SIX BITS: soccer-NCAA, volleyball-SEC, Whitson

1 » Opening up the 2010 NCAA Tournament at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL, on Friday, No. 5 Florida Gators soccer (19-2-2, 9-1-1 SEC) scorched the Mercer Bears (10-9-1, 7-3 A-Sun) 3-0. Redshirt sophomore midfielder McKenzie Barney (15’, 73’) and junior MF/forward Tahnai Annis (48’) scored Florida’s three goals as the Gators out-shot the Bears 16-7. Unfortunately…

2 » Florida was not so fortunate in second-round action, taking the Duke Blue Devils (11-7-4, 7-3 ACC) into penalty kicks after the teams were held scoreless through regulation and two overtimes. In PKs, the Gators (19-2-3, 9-1-1 Sec) fell to the Blue Devils 4-2. Duke made all of its attempts while Florida only received goals from Barney and redshirt senior goalkeeper Katie Fraine with Annis’ saved and junior F Lindsay Thompson’s attempt going wide. The Gators end the 2010 season having won both the Southeastern Conference Championship and regular season title.

3 » In better news for the University of Florida, the No. 1 Florida volleyball team (24-1, 17-0 SEC) clinched at least a share of the 2010 SEC regular season title on Sunday by defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide (10-17, 2-15 SEC) 3-0 (25-17, 25-10, 25-17) on Senior Day at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy was impressive once again, leading the Gators with 10 kills and no errors along with 15 assists and seven digs. She notched her 12th-straight double-double and has been having an impressive season. Florida’s seniors also got in on the action with OH Callie Rivers, middle-back Lauren Bledsoe and libero Erin Fleming combining for 18 kills, 15 digs and six blocks on Sunday. UF has three more regular season matches – all on the road – before the 2010 SEC Tournament begins.

Three more BITS including an interesting piece on a Florida baseball commit…
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FOUR BITS: Tebow has “it,” Lewis, TPC, lacrosse

1 » Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels continued his praise of former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow to the Denver Post Thursday, citing that his first-round pick has the “it” factor. “There are people with a great deal of God-given ability who are fun to watch, and it’s really interesting to see what kind of seasons they’ll put together,” McDaniels said. “Then there are guys who will say they won’t fail, our team’s not going to fail, and they have a ‘I’m not going to let you down’ attitude. And that’s what you notice with Tim.”

The coach also said Tebow has a good chance to get on the field early – not years down the line like all the NFL Draft experts and other scouts project. “To me, (his football IQ) gives him an advantage, an opportunity to play earlier than other people have played,” he continued. “Everybody keeps talking about it will be two, three years before he can play, and I think they don’t know this guy. His mental capacity, and the way he works, and the fact that he’s on such a fast pace, will give him the chance to compete apples-to-apples. It’s all going to be about his production and performance. There are a lot of rookies who can’t run plays because they can’t figure it out yet. That’s not going to be the case with Tim. He’ll be able to do the things [veterans] do. […] You know what Tim doesn’t know about our playbook? Only what we haven’t told him yet.”

2 » Baltimore Ravens veteran linebacker Ray Lewis spoke out about Tebow’s progression into the NFL to ESPN’s Colin Cowherd on Thursday. Needless to say, the future Hall of Famer champion feels Tebow has received much more help than other players have coming into the league. “The thing I was more shocked by, is you see all the people who were willing to help him,” Lewis said. “I don’t know many people who were willing to help other athletes like that. Jon Gruden loved him to death. You see all these people who took out their personal time to really work with him and make this big issue, big issue, big issue. I don’t know why he was any different than anyone else. Every young child has that dream, that same dream that Tebow had. So I don’t know why he was bigger […] than any of the other guys. He went to a big program, and, yes, he might be a favorable person, but nobody else in the league, definitely not veteran players, see themselves differently than any other player.”

3 » Four former Gators golfers are currently competing in The PLAYERS Championship in Ponta Vedra Beach, FL, each hoping to take home a PGA Tour title. After a full day of action, Camilo Villegas and Brian Gay (-2) were tied for 47th with Mark Calcavecchia (+1) and Chris Couch (+2) bringing up the rear in the 100s. Each player will tee off for their second round from 1-2 p.m. on Friday.

4 » Florida lacrosse (10-7) stunned the crowd watching the quarterfinals of the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament in Columbus, OH, Thursday night by rocking the No. 20 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (10-7) 14-3. Freshman goalie Cara Canington made a school-record 14 saves on 15 shots as classmates midfielder Kitty Cullen and attacker Ashley Bruns led the way with six and three goals, respectively. The ladies will advance to face No. 11 Vanderbilt at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in the semifinals. The Gators lost to the Commodores 12-7 in Gainesville, FL, earlier in the season.

Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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FOUR BITS: Bruns’ award, Dunlap, James, Wright

1 » Florida Gators lacrosse’s freshman attacker Ashley Bruns was named the 2010 American Lacrosse Conference Rookie of the Year on Tuesday. Bruns, one of the top recruits in the country, led Florida’s inaugural lacrosse team in goals (44) and assists (30) while taking home numerous honors over the course of the season. She also earned a spot on the All-ALC Second Team along with teammates freshman midfielders Brittany Dashiell and Jamie Reeg.

2 » Former Gators defensive end Carlos Dunlap is already finding a level of comfort with the Cincinnati Bengals. He knows exactly what the team expects of him and hopes to exceed their projections. “They drafted me to be a pass rusher. That’s definitely something I want to be the best at on the team, so I can be that guy,” said Dunlap according to CNATI.com. “I’m just working on that and working on becoming an NFL player. […] It’s a passing league. If you can be a dominant pass rusher, you can be one of the dominant players in the league.”

3 » By all appearances, former Florida kick returner Brandon James had a rough year in 2010, culminating with a season-ending injury that kept him out of the postseason. Unable to compete at most pre-draft workouts, James was counting on his college production and workout at the Gators’ second Pro Day to fuel interest. The Indianapolis Colts recognized his talent, signing him to an undrafted free agent contract after the 2010 NFL Draft completed. Now, James believes he can greatly impact the former Super Bowl champions (at least) on special teams. “That’s an area I can help in,” he told the Indianapolis Star. “If not making big plays, then putting [the offense] in good field position. If you put the offense at the 40- or 50-yard line, the chances [of scoring] are a lot greater than if it starts at the 18 or 20. That’s what I feel like I’m here for.” In order to remain “here,” James will have to beat out Indiana’s Ray Fisher, a seventh-round pick who is also attempting to make the team as the primary returner.

4 » Though he spent a good amount of time at Florida as a strong safety, Major Wright is already competing for the starting free safety job with the Chicago Bears, according to the Daily Herald. Wright, the Bears’ third-round selection, is ready and raring to go. “I was like, ‘Wow my dream’s come true,’” he said. “I dreamed about this when I was younger and it’s here. Now I just have to go out and hustle and just stay focused.”

Photo Credit: Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

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SIX BITS: Nelson, Cunningham, softball, lax, UK

1 » On Feb. 1, OGGOA reported that former Florida Gators safety Reggie Nelson could be cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars if he does not show significant improvement by the time training camp concludes. Nelson owned up to ESPN about his issues in 2009 and has figured out why they occurred. “I had mistakes last year, I did,” he said. “I’ve watched film since I’ve been here in February and I can own up and say, ‘Yes, I did blow some coverages. Yes, I did miss tackles.’ That’s something I’ve looked at. I have to correct them. You’ve got to look at it: I played safety, corner, nickel, so many different positions. Most players would be like, ‘Oh, no, I’m not doing that, y’all drafted me for this.’ That’s not me, I want to win. I took that challenge, I played corner, I played nickel. I am a competitive guy. […] They made their decision and I’ve got to live with it.” Nelson also said he will not do the same thing in 2010 – if it is up to him. “The way things happened last year, I don’t think I’d do it,” he said. “I will not do it. I tried that last year. It didn’t work. I don’t think it was fair to me. I would not go back. You live and you lean. It’s their decision, regardless. The only thing I can do is show up and play football.”

2 » The New England Patriots want former Florida defensive end Jermaine Cunningham to replace recently released outside linebacker Adalius Thomas – this much is known. How he will progress in the transition remains to be seen, but head coach Bill Belichick is just as confident as Cunningham is in himself. “It’s all football. I’m a football player,” Cunningham said. “I’m going to study the playbooks and just do whatever it takes to get better, and keep on getting better. […] I’m a hard worker and fundamental technician. […] Left or right, just get to the ball.” For what its worth, Cunningham has also taken to giving a name to the influx of former Gators with the Patriots – “Gator Nation North,” he calls it.

