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 Gators gymnastics gets revenge, lacrosse earns a big win, softball starts 2013 season 5-0

No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (5-1, 4-1 SEC) scored the second-highest total in program history on its way to defeating the defending national champion No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-2, 3-2 SEC) on Friday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida took down Alabama 198.100-196.850, avenging the Crimson Tide’s 0.075-point victory over the Gators in the 2012 NCAA Super Six.

UF’s huge score was fueled by phenomenal all-around performances from freshman Bridget Sloan and senior Ashanée Dickerson. Sloan’s mark of 39.675 is second nationally only to a 39.700 from Florida sophomore Kytra Hunter, and Dickerson’s 39.650 was highlighted by a career-best 9.975 mark that won the floor exercise.

Sloan and junior Mackenzie Caquatto shared the uneven bars title with dueling 9.950s. Caquatto doubled up in event titles with a score of 9.925 to win balance beam.

These great feats for the Gators came on a night where Hunter, an All-American the nation’s top-ranked all-around performer, fell on both bars and beam. However, when the team needed her to come through in the final event, Hunter registered a 9.950 on floor to help her team to a huge win.

A total of 8,074 fans – the ninth-largest crowd in program history – filled the O’Dome and created an electric atmosphere for Florida throughout the night. Equally impressive was the Gators’ registering such a huge score with Hunter battling a stomach flu and junior All-American Alaina Johnson still sidelined with a stress reaction in her back.

Read about what Florida lacrosse and softball did over the weekend…
Continue Reading » Florida Gators gymnastics gets revenge, lacrosse earns a big win, softball starts 2013 season 5-0

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Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.

12 » MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.

Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.

[Read: The Silver Lining - "Failure" is not a dirty word]

11 » FLORIDA SWEEPS FSU IN FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, BASEBALL

For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

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Questionable end to Florida-Syracuse lacrosse

Syracuse completed a monumental comeback against Florida in lacrosse on Friday in the Final Four of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, erasing a seven-goal deficit to tie the match with 30 seconds remaining in regulation and eventually winning 14-13 by scoring a goal in sudden death overtime.

However, before the Orange netted that game-winning goal, the Gators had a similar strike rescinded after referees were asked to look at the legality of the stick carried by Florida junior attacker Gabi Wiegand, the player who scored what might have been a game-winning goal with nine seconds left in the first overtime.

Referees determined that the lace on Wiegand’s stick was too deep and took the goal away, necessitating the sudden death scenario in which Syracuse senior midfielder Sarah Holden wound up scoring and winning the match for her team.

After Holden’s goal, UF responded just as SU did minutes earlier and asked the referees to look at her stick. It was determined that the depth of the lace on Holden’s stick was legal, the goal was allowed and the Orange went on to celebrate their victory.

But was Holden’s stick tampered with following her goal and before referees evaluated it?

In the video below, a replay of the goal that aired as the broadcast was about to end, it is obvious that another Syracuse player grabbed the stick out of Holden’s hand and tugged or pulled at it. Did she make an adjustment that turned an illegal stick into a legal one? Did she wind up doing nothing to the stick (or was it legal anyway)? That is unknown and not likely to be proven one way or another.

You be the judge.

Despite the actions that the video may or may not depict, a potentially missed illegal stick call is not to blame for the Gators’ heartbreaking loss on Friday. That responsibility goes to UF’s players who had a national championship game appearance within reach but faltered down the stretch and allowed SU to get back in and eventually win the match.

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Florida lacrosse collapses in 14-13 sudden death overtime loss to Syracuse in NCAA Final Four

A historic season for No. 1 Florida Gators lacrosse came to an end in devastating fashion on Friday as the team blew a seven-goal second-half lead and eventually fell 14-13 in sudden death overtime to the No. 4 Syracuse Orange in the Final Four of the 2012 NCAA Tournament at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium in Stony Brook, NY.

Syracuse (19-3) topped Florida (19-3) in sudden death overtime for the second time this season with the Orange previously defeating the Gators 12-11 in Gainesville, FL on March 3. UF’s 15-match winning streak came to an end on Friday as did the team’s hopes for the program’s first national title.

Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell got things started for Florida, scoring just over two minutes into the first half. Syracuse evened things up five minutes later and was dominating the proceedings a third of the way through the opening half by outshooting UF 10-2, leading 6-0 in ground balls and taking a 3-0 edge in draw controls.

Despite their advantages, the Orange was unable to capitalize early on. Gators junior attacker Gabi Wiegand and freshman M Shannon Gilroy scored consecutive goals 13 seconds apart to put Florida ahead 3-1, though Syracuse quickly answered back again to hold a short-lived single-goal deficit.

