Florida Gators gymnastics gets revenge, lacrosse earns a big win, softball starts 2013 season 5-0

No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (5-1, 4-1 SEC) scored the second-highest total in program history on its way to defeating the defending national champion No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-2, 3-2 SEC) on Friday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida took down Alabama 198.100-196.850, avenging the Crimson Tide’s 0.075-point victory over the Gators in the 2012 NCAA Super Six.

UF’s huge score was fueled by phenomenal all-around performances from freshman Bridget Sloan and senior Ashanée Dickerson. Sloan’s mark of 39.675 is second nationally only to a 39.700 from Florida sophomore Kytra Hunter, and Dickerson’s 39.650 was highlighted by a career-best 9.975 mark that won the floor exercise.

Sloan and junior Mackenzie Caquatto shared the uneven bars title with dueling 9.950s. Caquatto doubled up in event titles with a score of 9.925 to win balance beam.

These great feats for the Gators came on a night where Hunter, an All-American the nation’s top-ranked all-around performer, fell on both bars and beam. However, when the team needed her to come through in the final event, Hunter registered a 9.950 on floor to help her team to a huge win.

A total of 8,074 fans – the ninth-largest crowd in program history – filled the O’Dome and created an electric atmosphere for Florida throughout the night. Equally impressive was the Gators’ registering such a huge score with Hunter battling a stomach flu and junior All-American Alaina Johnson still sidelined with a stress reaction in her back.

Read about what Florida lacrosse and softball did over the weekend…
Continue Reading » Florida Gators gymnastics gets revenge, lacrosse earns a big win, softball starts 2013 season 5-0

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Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.

12 » MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.

Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.

[Read: The Silver Lining - "Failure" is not a dirty word]

11 » FLORIDA SWEEPS FSU IN FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, BASEBALL

For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

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SIX BITS: Brantley, Donovan, Moss, Tebow, Rainey

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback John Brantley was cut by the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday after being signed by the team as an undrafted free agent in April. It was unlikely that Brantley would have made the team to begin with though he likely would have remained in training camp longer had Baltimore not needed to sign a free agent tight end as an injury replacement. He could rejoin the Ravens at any time, be added to their practice squad after the preseason or be picked up by another team. Former Florida wide receiver Deonte Thompson, also signed as an undrafted free agent, remains with Baltimore despite recently “displaying shaky hands,” according to Carroll County Times reporter Aaron Wilson.

2 » One of the hot conversation pieces ongoing as some of the NBA’s brightest stars compete in the 2012 London Olympics is if the league’s owners will get their wish that all Olympic basketball competitors will have to be 23 years of age or younger starting in 2016. CBSSports.com’s Jeff Goodman took a look at what a U23 team might look like in 2016; he believes that Gators guard Bradley Beal would be featured on the squad and that Florida head coach Billy Donovan could be one of two choices to replace Coach Mike Krzyewski, citing his success with the U18 team this summer.

3 » Former Florida forward Adrian Moss informed OGGOA on Wednesday that he has signed a one-year contract with EESM Le Portel of the French Pro B league. Moss averaged 15.4 points on 53.3 percent shooting (35.6 percent from downtown) and grabbed 6.1 rebounds per game last year in Spain. He has also previously played professional basketball in Israel and Germany.

4 » New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow may have had a rough start to training camp with his new team, but ESPN’s Ron Jaworski remarked on SportsCenter early this week that he saw improvement from the player in one very important area. “The one thing I’ve noticed about Tim Tebow – and it’s a small sampling thus far – is his [throwing] stroke is much better,” he said. “It’s cleaner. It’s not as elongated. He’s not dropping the football [down to his hip]. That means the ball will come out quicker.” Jaworski did see some room for improvement, however. “I’d still like to see Tebow drive off his back leg a little more,” he added. “Sometimes he has that dead leg and he loses energy at the end of the throw on the deeper throws. It’s fine in the short to intermediate area. But downfield those throws, when they hang in the air, will get knocked down or batted down by the very athletic secondary players in this league.”

5 » Though Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Rainey is already coming on strong with his new team, some of his teammates and coaches are noticing that he needs to be pushed hard during practice. According to Scout.com, Rainey has been ragged on by everyone including good friend center Maurkice Pouncey. “He probably needs it. Heck yeah,” he said. “Oh, [the coaches] love him. They really, really love him. I hope it stays that way. I hope he stays here with me as long as he can.” The ribbing Rainey is taking may be good-natured, but head coach Mike Tomlin has reportedly been using a version of the unfortunate text message that got Rainey arrested as part of that motivation. “OK, 22, time to die!” he apparently yelled during the first full-contact practice. “I hear it every day, about five times a day,” Rainey said. “It’s all good. I made a bad mistake in the past but I moved on. It’s funny now. I’m glad I’m here.”

