Florida Gators gymnastics reaches Super Six, looks for second straight title

By Jordan McPherson — OnlyGators.com Contributor

Behind a strong all-around performance courtesy of senior Alaina Johnson (T-2nd, 39.600) — who finished with top-five scores on vault (T-5th, 9.900), uneven bars (T-2nd, 9.925) and balance beam (T-2nd, 9.900) —No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics advanced to the Super Six of the NCAA Championships for the third consecutive season and eighth time in the last nine years.

Florida posted a 197.650 in the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center to tie No. 4 Alabama for the top spot in Session II of the semifinals on Friday in Birmingham, AL.

No. 9 Nebraska finished third with a 197.100 to join Florida and Alabama in advancing to the Super Six over Utah (197.025), UCLA (197.000) and Penn State (194.825).

With the win, the Gators will look to defend their national title in Saturday’s Super Six with the field also comprised of Oklahoma, LSU and Georgia. Nebraska is the lone team in the field that did not compete in the 2013 NCAA Championships, when Florida became just the fifth team ever to win an NCAA national title in the sport.

UF competed in the Olympic rotation during its time in the semifinals. After posting its best mark of the season on vault (49.550) at the University Park Regional on April 5, Florida scored a 49.375 team score on the horse — the best team total in both semifinals — to begin competition in Birmingham.

The Gators then extended their lead by notching a 49.550 on bars, the program’s highest total at the NCAA Championships and the fourth-best score in NCAA Semifinals history. Sophomore Bridget Sloan (9.950) posted the highest score on the event, while Johnson (9.925), senior Mackenzie Caquatto (9.925) and sophomore Bridgette Caquatto (9.900) all had big outings to help UF expand its lead.

After taking a .200 advantage over second-place UA halfway through the competition, Florida struggled on beam, earning a 49.300. Sloan fell for the second consecutive meet after checking her balance twice, resulting in a career-low score on 9.200 on Friday for the All-American. The miscue also took her out of contention for the All-Around award.

Despite Sloan’s stumble, Mackenzie Caquatto and Johnson kept the Gators afloat by posting 9.900s on beam while Claire Boyce and junior Kytra Hunter scored 9.850s.

With just one event remaining, Florida rebounded on the floor routine, scoring a 49.425.

After posting sub-9.900 scores all evening, Hunter — who scored four perfect 10s on the floor this season — tied with Boyce and Sloan for a team-best 9.900 to cap the event for UF. Hunter finished with a 39.475 all-around, tying for the eighth-best total in Session II.

NCAA Super Six competition begins Saturday at 7 p.m. and will air live ESPN3.com.

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4 BITS: Every, women’s basketball, gymnastics

1 » Former Florida Gators golfer Matt Every on Sunday clinched his first-ever PGA Tour victory, winning the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, FL. Every, whose third-round 66 vaulted him into the lead, finished -13 for the tournament and edged Keegan Bradley by a single stroke. The victory results in him receiving earnings of $1.12 million (more than he has made in the rest of his career, combined), 500 FedEx Cup points and an automatic qualification to the 2014 Masters in April. A native of Daytona Beach, FL, Every played at Bay Hill dozens of times throughout his life and long dreamed of winning a PGA Tour event at the course, which is located about an hour from where he grew up.

At Florida from 2003-06, Every was a four-time All-American and three-time first-team All-SEC selection. He is the second former Gators golfer to capture a PGA Tour event title in as many years after Billy Horschel won the 2013 Zurich Classic last April.

Continue Reading » 4 BITS: Every, women’s basketball, gymnastics

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FOUR BITS: Powell, Yeguete, gymnastics, Prather

1 » Florida Gators linebacker Ronald Powell has been listed as one of the “most controversial prospects” in the 2014 NFL Draft by new NFL Media draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki. “Had his tires pumped since high school — entitlement was an issue as a young player and his personality could rub some people the wrong way,” writes Nawrocki. “Has developmental value as a stand-up rush linebacker, but must dedicate himself to the craft and realize he’s no longer the big man on campus.” Deadspin.com points out that Nawrocki is a former Pro Football Weekly senior editor who is notoriously known as the analyst that said Cam Newton had a “fake smile” and considers himself a “straight shooter” by delivering harsh criticisms that may not always be accurate. In the case of Powell, he admitted at times over the last two seasons that he felt entitled as a freshman, but his Florida teammates and coaches have done nothing but rave about him since.

2 » Well-known is the relationship between Gators senior basketball forwards Will Yeguete and Patric Young with four-year-old Kaedyn Ballew, a cancer patient the two met in the hospital last year. Inside Gator Basketball, a weekly show hosted by Mick Hubert with head coach Billy Donovan as a guest, aired this package over the weekend. It takes a closer look at Yeguete’s relationship with Ballew.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Powell, Yeguete, gymnastics, Prather

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Hunter perfect again; No. 2 Florida tops No. 1 OU

Junior Kytra Hunter did it again.

For the second time in as many meets, Hunter stepped onto the mat with poise, held her head high, took a deep breath and put together a flawless turn at the floor exercise. The result was the same, too: perfection.

Led by Hunter’s 10.0, No. 2 Florida Gators gymnastics (4-0, 2-0 SEC) shut down the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners (3-1, 1-1 Big 12) on Friday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville FL, defeating its third ranked and second top-five opponent in four meets this season.

Just one week after Hunter and sophomore Bridget Sloan, the last two defending champions in the NCAA All-Around respectively in 2012 and 2013, posted back-to-back 10.0s on floor, the duo came close to replicating their effort.

