Florida lacrosse ends second season with 13-9 home loss to Duke in NCAA Elite Eight

A dream season for the young No. 4 Florida Gators lacrosse team (16-4) came to an end in the Elite Eight round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament on Saturday as the second-year program was defeated 13-9 by the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils (15-4) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

The 2011 ALC regular season champions, Florida became the first program in the history of the sport to earn a berth in the NCAAs in only its second year of existence. The Gators defeated some of the top teams in the country this season, had a 14-game winning streak at one point and were undefeated at home until their loss to the Blue Devils on Saturday.

Florida scored right out of the gate, taking a 1-0 lead as sophomore attacker/midfielder Kitty Cullen put one in the net off an assist from sophomore A Ashley Bruns. However, Duke responded with a 6-2 run and led 6-3 at the half, forcing UF to face its second-largest deficit of the season.

The Gators came out of the break on fire. Bruns scored via an assist from Cullen less than a minute into the second half, and the team took off on a 6-2 run of their own to retake the lead 9-8 with 17:26 remaining in the contest. Cullen added her second goal of the game and M Janine Hillier scored back-to-back goals at the end of the run.

Florida looked to be in control of the match at that point, but Duke would have none of it. The Blue Devils tied the game 9-9 at 14:16, took the lead at 13:13 and ran nine minutes off of the clock before scoring again with 4:13 left. The Gators failed to control the ball in the waning minutes, allowing Duke to score twice more, end the match on a 5-0 scoring run and advance to the Final Four.

The loss was Florida’s third in the month of May; the team had not dropped a single game after falling to North Carolina in their season opener back in February. The Gators lost their regular season finale 9-6 to Cornell on May 1 and fell 10-9 to Northwestern in the 2011 ALC Tournament Championship on May 7.

UF will remain intact heading into the 2012 season as the young team is composed of one junior, 16 sophomores, four redshirt freshmen and six true freshmen.

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Florida lacrosse tops Stanford 13-11 in NCAAs

The first program in the history of the sport to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament in only its second year of existence, No. 4 Florida Gators lacrosse (16-3) defeated the Stanford Cardinal (16-3) 13-11 on Saturday evening in the first round of the 2011 event at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Led by sophomores attacker Kitty Cullen and midfielder Janine Hillier, who had four goals apiece, Florida went back-and-forth with Stanford after multiple weather delays that pushed the start time back to 6 p.m.

The Gators jumped ahead 4-0 less than six minutes into the game, but the Cardinal evened things up with a 4-0 run spanning 17:55. Hillier snuck a goal in via an assist from sophomore M Brittany Dashiell to put UF ahead 5-4 going into the break.

Florida took a three-goal lead with scores from Hillier and Dashiell in the first minute of the second half, but another 4-0 run by Stanford gave them an 8-7 advantage.

After Dashiel tied things up for the Gators with 20:01 to play, the Cardinal went back on top 9-8. Florida outscored Stanford 5-2 over the final 16:45 of the game to prevail, running out the final 10:15 after Cullen scored the team’s final goal.

UF advances to face the winner of No. 5 Duke/Pennsylvania in NCAA Tournament second-round action on Sat., May 21 at 3:00 p.m. The University of Florida will once again host the contest.

OGGOA EXTRA: 2011 NCAA Tournament Bracket (PDF)

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Florida lacrosse falls in 2011 ALC Championship

In only their second year of existence, No. 4 Florida Gators lacrosse was hoping to do the unthinkable, not only win the American Lacrosse Conference regular season crown but also take home the 2011 ALC Championship by sweeping through the tournament in which they earned the No. 1 overall seed. Instead Florida (15-3, 5-0 ALC) fell 10-9 on Saturday to the No. 2-seed and No. 3-ranked Northwestern Wildcats (17-2, 3-2 ALC), who they defeated 13-11 just three weeks earlier.

Squaring off at the VU Lacrosse Complex in Nashville, TN, the Gators hoped to knock the Wildcats off their pedestal. Since the tournament began, Northwestern has been the only victors, and Florida failed in their opportunity to take the crown.

