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.

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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.

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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.

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SIX BITS: track, swimming, gymnastics, tennis

1 » Capturing five events while taking home two NCAA automatic-qualifying marks, No. 2 Florida Gators track and field had a great weekend at the Texas A&M Challenge. Junior heptathlete Gray Horn and junior transfer jumper Will Claye each registered the qualifiers, with Horn registering a personal best 5,747 and Claye posting a season-leading 16.86m/55-3.25 in the triple jump. The duo joins sophomore jumper Omar Craddock, who has already registered his own automatic qualifying time.

2 » No. 5/8 Florida men’s/women’s swimming and diving swept the No. 7/10 Tennessee Volunteers on Senior Day at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Saturday. The men won 198-101, while the women were victorious 180-120. According to the University of Florida, “The 97-point victory for the UF men is the most lopsided win over UT in school history, while being the most points scored by the Gator men and the largest margin of victory in a one-day dual meet since a 208-88 conquest over Florida Atlantic on Jan. 26, 2001. The 198 points were the most in a one-day SEC dual meet since outscoring South Carolina 248-68 on Oct. 27, 2000, which was also the last time the men…had a 90-plus point margin of victory in SEC competition.”

Both teams also faced the Indian River State College Pioneers on Sunday and were victorious 165-120 and 157-106, respectively.

3 » Facing the No. 13 N.C. State Wolfpack (1-2) and No. 23 Penn State Nittany Lions (1-4, 0-2 Big Ten), No. 1 Florida gymnastics (5-0, 2-0 SEC) won the fifth annual Gators Link to Pink meet on Friday. The Gators posted 197.50 points compared to 195.3 for the Nittany Lions and 194.075 for the Wolfpack. Florida won all five events with freshman Alaina Johnson capturing four (vault, uneven bars, floor exercise, all-around) and sophomore Ashanée Dickerson bringing home one (balance beam).

4 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis (2-0) swept a pair of matches over the weekend, defeating the Central Florida Knights (1-1) 7-0 and the College of Charleston Cougars (0-1) 6-0 at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The No. 1 duo of sophomore Allie Will and freshman Sofie Oyen won its doubles match during both contests. Also victorious in both of their singles matches were No. 7 Will, No. 22 freshman Olivia Janowicz and No. 96 Oyen. No. 28 freshman Alex Cercone won on Friday, and No. 30 junior Joanna Mather did not finish her contest on Saturday.

5 » No. 7 Gators men’s tennis (4-0) was equally successful with back-to-back wins over the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 4-0 and N.C. State 6-1 in Gainesville. The No. 11 duo of senior Alexandre Lacroix and junior Nassim Slilam won its doubles match in both events. No. 4 Lacroix and Slilam each captured singles wins on Friday and Saturday. No. 52 sophomore Bob Van Overbeek also won singles matches both days, while No. 28 sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. won his opportunity on Saturday.

6 » After starting the season strong, Florida women’s basketball (13-9, 3-5 SEC) dropped three-straight contests in mid-January but ended that losing streak with a 70-64 home victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide (11-10, 0-8 SEC) on Thursday. Freshman guard Jaterra Bonds and sophomore forward Jennifer George each scored a team-high 12 points in the victory.

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SIX BITS: Trattou, Donovan, Dwyer, gym, swim

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive end Justin Trattou will participate in the 2011 East-West Shrine Game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL on Saturday. He will wear No. 84 in the game, which will air live on NFL Network at 4 p.m.

2 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan is currently participating in The Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge, a charitable contest where coaches are vying to win money for an organization they choose to represent. Donovan, who is representing the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation, could win $100,000 for the organization in the contest. Vote for him right here and remember that “inspiration is contagious.”

3 » When it comes to Dwyer High School four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL), it seems no one knows exactly what he is going to do. Though he has officially eliminated South Carolina and Florida State from contention, Brissett is being pursued heavily by a number of schools in addition to the Gators. Miami and Washington are both going hard after him, according to the Palm Beach Post. Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels believes Brissett is the “No. 1 player [Miami] target[s],” and says the player is intrigued by Washington because of their success in getting players ready for the NFL. Daniels disputed that Brissett “holds a grudge” against Florida. “He doesn’t hold a grudge because it’s a new coaching staff. He’s just proud, and he wants to show everyone who didn’t offer him early,” he said. “It wasn’t against UF; it was against the staff that was there before.” That statement aligns with the original story on the subject, the point being that the negative feelings may be too much to overcome – even with a new coaching staff in place.

Daniels also told the Post that four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) was pleased with an in-home visit from Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley. He is planning to visit the Gators next weekend and, though he may take an unofficial trip to Miami, is likely between UF, UT and Wisconsin with the first two schools out in front.

4 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (3-0, 2-0 SEC) continued their winning ways on Friday, defeating the No. 24 LSU Tigers (0-3, 0-2 SEC) 196.425-194.00 on the road at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, LA. Sophomore Ashanée Dickerson won her 10th all-around title while claiming at least a share of each of Friday’s five event titles. She is the first Gators gymnast since 2000 to sweep all of the event titles in a single meet, winning the floor exercise (9.95), vault (9.90) and balance beam (9.825) while sharing the uneven bars title (9.80).

5 » Though they put together a solid performance, No. 5/6 Gators men’s and women’s swimming fell to the No. 6/12 Auburn Tigers on Friday at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center in Auburn, AL. The men (4-3, 2-1 SEC) lost 167-133, while the women (4-4, 0-2 SEC) were upended 165-135. Florida’s men had not fallen in SEC competition in almost two full years…their prior defeat also came at Auburn on Jan. 24, 2009.