First up was Sloan. She failed in her charge, picking up a measly 9.950 after her routine rocked the O’Dome. Little did her teammates, coaches or the fans in attendance know what would come next from Hunter.

Continue Reading » Hunter perfect again; No. 2 Florida tops No. 1 OU

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Perfect Sloan, Hunter push Florida past Georgia

Sophomore Bridget Sloan and junior Kytra Hunter scored perfect 10s on consecutive floor exercise routines Friday night, helping No. 3 Florida Gators gymnastics set a program record in the event on its way to a 198.05-196.70 victory over the No. 6 Georgia Gym Dogs at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida (3-0, 2-0 SEC) beat its third-straight ranked opponent to open the season. The defending national champions routed Georgia (2-3, 1-0 SEC) due in large part to its 49.875 on floor, the highest combined point total ever scored by the team in that rotation. Its 198.05 final score also marked the fifth-highest total in program history.

According to the Gators, Sloan and Hunter each posted 10s on floor for the first time in their collegiate careers; the scores were just the third and fourth 10s registered on floor in team history. It was the first time two Florida gymnasts registered 10s in the same meet and/or same event since 1996 as well as the first time ever for both scores to be posted in the floor rotation. Additionally, no two UF gymnasts had ever scored 10s on floor in the same season, let alone the same meet.

Continue Reading » Perfect Sloan, Hunter push Florida past Georgia

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2014 Florida Gators gymnastics primer: Repeat?

By Scott Barr – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Coming off last season’s historic performance, which included the first NCAA Championship in program history and its second overall national championship (1982 – NAIA), No. 4 Florida Gators gymnastics team opens the 2014 season seeking to defend the title they and head coach Rhonda Faehn worked so hard to achieve.

Florida, which became just the fifth team in NCAA history to win the national title in 31 years, opened its 2014 schedule last Saturday with a tight 196.650-196.625 victory on the road against then-No. 4 UCLA, a perennial power in the sport. UF will travel to Auburn this Friday for its first Southeastern Conference meet of the season.

The Gators schedule is always supremely challenging and 2014 is no different with home meets against three teams that competed at in the 2013 NCAA Championship: Oklahoma (second), Georgia (sixth) and Arkansas (10th). Road meets include the win over UCLA and a meet against rival and 2012 national title-winner Alabama (third in 2013).

This challenging schedule provides Florida with an excellent opportunity to measure itself against top-notch competition as it prepares to defend its crown.

Continue Reading » 2014 Florida Gators gymnastics primer: Repeat?

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FOUR BITS: lacrosse, tennis, Moss, Sloan

1 » After having just player receive an individual honor in 2012, Florida Gators lacrosse swept the positional awards and took home a major coaching honor from the American Lacrosse Conference in 2013. Seniors Kitty Cullen (Offensive Player of the Year), Sam Farrell (Defensive Player of the Year), Brittany Dashiell (Midfielder of the Year) and Mikey Meagher (Goalie of the Year) each won the individual awards while head coach Amanda O’Leary was named Coach of the Year. Florida also saw five players – the aforementioned plus sophomore Shannon Gilroy named to the All-ALC First Team – with senior Ashley Bruns and senior Emily Dohony earning Second Team honors. Next up for the Gators is the 2013 ALC Tournament, which starts for Florida in the semifinals on Friday at 4 p.m.

2 » No. 1 Gators women’s tennis (22-2) was named the top overall seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and will host first- and second-round action in Gainesville, FL from May 11-12 as it looks to advance to the NCAA Round of 16. Florida opens up against Marist College (11-7) in the first round and will face the winner of No. 22 Georgia Tech (14-9) vs. No. 37 Yale (17-3). This will be the 15th consecutive year that UF is hosting the opening rounds of the tournament. Also announced this week were the three women’s tennis players who have earned the opportunity to compete for the 2013 NCAA Singles Championship; competition begins at the conclusion of the team tournament. Senior Lauren Embree (No. 1 overall seed), junior Alex Cercone and junior Sofie Oyen will all play in the 64-player draw with Embree and Oyen also teaming up for the 32-team 2013 NCAA Doubles Championship tournament.

Read two more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: lacrosse, tennis, Moss, Sloan

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History is made as Florida Gators gymnastics rallies to win program’s first NCAA Championship

By Corey Mitleider and Scott Barr – OGGOA Contributors

WEEKEND: Tennis wins SEC Tournament, again | Lacrosse routs Northwestern

A devastating start to the NCAA Super Six made it look as if No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics was going to fall short of its lofty goals yet again. Instead, an incredible rally by a tough and determined team led Florida to a come-from-behind victory and the 2013 NCAA Championship, the first in the history of the program.

The Gators became just the fifth team in NCAA history to win a national title in gymnastics, doing so Saturday at UCLA’s home gym, the Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, CA. UF joined Alabama, Georgia, UCLA and Utah as the only programs to win a national championship in the last 32 years.

Florida finished with a final score of 197.575, defeating Oklahoma (197.375), Alabama (197.350), UCLA (197.100), LSU (197.050) and Georgia (196.675) to claim the school’s second national title in gymnastics. UF previously won the AIWA title in 1982.

Despite emerging victorious on Saturday, the Gators trailed through the first five rotations of the meet due to a terrible start on balance beam to open the competition. Even though Florida was the top-ranked team heading into the Super Six, UF did not compete in the Olympic rotation order, instead beginning on beam, followed with a bye, then floor exercise, vault, a second bye, and finishing on uneven bars.

The Gators registered their third-lowest score of the season on beam; considering the stakes and the competition, it made an elusive national title appear completely out of reach just one rotation into the competition.

Continue Reading » History is made as Florida Gators gymnastics rallies to win program’s first NCAA Championship

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