Four more BITS on softball, lacrosse, baseball and Kentucky basketball posting the lowest average GPA in the SEC…after the break!
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SIX BITS: Baseball, softball, track, tennis, golf, lax

1 » No. 7/9 Florida Gators baseball split the remaining two games of its away series against the Kentucky Wildcats, winning 6-3 Saturday night before falling 6-5 on Sunday. The Gators (25-10, 10-5 SEC) clinched their first series win in Lexington, KY, against the Wildcats (22-14, 5-10 SEC) at Cliff Hagan Stadium since 2004. Saturday, sophomore first baseman Preston Tucker (1-4) led the way with three RBI, while freshman designated hitter Austin Maddox (3-5) collected two runs. Freshman Hudson Randall got the start, but sophomore reliever Greg Larson (2-1) earned the win on 3.2 no-hit innings. Tucker went 2-5 Sunday, but Florida and sophomore Anthony DeSclafani (2-2) fell to Kentucky in the series finale.

2 » No. 3/4 softball also took a series win against UK over the weekend, winning two out of three games from Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Junior first baseman Megan Bush went 3-6 during the doubleheader on Saturday with a grand slam, while sophomore outfielder Michelle Moultrie contributed a 5-6 performance with two runs and a double. Junior Stephanie Brombacher and freshman Ensley Gammel (10-1) pitched, earning a win and loss, respectively. Gammel would also earn her fourth save in the first game. The Gators (34-5, 14-3 SEC) clinched the series Sunday against the Wildcats (27-18, 11-11 SEC) with senior OF Francesca Enea (2-3) grabbing two RBI and her 58th career home run. She is now within two of the all-time SEC record of 60. Brombacher (23-4) tossed a complete game for her second win of the weekend.

Four more BITS on track & field, tennis, golf and lacrosse…after the break!
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SIX BITS: Gators weekend wrap-up 4/9 – 4/11

Florida Gators athletics took home two titles and 10 overall victories this past weekend from Fri., April 9 to Sun., April 11. Get all the details…after the break!

1 » GYMNASTICS: No. 4 Florida Gators gymnastics captured the 2010 NCAA North Central Regional Championship.
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FOUR BITS: David Lee, baseball, softball, lacrosse

1 » Former Florida Gators forward/center David Lee, now in the middle of an excellent career in the NBA with the New York Knicks, scored a season-high 37 points along with 20 rebounds and 10 assists Friday night for his first career triple-double. Though New York fell to the Golden State Warriors on the road, Lee made NBA history by becoming the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to go 30-20-10 in points, rebounds and assists, respectively. Lee will be a free agent this summer, and it appears unlikely that he will return to the Knicks due to their decision to go after “bigger” names.

2 » Following a victory in their first game of the series, No. 8/11 Gators baseball (20-6, 6-2 SEC) clinched its weekend series against the No. 20/17 Vanderbilt Commodores (23-6, 4-4 SEC) with a 7-3 win Saturday at McKethan Stadium. Freshman starter Brian Johnson (3-1) controlled the entire game, pitching 5.2 innings of one-run ball while going 3-3 from the plate with a run. Senior outfielder Matt den Dekker went 2-4 with two runs, and sophomore OF Daniel Pigott nabbed three RBI with a two-run homer in the second inning. Game three of the series is currently underway (as of press time).

Read about softball’s doubleheader and lacrosse’s landmark victory after the jump!
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SIX BITS: Tebow, Andrews, baseball, softball, lax

1 » Between critics, supporters and analysts, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow always has plenty of people talking about him. You can add former USC Trojans safety Taylor Mays to that list. Mays – who has grown close with Tebow after appearances at college football awards shows, 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl and 2010 NFL Scouting Combinegot defensive when asked about his new friend’s ability to transition to the NFL. “I don’t understand it. He did everything right,” Mays said. “It’s not like everybody thought he was going to be the first quarterback taken, so I don’t understand why they’re killing him like that. You’re looking at one of the most established players in college football, ever. Ever! All these people they’re talking about don’t have half the credentials he does.”

2 » While Mays was defensive, New England sports writer Tom Curran went on the offensive against Tebow Wednesday. Curran opines that Tebow’s very public meeting with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is out of character for the team and was perhaps done in order to boost Tebow’s 2010 NFL Draft stock and, in some way, help out his friend and Gators head coach Urban Meyer. Side note: Tebow spent two days in Boston; he was not just there for a dinner. Curran also questions what Tebow is as a person. “I mean, how do we know the kid’s a virgin? He talks about it. And just as it’s his right to talk about it, it’s the right of observers to wonder what the motivations for doing so are,” Curran wrote. “Is he a football player? A spokesman? A vessel of the Lord? A well-crafted public relations creation? All of the above?”

Four more BITS on Erin Andrews’ ESPN contract and future as well as results from baseball, softball and lacrosse…after the jump!
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