Wambach, Mitts add team gold for USA, Florida

Revenge was a dish best served gold for the U.S. Women’s National Team on Thursday as the Americans defeated the Japanese 2-1 in the Gold Medal Match of the 2012 London Olympics and avenged a penalty kick loss in the 2011 Women’s World Cup.

Through the leadership of veteran striker Abby Wambach and a pair of goals from midfielder Carli Lloyd, the United States nearly led from start-to-finish despite giving Japan multiple chances to get back into the match.

Lloyd’s diving header at 8’, off a perfect cross from forward Alex Morgan, put the Americans on top 1-0. Wambach was also in the area and could just as easily have kicked in the first goal of the match.

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo was tested early and often by the Japanese, making a huge stop at 19’ and another at 38’ with the help of the crossbar to allow the United States to take a 1-0 lead into the half.

Lloyd came through again after the break, dribbling through three defenders and striking a ball into the far corner of the net at 56’ to put the Americans on top 2-0.

However, just minutes later, the Japanese cut their deficit in half when Yuki Ogimi grabbed a rebound off of a deflection from Solo and put it into the back of the net at 64’.

The United States held on for the remainder of the match with Solo making another fantastic save to starve off a game-tying goal from Japan in the waining minutes of regulation, giving the Americans their third gold medal in as many Olympics and fourth in the last five games.

The contest between the Americans and Japanese was seen by 80,203 patrons at Wembley Stadium, a record crowd for an Olympic women’s soccer match.

Wambach took home her second career Olympic gold medal, and fellow former Florida Gators soccer star Heather Mitts captured her third despite only seeing action in one game over the course of the Olympics.

Wambach played full time in every match and scored a goal in each of the first five contests. She has increased her scoring total to 143 goals in 188 international matches and is just 16 away from tying Mia Hamm for most all-time.

Joining Wambach and Mitts in celebrating an Olympic soccer medal on Thursday was Canadian reserve Melanie Booth who was added as an injury replacement early in the games and was awarded a bronze when her team defeated France 1-0 on Thursday morning. The United States took down Canada 4-3 in extra time on Monday.

Though Mitts plans to retire from professional soccer, Wambach has promised to return for the 2016 Rio Olympics in hopes of winning her third gold medal.

For a recap of the match with stats, a full schedule (including updated events), live stream links and a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, be sure to check out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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SIX BITS: Lochte, Andrews, LaCaze, Beal, Spikes

1 » American swimmers Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps will be seeing plenty of each other in the pool during the 2012 London Olympics, but according to the Associated Press they are also sleeping under the same roof. Lochte and Phelps are two of six swimmers in one four-bedroom suite in the athletes’ village, the AP reports, with Phelps staying in the only single-bed room.

2 » FOX Sports announced Wednesday that the Fox College Football Pregame Show, set to air each Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and be hosted by Erin Andrews, will also include former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington as co-stars. The network also detailed some of Andrews’s other duties for FOX Sports. She will serve as a dugout reporter for the MLB’s National League Championship Series and World Series as well as a sideline reporter for some of the network’s top NFL games including on Thanksgiving and during the playoffs.

3 » It took an appeal to get her into the Olympics but now that she is there Australian steeplechase runner Genevieve LaCaze plans to make a name for herself – starting with competing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase heats on August 4, her 23rd birthday. “I want to run in the high 9:20s and that should definitely get me to the final and I’ll be up against the top women in the world,” she told the Herald Sun. “I don’t think anything will stop me if I get to that point. How long is it – nine minutes of pain. How hard can it be?” And if she doesn’t medal in London, England? “The fact that I’ve made London 2012 is only going to make me keep going to Rio [2016],” she added.

