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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TWO BITS: gymnastics in NCAAs, Hill returns

1 » No. 5 Florida Gators gymnastics will begin semifinal action in the 2011 NCAA Championships on Friday evening at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, OH. Competing in Semifinal II along with Alabama, Kent State, Nebraska, Oregon and Utah, Florida hopes to finish in the top three in order to advance to the NCAA Super Six – the final stage of competition for a national title.

2 » Back wearing orange and blue for the first time since 1994, new Gators wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill is happy to be back home. Calling his return to Gainesville, FL a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Hill told University of Florida senior writer Scott Carter that he is the one who reached out to head coach Will Muschamp about joining his first staff. “When he got the job, I sought him out,’’ Hill said. “I’m just very thankful for the opportunity to be able to come back home to your alma mater and to be able to give back to the players, give back to the community, and give back to this wonderful Gator Nation.” Muschamp explained why having Hill on board can help the team be successful. “I think having someone on the coaching staff who attended the University of Florida is really important when dealing with the players,’’ he said. “Aubrey has walked in their footsteps. He has been on their practice field, was in their classrooms and knows the culture of the Gator Nation. He’s accomplished what a lot of these players want to accomplish – he has been part of championship teams.”

You can check out the rest of the feature story by clicking here, though a choice quote has been republished below:

Q: You are the recruiting coordinator. How do you approach recruiting?
A: I really, really enjoy recruiting. Why do I enjoy recruiting? I look back when I was recruited and how important it was in picking a school. As an assistant coach, we have to give them all the information that can help them make a decision. They can pick it for several reasons: football, academics, proximity to home. What we try to do as coaches is try to tie them all in. There is no way I can do my job without the head coach. Sometimes I can’t do my job without the area coach. We all collectively work on getting a kid here. Recruiting is just selling what you believe in, and it’s an easy sell when you are talking about the University of Florida.

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SIX BITS: awards, softball, lacrosse, gymnastics

1 » Florida Gators track and field head coach Mike Holloway was honored with the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s National Men’s Indoor Head Coach of the Year award on Friday for the second-straight year. Holloway, who has led Florida to back-to-back NCAA Indoor Championships over the last two seasons, continues to rack up the national and regional awards. One of his assistants on the men’s team, Dick Booth was awarded National Men’s Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year by the USTFCCCA as well.

2 » The state of Mississippi was no match for No. 2/3 Florida softball (30-1, 6-0 SEC) this week as the Gators took down the Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-14, 2-2 SEC) at home in a pair of contests during the week and swept the Ole Miss Rebels (10-21, 0-6 SEC) in a three-game road series over the weekend. Florida outscored Ole Miss 37-6 over the course of the three games and made the most out of nearly every opportunity.

Senior first baseman Megan Bush set a new school record and now has a 19-game hitting streak after turning in a spectacular performance in which she combined to go 6-9 from the plate with 10 RBI, three runs and four walks. On the hill for the Gators all weekend was freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (16-1), who started all three contests and did not allow a single earned run all weekend. In 9.0 innings, Rogers only gave up five hits, three unearned runs and three walks while striking out nine batters. Also turning in stellar performances in the three-game set were senior second baseman Aja Paculba (4-10, 6 RBI, 5 R, 4 BB), freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (3-11, 5 RBI, 4 R, BB) and senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (4-6, 4 RBI, 5 R, 6 BB).

3 » Continuing to excel in only their second year in existence, No. 8/10 Gators lacrosse (8-1) took down another ranked opponent by defeating the No. 11/14 Syracuse Orange (2-4) 16-11 on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns tied her career high (and school record) with six goals; she also notched an assist for a season-high total of seven points. Florida received plenty of scoring help from sophomore midfielders Kitty Cullen and Brittany Dashiell, each of whom contributed hat tricks. Since losing an overtime contest to North Carolina on Feb. 12 to start the regular season, UF is on an impressive eight-game winning streak.

4 » Competing for the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship, No. 1 Florida gymnastics (17-2, 5-1 SEC) dropped a heart-breaker to the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide 197.225-196.975. The Gators won the bars and floor exercises, but the Crimson Tide used greater total margins in the vault and beam to improve their team total and capture the crown. After the event, Florida’s Rhonda Faehn was named 2011 SEC Coach of the Year for the fourth overall and second-straight time, and Alaina Johnson was awarded with 2011 SEC Freshman of the Year.

5 » Failing to qualify for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Gators women’s basketball (19-14) accepted a bid to the 2011 Women’s National invitation Tournament and defeated the UMBC Retrievers (20-12) 59-47 in first-round action on Friday. Redshirt junior guard Jordan Jones scored a game-high 18 points for Florida, which will ply Florida Gulf Coast (28-3) in the second round on Monday at 7:05 p.m.

