TWO BITS: Gators soccer, Florida All-Access

1 » The No. 8 women’s soccer team opened up the 2014-15 athletic season for the Florida Gators on Friday with a dominant 3-0 win over the in-state rival Miami Hurricanes at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. Senior forward Jillian Graff scored two goals, the first in the eighth minute of the contest, and sophomore F Savannah Jordan added one of her own to fuel the victory. The match marked the first in Florida’s 20th season of women’s soccer, each of which has been led by head coach Becky Burleigh. The Gators have won seven of the last eight Southeastern Conference regular-season titles and were predicted by the league’s coaches to finish on top of the SEC once again this year.

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Gators soccer notches upset, volleyball sweeps

Florida Gators soccer, coming off a disappointing loss to open the season that dropped the team out of the top 25, rebounded in a major way over the weekend while playing a pair of matches on the road in Chapel Hill, NC.

After fighting tooth-and-nail with the No. 19 North Carolina Tar Heels (0-1-1) on Friday in what would ultimately end up as a scoreless draw following two overtimes, Florida (1-1-1) came back from two goals down to pull off an impressive 3-2 upset of the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils (3-1) in overtime on Sunday.

The Gators trailed by two goals early in the contest, allowing Blue Devils midfielder Gilda Doria (10’) and Cassie Pecht (29’) to find the back of the net. Florida would cut their deficit in half just 10 minutes later as sophomore forward Jillian Graff kicked in a pass from sophomore midfielder Havana Solaun at 39’.

UF knotted the match at 65’ thanks to a bit of luck after a corner kick by senior MF/F Erika Tymrak deflected off a Duke player and was scored as an own goal.

The two teams held even through the end of regulation, but the Gators would come out on top just minutes into extra time when Tyrak once again came through in the clutch by booing the golden goal off a pass from redshirt senior F/MF McKenzie Barney.

Florida is now riding a wave of momentum into Friday’s road match against No. 3 Florida State, which is set to air at 7 p.m. live on ESPN3.com. The Gators will follow that up with two home games before beginning league play on Sept. 14.

No. 18 Florida volleyball (3-0) may not have had been faced with the same challenges that their soccer counterparts were, but the Gators were equally impressive while hosting the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational from Aug. 24-25 in Gainesville, FL.

The Gators swept all three of their weekend opponents, picking up consecutive 3-0 victories over the Florida International Panthers (0-1), Florida A&M Rattlers (0-2) and Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (2-1) over the course of two days.

Junior middle back Chloe Mann (42 kills, 48 points) led the way for Florida with averages of 14 kills and 16 points over the three contests. Joining her with impressive performances of their own were freshman outside hitters Ziva Recek (29 kills, 30 points) and Berkley Whaley (21 kills, 27.5 points).

Gigi Meyer, the daughter of former UF head coach Urban Meyer and a member of the FGCU volleyball team, competed in the event as well. She registered 60 assists over her team’s three matches (10 against Florida).

Next up for the Gators is the Nike Big Four Classic from Aug. 31-Sept. 1 in University Park, PA. Florida will take on No. 2 Texas and No. 6 Stanford in the two-day event.

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FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Black, Hill, soccer commits

1 » Florida Gators center Mike Pouncey has heard the doubters, but he is steadfast in believing a few things: (1) he’s better than his brother, (2) staying another year at UF had a positive affect on him and (3) he will be drafted higher than No. 18 overall [where the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Maurkice Pouncey in 2010]. “I think I block in the open field better, but like I said, we’re the same player,” Mike quipped during the media session at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. He also told CBS’s Len Pasquarelli that not being picked before his brother would cause him great anxiety. “I won’t sleep, man, if I don’t go higher than he did,” he said. “I mean, I came back to [the Gators] for a reason. It’s not like we have a bet or anything. He keeps saying, like, ‘OK, you can go 19th [overall]. That would really be good.’ But I want to be higher, if possible. That would be good, too.” Pouncey also discussed his early season struggles. “There was a lot of [focus] on the bad shotgun snaps at the beginning of the year,” he noted. “But things got a lot better as the year went on. And people were looking at one or two snaps out of the 70 that I played, and making a judgment on them. Scouts, they’re looking at all 70 plays and grading them. Judge me on a whole game. I think I can play.”

2 » Florida safety Ahmad Black is sick of having his size criticized, especially when scouts only have positive things to say about all of his other attributes. Nevertheless, he has not let the insults get him down and continues to push ahead toward his goal of starting in an NFL secondary sooner than later. “It’s frustrating,” he said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “At the end of the day, it’s about making plays, You’ve got the big guy that’s fast and can make plays and you just want to make more plays than that guy. I get to the ball, I’m fast. At the end of the day, I get what they’re saying. But can he make plays or can he not? That’s how I live. Teams may pass on me because of my size, but the team that picks me up will definitely have something good.”

3 » Black was not the only Gators safety to depart this season; junior Will Hill left a year early to pursue his dream of playing football professionally while providing for his family. Before the combine, Hill was the subject of a feature story by the Newark Star-Ledger. In it he noted that he was concerned with how teams perceived his character. “How are they going to judge me as a person, see me as a person?” Hill said. “Character issues are a big thing in the NFL and that can make or break you, so that’s the biggest pressure.” The writer speaks with a number of people close to Hill to get a fuller picture about the type of person he is both on and off the field. The paper also spoke with ESPN’s Todd McShay, who had this to say about Hill’s future:

“He’s going to be asked a lot of questions. He’s going to have to answer them sincerely and NFL teams are going to have to feel comfortable with him. When you’re one of the top 30, 40, 50 players, teams are going to overlook more than when it comes to guys who are somewhere in the 100s, 150-250 overall — it’s like anything in life. And with Will Hill, obviously, there are some of those questions.”

4 » Florida soccer, which finished the 2010 season ranked No. 12 in the country and No. 1 in the SEC, announced Monday that 13 players will be joining the team as part of the 2011 recruiting class. Joining the Gators in the fall are forwards Tessa Andujar (San Clemente, CA) and Jillian Graff (Medina, OH); defenders Savannah Berry (Encinitas, CA), Annie Bobbitt (Fleming Island, FL), Kim Sapienza (Gainesville, FL), Lauren Silver (Delray Beach, FL) and Taylor Thigpen (Jacksonville, FL); midfielders Lindsey Cooper (Seminole, FL), Katrina Gutsche (Valrico, FL), Jennifer Larrick (Westford, MA), Havana Solaun (Gainesville, FL) and Annie Speese (Augusta, GA); and goalkeeper Taylor Burke (Medina, OH). Cooper is the sister of former Gators star wide receiver Riley Cooper, and Burke signed her National Letter of Intent with the track & field team so she will not count against soccer’s scholarship limit. For more information on the newest Florida student-athletes, click here.

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