That is when Gilroy took over, scoring three-straight goals over the final 10:25 of the half, including one 15 seconds before the break, to give the Gators a 7-3 lead as the teams headed into the locker rooms.

The Orange had their chances late in the half but saw consecutive shots bang off the post. UF junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher was also exceptional in the opening period, registering 10 saves on 18 shots and saving all three free position attempts she faced.

Meagher’s offense gave her an even larger cushion in the second half as junior A Caroline Chesterman scored 37 seconds into the period and Dashiell followed with a free position goal to increase Florida’s lead to 9-3.

The Gators continued their scoring onslaught with junior A Ashley Bruns getting on the board and Dashiell notching her third goal of the match (the team’s second hat trick) to extend UF’s advantage to a match-high seven goals. Dashiell soon matched Gilroy with her fourth score of the match, putting Florida up 12-5 with 17:15 remaining.

Not ready to go down without a fight, the Orange scored three-straight goals in under four minutes to get within four of their top-ranked opponent. Gilroy picked the perfect time to score her fifth goal of the evening, tossing it into the net with 7:19 left in the game to give the Gators back a five-goal lead at 13-8.

However, Syracuse completely erased Florida’s five-goal advantage, tying the match at 13 by extending their scoring run to 8-1 to end the second half. The Gators allowed the game-tying goal with just 30 seconds remaining while down two women due to a pair of yellow cards being assessed inside the last minute of regulation.

After both teams went scoreless in the first three minutes of overtime, Florida won a draw control and stalled for approximately two minutes in order to get the final shot of the period. Wiegand eventually took that shot and scored with nine seconds remaining, but the goal was rescinded due to her scoring with an illegal stick.

The match then went into sudden death overtime with the first goal scored sending that respective team into the national title game. The Orange won the draw control and, following a timeout, scored the game-winning goal to send the Gators home for good.

Meagher, after registering 10 saves on 18 first-half shots, only notched five more over the duration of the contest. Syracuse outshot Florida 43-24 and held a 19-6 advantage on ground balls Friday evening.

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FOUR BITS: Hunter, lacrosse, tennis selections

1 » Florida Gators freshman gymnast Kytra Hunter, who won a pair of 2012 NCAA Championships in the all-around and vault last month, was named the recipient of the Honda Sports Award on Wednesday. The honor, which basically makes Hunter the “gymnast of the year” by recognizing her as the best student-athlete in her sport, is awarded to one female in 12 different NCAA-sanctioned sports. It is the second straight year that a Gators student-athlete has won one of the awards with outfielder Kelsey Bruder bringing home the honor for softball in 2011. In the 36-year history of the Honda Sports Award, Florida has won it 15 times in six different sports (UF student-athletes were honored in two sports in 1982).

2 » One of six Florida lacrosse players to be honored by the American Lacrosse Conference on Wednesday, freshman midfielder Nora Barry was named the 2012 ALC Rookie of the Year after registering 32 goals (on 54 shots) in 17 games during the regular season. Barry’s goal total was the fifth-highest on the Gators, but she led the team in ground balls and also finished second in draw controls. Three Florida juniors – attacker Kitty Cullen, M Brittany Dashiell and defender Sam Farrell – were named to the All-ALC First Team, while Barry, junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher and junior A Gabi Wiegand received second-team nods.

3 » Four members of No. 2 Gators women’s tennis found themselves placed in the brackets for the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships when the selections were announced on Wednesday. Junior Allie Will not only earned the No. 1 seed in the singles tournament but is also one half of the No. 1 doubles team along with sophomore Sofie Oyen. Junior Lauren Embree was placed in the grouping of singles seeds 9-16, Oyen was chosen as an alternate and the pairing of Embree/senior Joanna Mather also made it as an at-large doubles team. Florida has not won a NCAA singles title since 1996 (Jill Craybas) or a doubles title since 2001 (Whitney Laiho/Jessica Lehnhoff).

4 » No. 11 UF men’s tennis also had four players selected for the NCAA Individual Championships as senior Nassim Slilam and juniors Tripper Carleton and Bob van Overbeek all received at-large bids for the singles bracket. (Sophomore Spencer Newman is listed as an alternate.) Additionally, the duo of Slilam/junior Billy Federhofer will compete in the doubles draw. The Gators have not won a NCAA singles title since 1999 (Jeff Morrison) or a doubles title since 1993 (Mark Merklein/David Blair).