6 » Three members of the Gators lacrosse team were awarded training team spots with the U.S. National Team over the weekend. Seniors midfielder Brittany Dashiell and goalkeeper Mikey Meagher, along with assistant coach (and MF) Caitlyn McFadden, will join the 36-player pool that will eventually be whittled down to 18 (in February 2013) before the United States defends its title at the 2013 FIL World Cup. McFadden was a member of Team USA in 2009 and helped bring home the championship.

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SIX BITS: Beal, Olympics, Cup awards, Crawford

1 » Could Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal be the decided target of the Washington Wizards with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft on June 28? That appears to be the case after Washington completed a trade on Wednesday that sent a small forward Rashard Lewis and a second-round pick to New Orleans for SF Trevor Ariza and power forward/center Emeka Okafor. By adding two talented, starting-caliber frontcourt players, the chances that the Wizards would select a forward like Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Kansas’ Thomas Robinson (if he was even available) have been reduced significantly, meaning Beal could very well be the top player on their board with the draft just over a week away.

2 » Speaking of Beal, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla wrote Wednesday about what weakness Beal needs to improve on ($) in order to have a productive NBA career.

Beal’s screen-and-roll ability in Billy Donovan‘s screen-and-roll-oriented offense was average at best. Often when challenged by the screener’s defender (usually a big man), Beal was not able to take him on and beat him off the dribble. Ultimately, Beal shot just 35 percent in the screen-and-roll, and his overall points produced for himself or his teammates was a paltry 0.7 points per possession.

Part of the reason Beal struggled in the screen-and-roll is that he is a straight-line driver. I don’t doubt that he has been working hard on his ballhandling creativity. If he is going to be more than a one-dimensional jump-shooter, he’ll be handling the ball a lot, especially because the NBA’s 24-second shot clock demands it.

3 » The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track & field begin Friday in Eugene, OR with 17 total current and former Gators hoping to earn the opportunity to compete in the2012 London Olympics. Among those participating in the trials over the next 11 days are 10 current Florida student-athletes including: senior/junior Dwight Barbiasz (high jump), junior Omar Craddock (triple jump), junior/senior Jeff Demps (100-meter dash), freshman Marquis Dendy (long jump), freshman Dedric Dukes (200-meter dash), sophomore Ebony Eutsey (400-meter dash), sophomore Eddie Lovett (110-meter hurdles), sophomore Cory McGee (1,500-meter run), junior Tony McQuay (400-meter dash) and junior Jeremy Postin (hammer throw). Former Gators set to compete include: Hazel Clark (800-meter dash), Will Claye (long jump, triple jump), Kerron Clement (400-meter hurdles), Gray Horn (decathlon), Calvin Smith (400-meter dash), Wes Stockbarger (discus throw) and Christian Taylor (triple jump).

4 » The University of Florida athletic program finished No. 2 in the nation in the 2011-12 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup. Twelve Florida programs finished among the top 10 of their respective sport nationally including women’s tennis (No. 1), men’s indoor track & field (No. 1), men’s outdoor track & field (No. 1), gymnastics (No. 2), lacrosse (No. 3), men’s basketball (No. 5), volleyball (No. 5), baseball (No. 7), men’s swimming & diving (No. 8), women’s indoor track & field (No. 9), men’s tennis (No. 9) and women’s swimming and diving (No. 10). It is the fourth-straight year that the Gators have finished in the top four of the Cup’s final rankings and second time in the last three years (2009-10). Florida has never won the Cup but has finished in the top 10 in each of the 29 years it has been awarded. Stanford won for the 18th time, outscoring UF 1448.25-1314.00 in the final standings. Only 20 sports count for each school toward their final total, but the Cardinal have 35 to choose from while the Gators currently support 21 total sports.

5 » With just a handful of game remaining in the 2012 College World Series, which Florida was eliminated from on Monday, the end of the athletic season is nearly here which means the final standings for the 2012 Capital One Cup will be official shortly. As of press time, the Gators lead the men’s standings with 89 points (baseball has not been counted yet). The only way that Florida can lose their top spot is if Arkansas (currently ranked 17th with 39 points) wins the entire CWS (adding 60 points to their total) and UF is ranked eighth or worse when the final poll. In that scenario, the Gators would finish second by one point (99-98).

6 » The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team announced Monday that Florida sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford has been selected to play for the squad this summer. Crawford is one of six Southeastern Conference players to earn placement on the team, which consists of freshmen and sophomores from some of the nation’s top programs. He finished the 2012 season with a final record of 6-2 along with a 3.13 ERA and the team’s first solo no-hitter for in 21 years.