4 » Named to the “All-Summer League Team” after posting averages of 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists for the Washington Wizards last week in Las Vegas, NV, former Florida Gators guard Bradley Beal was still hard of himself, noting that he must improve his shooting efficiency and be more aggressive on the court (he’s right on both counts). “Honestly, if I feel as though I’m open, coach is going to tell me to shoot it. It’s times I was open and passed and coach got all on my head [telling me to shoot], so I mean, certain situations, I’m an unselfish player,” Beal told the Washington Post. “I’d rather get somebody else going. I’ll eventually get going myself. That’s just my mentality. But it’s really just staying focused and staying within the flow of the game, actually.”

5 » The New England Patriots pulled linebacker Brandon Spikes off the active/physically unable to perform list on Wednesday after he passed his physical following offseason knee surgery. Spikes missed eight regular season games in 2011 but played great in the NFL Playoffs, recording 26 tackles and sack, nabbing an interception and forcing a fumble in three postseason games.

6 » Below are player profiles for former Gators striker Abby Wambach and defender Heather Mitts, two members of the U.S. Women’s National Team competing in the Olympics. Team USA won its first game on Wednesday 4-2 over France; Wambach’s header at 19’ cut an early 2-0 deficit in half and gave the Americans the momentum they needed to pull out the come-from-behind victory.

For full coverage of Gators in the Olympics, be sure to visit and bookmark OGGOA‘s dedicated and constantly updated page.

Photo Credit: Michael Dodge/Herald Sun

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Gator Bites for Monday, June 18

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» A rough senior season at the center position made many Florida Gators fans skeptical that Mike Pouncey could play the position as well as his twin brother. But after one year as the starting center for the Miami Dolphins, those questions no longer exist as Pouncey has proven that he can perform at a Pro Bowl level (though he did not make it to the game in 2011). Now he is focused on getting even better and told the Sun-Sentinel it all starts with eating better. “I can get away with [eating fast food], but I changed it up this year just trying to eat more leaner stuff,” he said. “I hired a chef, so it’s been working well for me.” Pouncey also feels the zone blocking scheme the Dolphins will be employing in 2012 and beyond will benefit him and the offense; he expects a breakout season for himself. “They say your second year is supposed to be your best year,” he said. “I’m hoping for big things. I’m coming out as hard as I can. I want to take on more of a leadership role this year.”

» Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan has been working with the United States U18 National Team over the last few weeks and began action in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship with his squad on Saturday. Donovan’s young squad is already 2-0 in international competition with a 105-42 victory over the Virgin Islands on Saturday and a 110-59 win over Mexico on Sunday. The U.S. will take on Brazil on Monday to conclude first-round action with the semifinals taking place Tuesday and the championship being held on Wednesday. Donovan’s squad needs to place in the top four teams at the end of the event in order to advance to the 2013 FIBA World Championship next summer. “I told them there are three things we want to accomplish. First and foremost, win a gold medal. Second, we’ve got a lot of guys on our team going into college and we want them to get maybe a bit more prepared than some other incoming freshmen for what they’re going to face in college. And third, we want to help them get better as players,” Donovan told the Sporting News before leaving for Brazil.

» Gators linebacker Neiron Ball, who missed the entire 2011 season after a blood vessel burst in his brain and he was diagnosed with a hereditary vascular condition, was officially cleared to participate in all football activities by team doctors on Friday. Ball had previously announced on March 1 that he had medical clearance from doctors to return to action, but head coach Will Muschamp cautioned in April and May that while he had returned to work out with the team that he was not a full participant and was still awaiting an additional clearance. Now that Ball is good to go, he will compete for immediate playing time at Buck linebacker, a position with a major depth issue now that junior Ronald Powell is out until at least mid-October with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

» Florida track & field coach Mike Holloway was awarded his first Coach of the Year honor for the outdoor season by the USTFCCCA on Thursday. He had previously won the award in consecutive years for the indoor season (2010-11). Holloway’s men’s team swept the 2012 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships this season.

Read six more Gator Bites…after the break!