Up three goals, 8-5, with 13:17 remaining, the Gators allowed the Wildcats to go on a 5-0 scoring run to jump ahead 10-8 with 2:22 left on the clock. Sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns scored unassisted with 1:25 to go, but an illegal stick call seconds later took the next possession out of Florida’s hands and allowed Northwestern to hold on for victory.

Sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen, one of the best players in the country and Florida’s leading scorer, was held without a goal and only notched a single point on an assist. Sophomore A Caroline Chesterman led the Gators with three goals, while Bruns and sophomore M Brittany Dashiell each scored a pair of goals.

The Wildcats were led by M Shannon Smith, who scored five goals and delivered two assists for a game-high seven points.

With Northwestern now in their rear view mirror, Florida looks ahead to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. They were awarded the No. 4 overall seed during the NCAA Selection Show Sunday evening and are set to host Stanford in first-round action.

Whether visiting a lacrosse store or even the official Gator SportShop on campus, there is plenty of fantastic Orange & Blue gear that fans can wear to support the team both on campus or on the road. Support the Gators!

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FOUR BITS: Brantley; lacrosse wins big awards

1 » Taking a second look at spring practices across the country, ESPN Insider’s KC Joyner has come to a conclusion that may surprise some Florida Gators fans: redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley played well. Here is what he saw by watching the film. To read the rest of The Football Scientist’s observations, click here (subscription req.).

It might seem a bit odd to be touting Brantley after a 4-for-14, 45-yard performance in the Orange and Blue game, but consider this: In a three-game sample review of Brantley’s 2010 season, he threw a stretch vertical pass (defined as thrown 20 or more yards downfield) only 5 percent of the time. This is a very low number and indicates the Gators were not very effective at even threatening the long pass.

In the spring game, four of Brantley’s aerials fell under the “stretch vertical” designation and one would have been completed for 40 yards had it not been for a very good defensive play. Brantley also did not force any of these downfield passes into coverage, so the downside on these throws was limited. It bodes well for what the Florida vertical game will be able to do in 2011 — not just for Brantley and Charlie Weis’ new downfield passing game, but for the playmakers in the Gators’ running game as well.

2 » No. 2/3 Florida lacrosse (14-2, 5-0 ALC) is getting prepared for the 2011 ALC Tournament set to begin on Thursday, but in the meantime the conference announced its awards on Tuesday and honored seven different Gators. Florida sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen was named Player of the Year and head coach Amanda O’Leary earned Coach of the Year honors. Also singled out by the conference were All-ALC First Team members Cullen, sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns and sophomore defender Sam Farrell as well as Second Team members sophomore M Janine Hillier, sophomore D Haydon Judge and sophomore goalkeeper Mikey Meagher.

3 » Moving on with his professional career, Gators forward Chandler Parsons is currently working out in Los Angeles, CA and training for camps that he will compete in prior to the 2011 NBA Draft on June 23. The University of Florida’s website caught up with him to pick his brain on a number of topics including the realization that his college career has come to an end. “I can’t believe how fast everything went, it feels like I was just a freshman and now I’m graduated and trying to make a career out this,” he said. “It was a great experience; my time at UF was the best four years of my life. The relationships with my teammates and coaches, the entire staff, those memories will last a lifetime. […] A lot of people look at the NBA Draft night as an end point. For me it’s just a starting point. I know I have things to work on, but I’ve gotten good feedback from people, I’m going to work as hard as I can and do everything possible over these six weeks or so to put myself in the best position.”

4 » Another Gator has had a run-in with the law, but this one went head-on with an Alachua County deputy police officer.

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No. 6 Gators lacrosse makes history with 13-11 win over No. 2 Wildcats to win first ALC title

In only the program’s second season, No. 6 Florida Gators lacrosse (13-1, 4-0 ALC) made history by defeating the No. 2 Northwestern Wildcats (12-1, 2-1 ALC) 13-11 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL to capture at least a share of the 2011 ALC Regular Season Championship and the top seed in the 2011 ALC Tournament.