6 » No. 13 UF men’s tennis (11-5, 4-1 SEC) dropped a pair of head-to-heads over the weekend as they were defeated by the No. 3 USC Trojans (14-2) 4-3 on Thursday and Rebels (9-4, 3-2 SEC) 4-3 on Saturday. No. 6 senior Alexandre Lacroix lost all four of his events including both singles matches and both doubles matches as the No. 46 duo with teammate sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr.

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FOUR BITS: basketball, softball, gym, tennis, lax

1 » Participating in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament beginning on Thursday, Florida Gators women’s basketball did a great job beating the Arkansas Razorbacks 68-59 in the event’s opening round but ended up falling to the top-seeded No. 4 Tennessee Lady Vols 92-75 in quarterfinal action on Friday. Florida (18-14) saw five players reach double-digit point totals in the opening game with sophomore forward Jennifer George, junior guard Deana Allen and redshirt junior F Ndidi Madu scoring 12 a piece while freshman G Jaterra Bonds and redshirt junior G Jordan Jones each posted 11. Unfortunately for the Gators, the Lady Vols routed them for the third time this season, beating them by 17 Friday after wins of 43 and 22 earlier in the year. Allen (13), Madu (13), Bonds (12), Jones (10) all scored double-digit points while junior G Lanita Bartley led the team with 14.

2 » Achieving a much better outcome over the weekend was No. 2/3 Florida softball (19-0), which swept the 2011 Lipton Invitational at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL with five victories in three days. UF beat Valparaiso 13-4 and Syracuse 2-0 on Friday before throttling the North Dakota State 18-0 and Pacific 10-2 on Saturday. The Gators closed the tournament with a 9-0 victory over NDSU, combining to outscore them 27-0 in a two-game span. Florida senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (11-0) won three of the five games, only giving up one earned run and four hits in 14.2 innings while striking out 20. Finishing the sweep was freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (8-0), who spelled Brombacher and won both of her games while allowing two earned runs and seven hits while striking out 14 in 13 innings of work.

Senior second baseman Aja Paculba, sophomore outfielder Brittany Schutte and senior first baseman Megan Bush all had spectacular weekends. Paculba (9-17) hit a pair of homers while knocking in five RBI and scoring eight runs. Schutte (5-15) hit two home runs in the opening game and another each in the final two games to total four over the weekend along with 14 RBI, eight runs and six walks. Bush (8-16) was equally impressive with two homers, eight RBI, five runs and three walks. Not to be outdone, freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan hit a grand slam in the third game of the weekend, and sophomore catcher Kelsey Horton hit dingers in back-to-back games.

3 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics (12-1, 5-1 SEC) helped set a NCAA attendance record on Friday, defeating the No. 5 Utah Utes (7-2) 197.00-196.75 in front of 15,558 fans at the Huntsman Center. Florida won the match overall by capturing the vault, bars and beam team events even though they lost the floor by .075. Event winners included sophomore Ashanée Dickerson on the beam (9.875) and vault (9.90), where she tied freshman Alaina Johnson and sophomore Marissa King. Johnson and freshman Mackenzie Caquatto tied to win the bars (9.925), too. With the regular season now complete, UF will defend their SEC title at the 2011 SEC Championships beginning March 19.

4 » No. 1 Gators women’s tennis (13-1, 2-0 SEC) and No. 11 Florida men’s tennis (9-3, 2-0 SEC) each came away from their respective SEC opening weekends with a pair of decisive victories. The women swept the LSU Tigers (2-6, 0-1 SEC) 6-0 and No. 16 Arkansas 7-0 on the road, while the men stayed home and beat the Tigers (3-6, 0-1 SEC) 6-1 and Razorbacks (3-7, 0-2 SEC) 7-0. No. 7 sophomore Allie Will and No. 26 sophomore Lauren Embree won both of their singles matches over the weekend for the women, while No. 6 senior Alexandre Lacroix and No. 28 sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. mirrored their performances on the men’s side.

Extra BIT » Continuing their steady rise in the sport, No. 14 Florida lacrosse (4-1) defeated the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (2-2) 15-10 after fighting back from a 5-5 tie on Saturday afternoon at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Standout sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen once again led the way for the Gators with foul goals, while sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns added three of her own.
 

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FOUR BITS: gymnastics, baseball, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (11-1, 5-1 SEC) suffered its first defeat of the season on Friday, falling 196.70-196.10 to the No. 15 Arkansas Razorbacks (5-3, 5-1 SEC) in Fayetteville, AR. Florida captured three individual events with sophomore Ashanée Dickerson winning the vault and floor exercise and freshman Mackenzie Caquatto taking home the even bars; however, Arkansas surpassed UF in their team totals and came out on top. The Gators final match before the 2011 SEC Championships begin on March 19 is against Utah next Friday in Salt Lake City, UT.