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Monday, June 18

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FOUR BITS: Wambach, Noah, Harvin, golf

1 » Though OGGOA covered former Florida Gators defender Heather Mitts’s decision to retire from soccer following the 2012 London Olympics, we glossed over the fact that both Mitts and former Florida striker Abby Wambach were both officially named to the 2012 U.S. Women’s National Team roster. Both last seen on an international stage during the 2011 Women’s World Cup, Mitts and Wambach have each been members of the 2004 and 2008 Olympic teams though Wambach was unable to appear in the latter event after fracturing her leg. With 135 goals in 179 international matches, Wambach is just 13 scores behind Mia Hamm for No. 1 on the United States’ all-time scoring list. At just 31 years old, it is likely that Wambach has additional World Cups and perhaps one more Olympics (2016) ahead of her.

2 » Again speaking about playing for the French Men’s National Team in the Olympics, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah said he plans to “fight for a medal” and believes he will regain his health and then some in time for the games. “It would be incredible to take part in the Olympics,” he told FIBA.com. “It’s one of the best competitions for an athlete. Playing in London will be a dream come true. It will be extraordinary for all my teammates. Especially for some of them like Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Florent Pietrus, who have been fighting for 10 years to take part in this competition. Our group is very talented. We have a lot of very good players and everyone is extremely motivated to help France do its best during the competition.”

3 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin, who underwent minor shoulder surgery on April 24 to clean out bone spurs that had accumulated over the course of the season, has yet to participate in organized team activities but should be allowed to practice with the team sooner than later. Harvin’s surgery was initially delayed, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, due to a family emergency that lasted more than week. He may have otherwise been back in time to be a full participant in workouts but will once again have to miss time before officially joining his teammates on the field.

4 » Competing in the 2012 NCAA Championships at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, CA, No. 23 Gators men’s golf shot an opening round 288 to tie for second place at +4 (three shots back of leader Alabama) following one day of competition. Additionally, junior golfer Tyler McCumber’s personal first-round score of 68 (-3) puts him one stroke back of the leader (UCLA’s Anton Arboleda). Florida has not captured a national title since 2001, but you can win on partybingo.com.

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FOUR BITS: Beal, Mitts, Howard, U.S. Open

1 » Preparing for the 2012 NBA Draft, Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal is up in Chicago, IL training with former college coach Josh Oppenheimer, the same trainer that Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons used one year ago. Beal, who like Parsons also signed with agent Mark Bartelstein of Prioirty Sports, told SLAMonline that he is working on his game in hopes of impressing scouts and being selected as high as possible. “I’m looking to really focus on creating my own shot offensively,” he said. “Just beating guys off of the dribble then finishing with a floater or pull-up in the lane. [I] just have to continue having high IQ for the game, focus in on ball handling and work on creating more space off the dribble.” Ironically enough, Parsons will be in New York, NY on Wednesday representing Houston on stage at the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery. The Rockets only have a 1.81 percent change of receiving a top-three pick (lowest amongst the 13 teams) so it is quite likely that Beal winds up elsewhere.

2 » Former Gators soccer star and current U.S. Women’s National Team defender Heather Mitts (34) told NBC on Sunday that the 2012 London Olympics this summer (her third appearance on the Olympic team) will be the end of the road for her as a soccer player. “Feeling the way I feel, it’s kind of weird to say that, but it’s always been my plan to hopefully play in one last Olympics and step away from the game kind of on my own terms,” she said. “I do love the game, and I am going to miss it, but I also have other things that I want to do. I just feel like I want to go out at the right time.” Mitts seems to excel Olympic years with her best performances coming in 2004 and 2008. Though she started all eight of the United States’ Olympic matches in 2008, she did not play in the 2011 Women’s World Cup and may not step on the pitch this time around either. “Ideally I want for our team to go over there and win gold,” Mitts said. “It would be great to play, but if I don’t play, I’ve been through that once before to be there and be supportive.” Despite her decision to hang up her cleats, Mitts says she is “probably the fittest I’ve ever been,” is completely healthy and still loves playing. “I feel so sharp and strong,” she added. Mitts has made 123 career appearances in the red, white and blue. Check out NBC‘s video interview with Mitts from this week.