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FOUR BITS: Leak, Demps, lacrosse, Tebow

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak supposedly signed with the Orlando Predators of the AFL on Monday and the team wants to name him their starter for Saturday’s game, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “We would like to bring him in as the face of the franchise, and I hope he ends up as our starting quarterback,” team general partner Brett Bouchy told the paper. Unfortunately for both sides, Leak was not able to join the team Monday or Tuesday thanks to his former squad the Jacksonville Sharks. According to the Florida Times-Union, even though Leak refuses to play for Jacksonville and the team does not want him back the Sharks have not released him from his contract and still retain his rights. “If the Predators want Leak, they have coach [Les] Moss’ number and we will be more than happy to trade him,” Jacksonville managing partner Jeff Bouchy (Brett Bouchy’s brother) said. “We cannot see any scenario in which Leak will wear a Sharks uniform again.” Leak’s future is now in limbo as he waits to find out if one Bouchy will trade the other something for his services. He has bounced around the CFL and AFL since being passed over by the NFL and actually played for the Jacksonville franchise this season before being replaced as starting quarterback after a five-touchdown performance. “It was an unfortunate situation in Jacksonville, but I’ve moved on,” Leak said. “I’m just very excited about the opportunity to play at home.”

2 » With the 2012 NFL Draft approaching, one name that continues to be notably absent is former Gators running back and current Florida sprinter Jeff Demps, who chose after the season to bypass the NFL in order to concentrate on running track and the 2012 London Olympics. Demps likely would have been a third- or fourth-round pick in the draft but chose an uncertain path that he enjoys over a certain future that did not hold the top spot in his heart. “Just, during the football season, I enjoyed football, but I just felt I had to be on the track,” he told FOX Sports in in yet another article about his decision and future in sports. “I had to follow my heart, and my heart said to be with track. It’s a career decision.”

3 » Gators lacrosse swept the ALC weekly awards on Monday. Junior atacker Gabi Wiegand won Offensive Player of the Week, junior defender Sam Farrell picked up Defensive Player of the Week and midfielder Nora Barry was named Rookie of the Week. It is the first time since the ALC expanded to three weekly awards that one team has swept all three in a single week.

4 » Could QB Tim Tebow already be winning over New York Jets players through a few days of offseason camp? According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Jets No. 2 wide receiver Jeremy Kerley was pleasantly surprised how well Tebow has been performing already and offered up some praise for his new teammate. “Different than Mark, different than Mark,” he said of Tebow as a quarterback. “His ball comes out a little bit stronger, but he’s accurate, he’s more accurate than what I thought he was going to be. But he’s a good dude, he has a great personality, he’ll bring a lot of personality to the team.” The Ledger asked him how much more velocity Tebow throws with as compared to Mark Sanchez. Kerley’s answer: “A LOT, a lot more velocity. No dis to Mark, he brings it man.”

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No. 5 Florida knocks off No. 1 Northwestern 8-7, captures second-straight ALC title

For a program only in its third season of existence, Florida Gators lacrosse continues to make plenty of noise. No. 5 Florida (15-2, 5-0 ALC) took down the previously undefeated No. 1 Northwestern Wildcats (14-1, 4-1 ALC) on Saturday, outscoring their hosts 8-7 at Lakeside Field in Evanston, IL to capture their second ALC regular season title in as many seasons.

UF clinched a share of the 2011 ALC title by defeating Northwestern 13-11 last season before winning the championship outright a few days later after beating Vanderbilt. The Wildcats got a measure of revenge on the Gators in 2011 by prevailing over their new rivals for the ALC Tournament Championship in a 10-9 slugfest. Florida will be the No. 1 seed in the tournament for the second-straight year.

Three Gators juniors – midfielder Brittany Dashiell and attackers Ashley Bruns and Gabi Wiegand – each scored two goals in Saturday’s contest. Junior goalkeeper Mickey Meager was equally clutch for the orange and blue by picking up seven saves on 14 shots over the course of the match.

Florida got out to an early 2-0 lead and scored the final three goals of the opening period to hold a 5-2 advantage at halftime. Northwestern scored three goals to open the second period (including two by Erin Fitzgerald) to even things out at 5-5, but it took Bruns less than 30 seconds to put UF back ahead 6-5 with 25:39 remaining.

The Wildcats soon evened things up and then took their only lead of the game, 7-6 with 20:51 left, but were unable to maintain their momentum. Gators freshman M Nora Barry tied the match a minute later on an assist from freshman M Nicole Graziano and both sides went scoreless over the next 14 minutes.

Wiegand (four points) then stepped up unassisted at 5:47 and scored what would become the game- and championship-winning goal for UF.

Northwestern has now lost two total regular season matches since 2004 after dropping late-season contests to Florida in each of the last two seasons. UF also ended NU’s 24-game winning streak.

The Gators will return to Gainesville, FL as they prepare to host the 2012 ALC Tournament May 3-5. Florida, as the No. 1 overall seed, receives a first-round bye and will participate in semifinal action on May 4 at 7 p.m.

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