monday was named the 2013 SEC Offensive Player of the Year, becoming the first freshman in league history to receive the honor. It should be no surprise that she was chosen as the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year while also being named an All-SEC (first team) and SEC All-Freshman player.
Junior midfielder Havana Solaun and sophomore defender Christen Westphal joined Jordan on the All-SEC team, while freshman MF Pamela Begič also picked up an SEC All-Freshman honor.
Jordan has already surpassed Abby Wambach’s freshman goal scoring record and is on pace to find a spot among the greatest single-season goal scorers in school history. She has already found the back of the net 21 times, putting her two goals out of the top-five and the Gators freshman record held by Andi Sellers.
Her latest goal came in the first round of the 2013 SEC Tournament as one-seed UF picked up a 1-0 victory over the eight-seed Arkansas Razorbacks (13-8-0) on Wednesday in Orange Beach, AL.
Florida will square off against Ole Miss in the semifinals on Friday at 5 p.m. The Gators have already won the regular season 2013 SEC Championship, splitting the title with Texas A&M. It was UF’s eight-straight SEC regular season crown. Florida is now looking to win its third tournament title in the last four seasons.
Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach will be the subject of ESPNU‘s eighth SEC Storied documentary, OGGOA has learned.
Abby Head On, which is set to premiere on May 15 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU, will be officially announced by the network later Monday. The film chronicles Wambach’s collegiate career with the Gators, international accomplishments with the U.S. Women’s National Team and quest to break Mia Hamm’s international scoring record.
After surprising the soccer community by choosing to attend Florida over powerhouse North Carolina, Wambach led the Gators to four-straight SEC Championships (1998-2001), two Final Fours (1998, 2001) and an NCAA Championship (1998), which remains the soccer program’s only national title to this day.
Individually while playing for UF, she was a two-time SEC Player of the Year (2000-01) and SEC Freshman of the Year (1998) who was also a four-time All-SEC First Team selection and three-time first-team All-American.
Wambach left Florida upon graduation as the school record holder in goals (96), game-winning goals (24), points (242), assists (49) and hat tricks (10); she maintains the No. 1 spot in each of those categories to this day.
The No. 2 Florida Gators men’s swimming and diving program entered the 2013 Southeastern Conference Championships on Wednesday looking to get over the hump and take home the title for the first time in 20 years. After leading the pack for the final three days of the event, the Gators finally accomplished that feat on Saturday, taking home the 34th SEC Championship in team history and first since 1993.
Florida (1408.0) beat the Auburn Tigers (1196.0) for the title, snapping a 16-year winning streak and reclaiming the pool after finishing second to Auburn for 11-straight years. The No. 11 Gators women (1190.5) were not as lucky, finishing third behind the Georgia Bulldogs (1420.0) and host Texas A&M Aggies (1296.0).
The men’s and women’s teams combined for eight individual SEC Championships (five and three, respectively). Florida also won four individual awards and earned 21 NCAA “A” time automatic qualifying marks.
2013 SEC Awards (4)
» SEC Men’s Swimming Coach of the Year – Gregg Troy
» SEC Commissioner’s Trophy (High Point Winner, women) – Elizabeth Beisel
» SEC Female Freshman Swimmer of the Year – Natalie Hinds
» SEC Female Freshman Diver of the Year – Cassie Weil
2013 SEC Individual Titles (8)
» Men’s 100-yard butterfly – Marcin Cieslak (46.02s) [back-to-back]
» Men’s 200-yard butterfly – Marcin Cieslak (1:42.17)
» Men’s 200-yard breaststroke – Matt Elliott (1:54.13)
» Men’s 200-yard freestyle – Pawel Werner (1:33.82)
» Men’s 800-yard freestyle relay – Pawel Werner, Sebastien Rousseau, Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez, Marcin Cieslak (6:14.76)
» Women’s 100-yard butterfly – Natalie Hinds (51.70s)
» Women’s 200-yard backstroke – Elizabeth Beisel (1:50.40) [third-straight]
» Women’s 400-yard individual medley – Elizabeth Beisel (3:59.53) [third-straight]
1 » New England Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating its performance-enhancing substances policy. The substance Cunningham used was not disclosed and it is currently unknown if he already filed or plans to file an appeal. Cunningham is the fourth former Florida Gators defender to receive a four-game suspension for PEDs since 2010. New England linebacker Brandon Spikes (2010), Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden (2012) and New York Giants safety Will Hill (2012) have missed four games each. All three claimed their positive tests resulted from an ingredient contained in ADHD medication like Adderall. Cunningham would be eligible to return in the playoffs.