3 » In an interview with his new team’s website, Seattle Seahawks rookie defensive tackle Jaye Howard expressed his excitement about finally being in the NFL and playing alongside some guys he grew up watching. “It’s been an unreal experience,” he said. “Walking into the same locker room and seeing Marshawn Lynch – a player that I look up to – and now I’m actually in the same locker room. It’s a great feeling. So I’m just embracing this moment right now.” There were also positive comments directed at Howard from head coach Pete Carroll and defensive line coach Todd Wash. “Jaye Howard showed up. He did some good things. He showed up on pass rush a couple of times. I know Todd mentioned that he was surprised at his quickness. That’s a really good sign,” Carroll said. Wash added, “Jaye is an explosive player. He’s learning that this level is a little bit different once our veterans got here. But we’re very excited about his progress. He’s eager to learn. He wants to know exactly what he can do better. He does a great job in the classroom, too. So we’re really pleased with what we’ve got so far.”

4 » According to The Florida Times-Union, seven former and current Florida golfers “will play in a 36-hole U.S. Open sectional qualifier Monday at Black Diamond Ranch Quarry Course in Lecanto.” Among those players competing will be junior T.J. Vogel, freshman J.D. Tomlinson, redshirt senior Zach Lee and former players Tyson Alexander, Andres Echavarria, Brett Stegmaier and Bank Vongvanij. With the Gators competing for the 2012 NCAA Championship this week, Vogel, Tomlinson and Lee could have a tight window to get into town for the qualifier depending how well Florida does at the event.

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SIX BITS: Gaffney, Hill, Hayes, Spurrier, Meyer

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, currently employed by the Washington Redskins but in danger of being cut before the season, told ESPN’s Josina Anderson on Wednesday that head coach Mike Shanahan specifically told him not to report to camp and to see if his agent can find another team for him prior to the draft. “I talked to Mike Shanahan myself. He is the one that told me I don’t have to come up there until two weeks from now when they start installing the offense. So that is why I’m not at voluntary workouts,” he said. “I am working out in Florida now though. Shanahan told me that I can take this time and let my agent see if he can find a better situation for me. So they are pretty much telling me that myself or Santana Moss are going to have to go. I want people to know that I told Shanahan myself that I want to be a Redskin, but if I can’t then of course there are options I would like.”

2 » In the latest Rivals150 for the 2013 basketball recruiting class released on Monday, Florida gained a five-star commitment and top-10 overall prospect. Point guard Kasey Hill (Clermont, FL), listed as a four-star recruit and the No. 27 player overall a few weeks ago, has added another star to his designation and moved up 19 spots to No. 8 overall. Teammates with UF commitment and 2012 four-star shooting guard Michael Frazier (Clermont, FL) at both Montverde Academy and on the Florida Rams AAU team, Hill has been turning a lot of heads recently with his play.

3 » Speaking of basketball recruiting, the Gators are still waiting to hear a decision from five-star 2012 power forward Anthony Bennett (Henderson, NV), who is still meeting with coaches and taking visits before making a decision in early May. In the meantime, head coach Billy Donovan has been in hot pursuit of center Bradley Hayes (Jacksonville, FL). Unrated and raw, Hayes’s size (6’11”, 250 lbs.) and potential has intrigued Florida’s coach. The Gators have yet to offer him a scholarship as the team wants to hear a final decision before doing so, but it has been widely reported that Hayes likely favors staying in-state and playing for UF. He told SNY’s Adam Zagoria on Wednesday that Florida is in his final four along with Connecticut, Georgetown and Texas A&M. “I like their coach,” he said of the Gators. “I like coach straight up. He wants the best, and I want to be the best.” Donovan is set to watch Hayes play in Pittsburgh, PA over the weekend.

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Gaffney, Hill, Hayes, Spurrier, Meyer

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Gator Bites for Thursday, January 12th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» In a poll conducted by ESPN and calculated monthly, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow topped the December list as the United States’ favorite athlete. Tebow is “just the sixth different athlete to finish No. 1 in the monthly rankings since 2007” and, in the 18 years of the poll, only 11 different athletes have ever held that distinction.