In more upbeat news, three Gators swimmers were selected to the United States’ 2011 FINA World Championship Team on Friday. Senior Conor Dwyer, junior Teresa Crippen and freshman Elizabeth Beisel will all participate for USA Swimming in Shanghai, China from July 24-31. Gregg Troy, Florida’s head swimming coach who agreed to coach the United States’ men’s team at the 2012 London Olympics, will be an assistant coach on the FINA squad, which also features another former Gators swimmer, Ryan Lochte. Florida’s three selections to the team led any NCAA school.

6 » No. 9 Gators men’s tennis (1-0) took home an impressive 7-0 victory against the Furman Paladins in their season-opener on Friday at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The No. 11 duo of senior Alexandre Lacroix and junior Nassim Slilam won their doubles match 8-3; No. 4 Lacroix also won his singles match 6-0, 5-7 (10-4). Other ranked victories came from sophomores No. 28 Sekou Bangoura, Jr. (6-1, 6-1) and No. 52 Bob van Overbeek (6-0, 6-1) in singles action.

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FOUR BITS: Pittman, Jordan, Fraine, gymnastics

1 » Wide receiver recruit Latroy Pittman (Citra, FL) became the Florida Gators first commitment for the 2012 recruiting cycle on Aug. 17. When head coach Urban Meyer stepped down in December, Pittman paused for a second even though it has been “my dream to play there since I was three,” as he said himself last year. With new head coach Will Muschamp and WR coach Aubrey Hill now in the fold, Pittman told The Gainesville Sun that he remains as committed as ever after visiting campus over the weekend. “I feel so at home when I’m up there,” he said, according to the paper. “It’s like a feeling you get when you just know something feels right, that no other place can give you that factor.”

2 » With three-star offensive lineman Chase Hounshell (Kirkland, OH) switching his commitment to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Monday evening, Florida is left with only two commits at that position for 2011. One of those two players, three-star Tommy Jordan (Ridgefield, CT), was supposed to be an early enrollee set to begin classes at the University of Florida last week. Instead Jordan decided not to join UF in the spring and said he would be back in the summer. Shutting off communications, Jordan was rumored to be wavering in his commitment by assumption due to his decision to go silent. In a conversation with Ridgefield Patch, Jordan explains he remains committed to the Gators and simply wanted a break from the stress of school and recruiting. “I am going to take the semester off and go back in the late spring,” Jordan said at one of his high school’s basketball games. “I have been working my butt off to graduate early and now all this stuff is happening. It just seemed like I needed a break.” He also spoke about Muschamp and new offensive line coach Frank Verducci. “I am really excited about that staff they are putting together there,” he said. “I just thought it was better to come back here while all this was going on and they figure out how it is all going to work. But I still plan on going there and am really excited about the future.”

3 » The fourth former Florida player to earn this honor, goalkeeper Katie Fraine will play in Women’s Professional Soccer in 2011 after being selected in the league’s draft held last Friday. Only one of two goalkeepers selected in the draft, Fraine joins former Gators Heather Mitts, Abby Wambach and Stacy Bishop in the league. She will be teammates with Wambach on the Washington Freedom. Fraine left the Gators as the school’s career leader in solo shutouts (27) who played a big role in helping Florida win the 2010 Southeastern Conference Championship.

4 » No. 1 Gators gymnastics (2-0, 1-0 SEC) is off to a fast start this season with back-to-back victories over the then-No. 10 Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-1) and No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats (2-1, 0-1 SEC). Florida took down Nebraska 196.925-194.950 in front of over 5,000 fans at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Jan. 8 and followed up that performance with a 196.775-192.90 win against Kentucky on Jan. 14. The Gators took home five events against the Cornhuskers with sophomore Ashanée Dickerson winning four of them. Dickerson won two more against the Wildcats; freshman Alaina Johnson and sophomore Marissa King each captured two of their own.

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Florida receives nine letters of intent Thursday

Between softball, women’s basketball and gymnastics, the University of Florida was honored to receive nine letters of intent on Thursday from future student-athletes who hope to become big parts of their respective Florida Gators teams.

Softball picked up six commitments for its 2011 signing class including pitcher Alyssa Bache (Clearwater, FL), third baseman Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, FL), infielder Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, MO), shortstop Sami Fagan (Dunnellon, FL), utility player Lauren Haeger (Peoria, AZ) and SS Katie Medina (Downey, CA).

“To say we are excited about this year’s signing class is an understatement,” head coach Tim Walton said. “Each one of these student-athletes brings a tremendous amount of talent individually. Collectively, they’re one of the best classes in the entire country. We look forward to great things out of this group. We’ll be losing an extremely talented senior class this upcoming season – arguably one of the best Florida softball classes ever. We are excited about coaching this talented incoming class, which we expect to step in right away and replace some Gator greats.”

The basketball team added point guard Carlie Needles (Highlands Ranch, CO) and center Viktorija Dimaite (Gainesville, FL by way of Lithuania), both of whom could have a big impact on the program. “I’m excited about the type of people that they are and what they bring to our team,” head coach Amanda Butler said. “They are all-around winners and are definitely championship-caliber people.” Dimaite is 6’4” and helped lead The Rock School to the 2010 Class 1A girl’s basketball state championship, while Needles comes from a high school program that has produced WNBA-caliber players.

Gymnastics head coach Rhonda Faehn scored another major signing for her program by bringing in Kiersten Wang (Colorado Springs, CO). Wang was runner-up on vault at the 2009 Level 10 Junior Olympic Championships and has excelled at every level of competition she has attempted. “Kiersten contains the perfect all-around package. She has a tremendous amount of quickness, power and talent. She is an exceptional talent who is extremely determined and loves to perform. Kiersten will contribute immediately to this team,” Faehn said.

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