Volleyball tops Illinois 3-2, advances to Elite Eight

By Eden Otero – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 8 Florida Gators volleyball earned a hard-fought 3-2 win over the No. 9 Illinois Illini on Friday evening in the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2011.

Florida (28-3) led early but eventually fell behind and was forced to come back from one set down to take down Illinois (26-8) in Ames, Iowa.

OnlyGators.com breaks down the victory with five quick-hitters.

It was over when: After blowing consecutive match points and finding itself even with Illinois at 14-14 in the fifth and final set, Florida won back-to-back points to clinch the come-from-behind victory. A quick block by sophomore middle blocker Shainah Joseph, followed by a solid set from junior Mackenzie Dagostino led to a match-winning spike by sophomore Alex Holston, allowing eight-seed UF to pull out the hard-fought win.

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Florida volleyball rolling as it enters Sweet 16

By Eden Otero – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 8 Florida Gators volleyball (27-3, 18-0 SEC) has rolled through the 2014 season and found plenty of success, including the 2014 Southeastern Conference Championship. As Florida approaches the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament and a showdown with the No. 9 Illinois Illini (26-7) on Friday, let’s take a look back at the ups and downs of Gators volleyball this season.

Non-conference play: Head coach Mary Wise set up a purposely tough non-conference schedule to her team prepare for the rigors of the NCAA Tournament. Before league play began, four of the nine opponents the Gators faced were top-20 teams, including USC, San Diego, Texas and Florida State. UF swept both USC and San Diego but lost in five and four sets, respectively, to Florida State and Texas. Wise said that Florida ultimately benefited from the tough slate as the players were given the chance to learn from their mistakes, which hopefully would not be repeated when in the tournament.

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Florida baseball back to .500 as bats go cold

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Playing an extended weekend schedule that likely felt like postseason play, Florida Gators baseball has likely come to the realization that seeing its season go beyond 56 games will be a difficult task going forward.

Florida (6-6), which hosted a double round-robin tournament featuring the Illinois Illini (6-6) and FGCU Eagles (6-4) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL from Thursday-Sunday, came away from the event winning just one of four games.

The event opened with a pitching duel between Gators freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore and Eagles righty Michael Murray. Shore (6.0 IP, 6 H, 7 K) had a strong outing but unluckily got the call to be on the mound during a contest in which his teammates were struggling mightily both at the plate and on the field.

Florida committed a season-high four errors, allowing two unearned runs to score, and failed to provide Shore with any run support. UF had its best shot to tie game in the bottom of the eighth with one out and runners on second and third but only managed one run – a two-out RBI single from freshman catcher Braden Mattson (1/3, RBI) – to fall 2-1 in the opener.

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FOUR BITS: Donovan, volleyball, Zook, WBK

1 » Though it has been airing all season on FOX Sports Florida, a new commercial featuring Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan may have eluded some of you unable to view the game. In the spot, Donovan is doing a mock press conference praising the different offerings from Florida Gulf Seafood. It’s well-worth a view.

2 » No. 17 Florida volleyball (24-5) was selected to be a participant in the 2011 NCAA Tournament when the seedings were announced Sunday. UF will take on Missouri in the tournament’s first round on Dec. 2 in Cedar Falls, IA, marking the 21st consecutive year that the Gators have earned their way into the championship event. Florida will enter the NCAA Tournament on a seven-match winning streak including five sweeps.

3 » Former Gators head coach Ron Zook, who has led the Illinois Illini for the last seven years, was fired by his employer on Sunday after his team lost six-straight games to close the 2011 season. Illinois’ epic collapse came after the Illini began the year 6-0 and Zook looked poised to return his team to heights it had last reached during the 2007-08 season. Illinois finished under .500 in five of Zook’s seven seasons at the helm; he left the Illini with a 34-51 record but will receive a $2.6 million buyout for his services.

4 » Gators women’s basketball (5-1) captured its fifth-straight victory on Saturday after defeating the La Salle Explorers and Charlotte 49ers in consecutive days at the Courtyard LaGuardia Turkey Classic in Brooklyn, NY. Florida topped La Salle 85-74 on Friday behind a career-high 28 points from redshirt senior guard Jordan Jones, who hit 9-of-18 shots, 6-of-12 attempts from downtown and all four of her free throws. Junior forward Jennifer George added a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 80 percent from the field. UF kept their momentum going Saturday with a 82-73 victory over Charlotte including a 48-point second half. Senior G Lanita Bartley scored a career-high 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting with seven boards, while George came close to her third-straight double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Florida will take on Belmont at home on Tuesday before beginning a three-game road trip.

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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!
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SIX BITS: SEC titles, softball sweep, gymnastics

1 » No. 3 Florida Gators women’s track and field won the 2010 Southeastern Conference Indoor Championship Sunday, its first since the 2004 season. Scoring 110 total points, the team was led by junior Charlotte Browning and senior Shara Proctor, who were named co-winners of the Cliff Harper Trophy for the SEC’s high-points scorer. The men’s team finished second at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, AR, as the home team Arkansas Razorbacks beat them out for the men’s crown 123-119. Both the women’s and men’s teams also captured numerous individual SEC titles over the weekend.

2 » No. 3/11 Gators softball (12-1) swept the Northwestern State Lady Demons (8-5) 15-0, 5-0 and 10-1 over the weekend at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Sophomore outfielder Michelle Moultrie powered Florida’s offense by going 5-8 (.625) with a double, triple, home run and six RBI, while junior OF Kelsey Bruder joined her with similar 5-8 performance for four runs, two homers, six RBI and 11 total bases. Junior pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (10-1) won each game of the series, striking out a combined 13 and only allowing three walks.

Read four more BITS on gymnastics, lacrosse, men’s tennis and Senior Day…
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