Florida accomplished this feat in front of the second-largest crowd in school history (1,518) just 419 days after beginning their inaugural season while continuing a 13-game winning streak and concluding the regular season an undefeated 11-0 at home.

Gators sophomore attacker and the nation’s leading scorer, Kitty Cullen registered six goals on the evening including a hat trick in each half. She was responsible for three of Florida’s four second-half goals on the way to a signature win for the program.

The Gators started out hot, scoring five-straight goals (including three from Cullen) to take an early 5-1 lead after Wildcats A Erin Fitzgerald notched the contest’s opening score. Florida kept the pressure on Northwestern through the first half, leading 9-4 at the break after sophomore Caroline Chesterman scored with 26 seconds left.

The five-goal deficit was the Wildcats’ largest of the season; Northwestern had only been down at the half on one other occasion all year.

The Wildcats were intense coming out of the locker rooms, with Fitzgerald once again scoring the half’s first goal. She was followed by a pair of scores, giving Northwestern three goals in under two minutes and leaving UF with a quickly reduced 9-7 lead.

Still up two goals, the Gators used a pair of free position shots from Cullen to jump ahead 12-8 with 14:44 left in the game. The Wildcats responded with three more goals to cut their deficit to 12-11 with 6:37 remaining on the clock.

Cullen would have none of it, hitting an unassisted goal with 5:35 to go to give Florida the 13-11 lead that would end the game. Supporting her team-high six goals were scores from Chesterman (three), sophomore Brittany Dashiell (three), sophomore A Ashley Bruns (two) and sophomore A Janine Hillier (two).

“I was just screaming, ‘Oh my God, we just won.’ It was so exciting,’’ Cullen said. “I’m so happy for me and my team. I wouldn’t want to share this with anyone else. This is what we’ve worked so hard for day in and day out.’’

The reigning ALC Defensive Player of the Week, goalkeeper Mikey Meagher was clutch the entire game, saving 10 shots including two in the final minutes with the Gators shorthanded due to a pair of yellow cards given out by the referees. She did not allow the opponent to score a single goal off a turnover and ensured her team was a perfect 22-for-22 on clearances away from the net.

The loss was Northwestern’s first in 2011 and first in the regular season since 2004. Florida never trailed after scoring their first goal and won the turnover battle 10-13.

Leading a team of 20 sophomores, six freshman and only one junior, UF head coach Amanda O’Leary was understandably emotional after the program-defining victory.

“We’re just so excited,” she said with a smile. “I have chills, goosebumps…I just couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished tonight. We stayed focused when they went on runs. We didn’t let down. The team we are today is certainly not the team who played Northwestern last year.”

The Gators were shelled 19-5 in Evanston, IL one year ago, a win the Wildcats used to help propel them deep into the ALC Tournament. This year is Florida’s turn to capitalize. UF will face Vanderbilt (Apr. 17) and Cornell (May 1) before heading to Nashville, TN to begin the three-day event on May 5.

Photo Credit: Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun

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FOUR BITS: lacrosse, softball, Andrews, Jenkins

1 » The biggest game in the two-year history of University of Florida lacrosse is set for Thursday evening as the No. 6 Florida Gators (12-1, 3-0 ALC) put their 12-game winning streak on the line against the No. 2 Northwestern Wildcats at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Led by sophomore attacker Kitty Cullen, who is tops in the nation in goals (61) and goals per game (4.69), Florida is undefeated (10-0) at home this season and will square off against Northwestern for the No. 1 seed in the 2011 American Lacrosse Conference Tournament. The Gators fell to the Wildcats 19-5 in 2010 but are playing much better in their second season, outscoring opponents 186-95 since losing their season-opening match to No. 3 North Carolina in overtime.