» In addition to the Top 10 list OGGOA posted Wednesday from CBS’s the Late Show with David Letterman, Tebow was also brought up on TBS’s Conan. Host Conan O’Brien, claiming he was absent the budget to air actual game footage, had his staff put together a recreation of his game-winning play from Sunday…with peanuts replacing the players.

Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, January 12th

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Top 11 for 2011: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2011 (check out Friday’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 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 On the Field Moments of the Year.

11 » JOHNSON, BRANTLEY, KITCHENS SUFFER SCARY INJURIES
Plenty of Florida student-athletes suffered injuries in 2011 but three in particular caused fans to gasp and remain worried about the future of said player. Participating in the semifinals of the 2011 SEC Tournament, Gators baseball wound up dropping a close game 4-3 to Georgia, a loss that forced an elimination game which Florida would later win. However, UF sophomore right-handed pitcher Brian Johnson was taken off a stretcher in the top of the first inning after giving up two earned runs and accidentally being beaned in the back of the head with the baseball by sophomore catcher Mike Zunino. Trying to pick off a runner stealing second, Zunino got his leg tangled with the batter, tripped and flung the ball into the head of a crouching Johnson. He was quickly stabilized, brought to the hospital and deemed responsive though he had a massive headache and was diagnosed with a minor three concussion (no skull fractures or bleeding). Johnson missed the entire Gainesville Regional but returned to action in the Super Regional after being sidelined for more than two weeks.

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley was in the middle of playing the best game of his collegiate career (despite throwing a costly pick-six) when he went down with an ugly lower leg injury at the end of the first half against Alabama. Brantley had thrown a pretty 65-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose on the first play of the game and was in the middle of driving Florida in for another score before being sacked twice and having his lower leg contorted the second time. Brantley was nearly immediately ruled out of the team’s next game against powerhouse LSU with a high-ankle sprain, and UF was forced to start a true freshman who had not even taken a snap in the team’s first five games in consecutive road contests against LSU and Auburn. Needless to say, the Gators lost both of those contests.

Brantley was never the same after the injury. He nearly helped Florida beat Georgia but was pretty much immobilized in the pocket and threw three interceptions in the team’s first five possessions against Florida State before being knocked out of the game with a head injury that was equally painful to watch. However, that was not the Gators’ only major injury in that game. Perhaps the scariest incident of the year came on kickoff coverage when sophomore linebacker Darrin Kitchens was hit hard from his blindside and laid motionless on the field while trainers attended to him. To this day Kitchens does not remember anything about being hit. Lucky for him, he was cleared that evening with “just” a concussion, released from the hospital and allowed to return to practice with the team just before Christmas. He is expected to play in the 2012 Gator Bowl.

10 » LACROSSE WINS FIRST CONFERENCE TITLE, REACHES ELITE EIGHT

The Florida lacrosse program has been making history since the day it signed the nation’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class prior to the team’s inaugural season in 2010. The Gators were a young but talented group and won over the school even if falling short of some of their goals one year ago. Florida took the next step in 2011, ending the regular season with an 11-0 record at home and on a 13-game winning streak. The Gators capped their stellar regular season by defeating Northwestern for the 2011 ALC Championship just 419 days after the team played its first game in school history. Florida would fall to Northwestern just over three weeks later in the finals of the 2011 ALC Tournament, splitting the season’s conference title down the middle, but took home a number of awards from the league. Sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen won Player of the Year honors while head coach Amanda O’Leary was named Coach of the Year in just her second season. Two more players were All-ALC first team selections and three others earned spots on the second team. The ladies made it all the way to the Elite Eight of the 2011 NCAA Tournament as well before being taken down 13-9 by Duke, their only loss at home on the season. The Gators were the first program in the history of the sport to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament in only their second year of existence and defeated some of the top teams in the country on the way to an unforgettable season that sets Florida up as a favorite heading into 2012.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: On the Field Moments of the Year

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