2 » Florida’s other top-ranked team, No. 1 baseball, had better luck Friday, taking down the Boston College Eagles 9-3 in the second game of the teams’ three-game series. The Gators (6-0) scored three runs in the seventh inning alone to escape a 3-3 tie and move past the Eagles (2-3) for the victory. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (1.64 ERA) got the start for Florida and tossed four innings of shutout ball before giving up an earned run in the fifth and getting pulled at the end of the inning. The Gators led 2-1 at that point on a solo homer from junior right fielder Preston Tucker (3-4, 2 RBI, 2 R) in the third and an RBI from junior first baseman Ben McMahan (2-2, RBI) in the fourth. Junior left-handed pitcher Nick Mardone allowed a batter on via a bunt in the top of the seventh and junior RHP Greg Larson, coming into relieve him, let another batter hit himself on base. Freshman LHP Daniel Gibson, trying to get out of the inning, struck out his first batter before giving up a two-RBI triple to clear the bases and put Boston College up 3-2.

Looking to get out of a jam, Florida utilized the infamous hidden-ball trick to get the final out of the inning. With Eagles shortstop Brad Zapenas (2-4, 2 RBI) on third after his game-tying triple, freshman third baseman Zach Powers corralled the ball as Gibson pretended to wind up. Once Zapenas took a lead, Powers tagged him out, ended the inning and stopped the bleeding. The Gators responded with a three-run bottom of the seventh including a RBI each from Tucker (via a bases loaded walk), sophomore catcher/1B Austin Maddox (1-5, RBI) and sophomore designated hitter Brian Johnson (3-5, 3 RBI, R). Florida added three more runs in the bottom of the eighth with sophomore center fielder Kamm Washington (1-1, RBI, R) doubling down the left field line to score sophomore C Mike Zunino (BB, R) and Johnson singling through the left side to bring home sophomore SS Nolan Fontana (1-2, 2 R, 3 BB) and Washington. Gibson (1-0) earned the win after juniors RHP Tommy Toledo and LHP Alex Panteliodis combined to strikeout three in 1.2 innings.

3 » No. 4 Gators softball (13-0) earned a pair of victories Friday at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, CA, defeating the San Diego State Aztecs (5-6) 4-2 in the afternoon and the No. 2 UCLA Bruins (10-2) 4-1 in the evening. Junior RHP Stephanie Brombacher (7-0) earned the win in the early game after giving up two earned runs in 5.1 innings. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (6-0), who tossed the final 1.2 innings of the San Diego State game in relief of Brombacher, threw a complete game against UCLA; she struck out 10 and only gave up a single earned run in the second inning. Senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder led the way for Florida offensively, combining to go 4-6 with three RBI and a walk in the two games. Junior CF Michelle Moultrie scored three runs and notched a pair of RBI on a 4-8 outing from the plate.

4 » Struggling all season, Gators women’s basketball (16-13, 6-9 SEC) scored a much-needed 74-69 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores (18-10, 9-6 SEC) on the road in Nashville, TN on Friday. Postponed a day due to severe weather, the game marked Florida’s first win on the road against Vanderbilt since 2004. Three Gators junior starters – center Azania Stewart (14) and guards redshirt Jordan Jones (16) and Lanita Bartley (15) – scored in double figures as Stewart also grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double. UF has now won back-to-back contests after dropping four-in-a-row to begin the month of February.

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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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Perfect game, SEC records top Gators’ weekend

The season may have just begun for No. 5/5 Florida Gators softball, but the ladies did not waste time getting off to a fast 5-0 start at the USF Wilson DeMarini Tournament in over the weekend. Florida defeated Marshall, Florida Gulf Coast, Long Island, North Carolina State and USF by a combined 53-3 score; the Gators shut out three of their five opponents and scored 17 runs in the first four innings of their season-opener.

The highlight of the weekend for softball came Saturday when senior pitcher Stephanie Brombacher tossed the second perfect game of her career to send Florida to a 9-0 shutout victory over N.C. State. Brombacher needed only 67 pitches to do the deed; she struck out six in her five innings of work. Ending up 3-0 at the tournament’s conclusion, Brombacher struck out 19 in 14 innings of work, did not give up a single earned run and only allowed four hits in her final game of the weekend against USF.

Softball may have won five games in three days, but a veteran diver did her best to earn all of the weekend’s accolades for herself.

Not to be overshadowed was the Gators women’s diving team, led by senior Monica Dodson, who broke two Southeastern Conference records and won two gold medals in the diving portion of the 2011 SEC Swimming and Diving Championships at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Dodson, a three-time All-American, won the three-meter event (six dives) with a score of 373.85 on Friday; she followed that up with a victory in the platform event (five dives) with a score of 325.20 at the final day of competition on Sunday. For her efforts and achievements this season, Dodson was named the 2011 SEC Women’s Diver of the Year. Florida diving coach Donnie Craine was honored after the event with his second-straight SEC Women’s Diving Coach of the Year award, an honor that puts him second all-time in conference history.

Check out the other UF sports that had a successful weekend…after the break!
Continue Reading » Perfect game, SEC records top Gators’ weekend

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