2 » In a game that was rumored to mark the return of senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher, No. 10 Florida softball didn’t end up needing their ace as they routed the Florida International Panthers 8-0 in a run-ruled six innings. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (20-5) has gotten back into stride after two weeks of rough outings. She pitched a complete game and struck out nine batters while only allowing a pair of hits. Senior second baseman Aja Paculba (1-3, 3 RBI) put the game away with a big double in the fourth, but the Gators also received solid offensive contributions from senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (1-2, HR, RBI, R, BB), sophomore pinch hitter Samantha Holle (1-1, HR 2 RBI, R), freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, 2 R, BB) and sophomore designated player Kelsey Horton (1-2, RBI, R).

3 » ESPN announced a new set of endorsement guidelines on Wednesday and, based on the language of the memo, former Florida dazzler and network reporter Erin Andrews will be forced to end her deal promoting Reebok’s ZigTech line of shoes and apparel. According to the guidelines, “Any endorsement related to apparel, footwear or athletic equipment used for training, playing or participating in any sport or event ESPN may cover including the companies that manufacture and distribute any such material” are “subject to strict review and a strong presumption that they will not be approved.” The Oregonian reports that Andrews will be allowed to continue her endorsement of the brand through 2011 but forced to end it on Jan. 1.

4 » Gators senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins has been named to the 2011 Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list, as announced by the organization on Wednesday. The Lott Trophy recognizes “student-athletes throughout the nation who have had the biggest impact on their teams both on and off the field.” Linebacker A.J. Jones represented Florida on 2010’s watch list.

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SIX BITS: swimming, Gal, gym, tennis, lacrosse

1 » During the 2011 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on Friday, the Florida Gators men’s team brought home a pair of National Championships. Competing in Minneapolis, MN, senior Brett Fraser captured the national title in the 200-yard freestyle. He was also part of the four-man team – including senior Conor Dwyer, junior Jeffrey Raymond and sophomore Sebastien Rousseau – that won the championship in the 800-yard freestyle relay.

2 » Former Florida golfer Sandra Gal picked up the first LPGA victory of her career on Sunday, winning the Kia Classic and $255,000. She finished at a 16-under 276 and won on the 18th and final hole on Sunday. “I’m a bit overwhelmed,” she said after the win. “you know, it was close all day long, so I had to kind of dig deep to pull out some shots. I’m just happy to have finally done it. I had a good feeling about today when I woke up.”

3 » Gators gymnastics was honored Wednesday when a number of players were awarded with spots on 2011 All-Southeastern Conference teams. junior Ashanée Dickerson and freshman Alaina Johnson earned First Team recognition, while junior Nicole Ellis, senior Alicia Goodwin, sophomore Marissa King and senior Maranda Smith were named to the Second Team. Johnson also picked up a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. Joining her with an overall honor was Rhonda Faehn, who won her second-straight SEC Coach of the Year award. It is the fourth of her career.

4 » No. 1 Florida women’s tennis continued their march to the postseason with a pair of impressive shutout victories over the weekend. The Gators (17-1, 6-0 SEC) took down the Ole Miss Rebels (8-6, 1-4 SEC) 7-0 on Friday and the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-10, 0-6 SEC) 7-0 on Sunday.

5 » Following suit was No. 19 Florida men’s tennis (12-5, 5-1 SEC), which took down Mississippi State (9-6, 4-2 SEC) in a 4-3 nail biter on Saturday. With the match tied, No. 6 senior Alexandre Lacroix took No. 84 Artem Ilyushin into a third-set tie breaker to pull out the victory. Lacroix won 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(5) to give UF its eighth 4-3 finish.

6 » No. 9 Gators lacrosse (10-1, 1-0 ALC) continued its spectacular sophomore season on Saturday, taking down the Ohio State Buckeyes (5-4, 0-1 ALC) 10-8 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Ohio State actually outscored Florida 5-3 in the second period but was unable to overcome UF’s 7-3 first-period advantage. Sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen, on her way to likely earning conference and perhaps national honors this season, scored six goals on 11 shots for the Gators. She now has a team-high 49 goals and 53 points on the season.

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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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