2 » Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert is one of four former Gators on his team and one of three Florida offensive linemen that got injured this season. Unfortunately for Gilbert, while center Maurkice Pouncey and left tackle Max Starks were able to return to action, he has been sidelined since Week 6 with an ankle injury and was officially placed on the team’s injured reserve on Monday. He is the third former Gators player to be knocked out for the season with an injury, joining Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson (ACL) and Patriots running back Jeff Demps (leg).
4 » Three members of the Gators football team have been named finalists for yearly national awards. Redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis is one of three finalists (Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins, Tulane’s Cairo Santos) for the 2012 Lou Groza Award and sophomore punter Kyle Christy is one of three finalists (Louisiana Tech’s Ray Allen, Ball State’s Scott Kovanda) for the Ray Guy Award, both of which will be announced on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. live on ESPN.
Joining them is defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is one of five finalists for the 2012 Broyles Award, which is presented to the top assistant college football coach in the nation. The other finalists are Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, Notre Dame DC Bob Diaco, Texas A&M OC Kliff Kingsbury and Stanford DC Derek Mason. Quinn has UF’s defense ranked top-15 in the nation in pass efficiency defense (No. 1), scoring defense (No. 3), yards per play (No. 3), yards per attempt (No. 4), third-down defense (No. 5), rush defense (No. 6), interceptions (No. 6), yards per rush (No. 7), red zone touchdowns (No. 13) and red zone defense (No. 15).
1 » Action continued in the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday with Florida Gators women’s tennis fielding a singles competitor and doubles pairing.
No. 1 Allie Will (junior) def. No. 6 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (Texas A&M) – 6-3, 6-3
No. 10 Natalie Pluskota/Kata Szekely (Tennessee) def. No. 22 Lauren Embree/Joanna Mather (junior/senior) – 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(3)
Will’s victory advances her to the Final Four round of the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships on Sunday at noon where she will face No. 3 Nicole Gibbs (Stanford) whom she defeated 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 earlier this season in team competition. The winner will take on either No. 5 Mallory Burdette (Stanford) or No. 13 Zsofi Susanyi (California) in the national title game on Monday.
2 » Florida athletics lost a head coach for the second-straight day after women’s golf’s Jan Dowling resigned from her position on Saturday. “It truly has been an honor to coach at the University of Florida for the past three seasons, and I want to thank Mr. [Jeremy] Foley and the entire administration for this opportunity,” Dowling said in a school release. “I am very proud of what these young women have accomplished, and feel very fortunate to be involved with such a great athletic association. My decision was extremely difficult, however, I have to make the right choices for my personal life too. I will cherish my time at Florida, and wish nothing but the very best for the future of the program and the entire athletic association.”
The women’s golf program made steady progress in Dowling’s three seasons at Florida improving from 10th in the Southeastern Conference in 2010 to fourth in 2012. The Gators did not participate in the NCAA Championships in her first year at the helm but finished tied for 10th in 2011 and alone in 12th in 2012. Downling also recruited and coached the 2012 SEC Freshman of the Year in Camilla Hedberg. A statement from Foley indicates that Dowling’s decision was her own and that she was not relieved by the university. “I was surprised with Jan’s decision, but I respect her decision to do what is best for her. We wish her the best in whatever her future holds,” he said. Foley and Florida announced the resignation of head men’s tennis coach Andy Jackson on Friday in a move that, while titled a resignation, appeared to be at the behest of Foley.
No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics lived up to its ranking on Saturday, taking home the 2012 Southeastern Conference Championship in Duluth, GA.
Florida (197.150) defeated Alabama (196.775) for the title, edging past the 2011 NCAA and SEC champion for the Gators’ first conference title in three years. UF also beat Georgia (196.575), LSU (196.425) and Kentucky (194.35) to round out the top five.
The Gators won the vault (49.525) and uneven bars (49.375) outright, shared the top spot in the balance beam (49.050) and came in second on the floor exercise (49.200) on their way to the championship. Florida also picked up three individual titles with freshman Kytra Hunter winning the vault (9.975) and all-around (39.625), and sophomore Alaina Johnson taking home the uneven bars (9.925).
Hunter was named SEC Freshman of the Year at the event’s conclusion, and Florida head coach Rhonda Faehn was recognized the SEC Co-Coach of the Year.
Next up for UF is NCAA Regional action. The Gators will learn of their destination (likely Fayetteville, AR or Auburn, AL) on Monday and begin competition on April 7. The top two teams at each of the six regional events will compete in the NCAA Championships from April 20-22 at the site of Florida’s SEC Championship victory.
Photo Credit: @GatorZoneGym