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FOUR BITS: Rosario, Donovan, McQuay, 2011-12

1 » Florida Gators senior guard Mike Rosario, playing with the Puerto Rico National Team in the 2012 Centrobasket Championship, registered seven points and three rebounds in his team’s easy 92-60 win over Panama on Monday. Puerto Rico is set to take on the Bahamas at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday as they continue in the event and hope to earn a bid to the 2012 London Olympics.

2 » In Brazil with the USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team, Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan improved to 3-0 in international competition as the Americans defeated host Brazil 83-64 on Monday in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. The United States has already qualified for the 2013 FIBA U18 World Championship set for next summer but still has plenty to accomplish in this tournament. The U.S. will take on Argentina on Tuesday in a semifinal game for the opportunity to play for the tournament title against either Canada or Brazil.

3 » Gators junior runner Tony McQuay was named a semifinalist for The Bowerman the biggest award in collegiate track & field on Tuesday, becoming the fifth student-athlete from Florida to receive the distinction in the last three years. Though UF has yet to bring home the prestigious award, McQuay has as legitimate of a shot as anyone before having won the national title in both the indoor and outdoor 400-meter dash. He also anchored the Gators’ 4×400-meter team that captured the outdoor national championship and was one of the two top performers for the Florida men’s track & field team that swept the indoor and outdoor 2012 NCAA Championship.

4 » The 2011-12 athletic season has come to an end for the Gators and though some highly ranked Florida teams missed out on opportunities at national titles (baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse, softball), UF also brought home a school record three NCAA Championships thanks to sterling efforts by men’s track & field (indoor and outdoor) and women’s tennis. The NCAA Indoor title for men’s track and field marked the third-straight for the program, and women’s tennis completed their quest to win back-to-back titles with their victory this season. The Gators also won eight individual national titles including six in track & field and one in gymnastics.

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Questionable end to Florida-Syracuse lacrosse

Syracuse completed a monumental comeback against Florida in lacrosse on Friday in the Final Four of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, erasing a seven-goal deficit to tie the match with 30 seconds remaining in regulation and eventually winning 14-13 by scoring a goal in sudden death overtime.

However, before the Orange netted that game-winning goal, the Gators had a similar strike rescinded after referees were asked to look at the legality of the stick carried by Florida junior attacker Gabi Wiegand, the player who scored what might have been a game-winning goal with nine seconds left in the first overtime.

Referees determined that the lace on Wiegand’s stick was too deep and took the goal away, necessitating the sudden death scenario in which Syracuse senior midfielder Sarah Holden wound up scoring and winning the match for her team.

After Holden’s goal, UF responded just as SU did minutes earlier and asked the referees to look at her stick. It was determined that the depth of the lace on Holden’s stick was legal, the goal was allowed and the Orange went on to celebrate their victory.

But was Holden’s stick tampered with following her goal and before referees evaluated it?

In the video below, a replay of the goal that aired as the broadcast was about to end, it is obvious that another Syracuse player grabbed the stick out of Holden’s hand and tugged or pulled at it. Did she make an adjustment that turned an illegal stick into a legal one? Did she wind up doing nothing to the stick (or was it legal anyway)? That is unknown and not likely to be proven one way or another.

You be the judge.

Despite the actions that the video may or may not depict, a potentially missed illegal stick call is not to blame for the Gators’ heartbreaking loss on Friday. That responsibility goes to UF’s players who had a national championship game appearance within reach but faltered down the stretch and allowed SU to get back in and eventually win the match.

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Florida lacrosse collapses in 14-13 sudden death overtime loss to Syracuse in NCAA Final Four

A historic season for No. 1 Florida Gators lacrosse came to an end in devastating fashion on Friday as the team blew a seven-goal second-half lead and eventually fell 14-13 in sudden death overtime to the No. 4 Syracuse Orange in the Final Four of the 2012 NCAA Tournament at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium in Stony Brook, NY.

Syracuse (19-3) topped Florida (19-3) in sudden death overtime for the second time this season with the Orange previously defeating the Gators 12-11 in Gainesville, FL on March 3. UF’s 15-match winning streak came to an end on Friday as did the team’s hopes for the program’s first national title.

Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell got things started for Florida, scoring just over two minutes into the first half. Syracuse evened things up five minutes later and was dominating the proceedings a third of the way through the opening half by outshooting UF 10-2, leading 6-0 in ground balls and taking a 3-0 edge in draw controls.

Despite their advantages, the Orange was unable to capitalize early on. Gators junior attacker Gabi Wiegand and freshman M Shannon Gilroy scored consecutive goals 13 seconds apart to put Florida ahead 3-1, though Syracuse quickly answered back again to hold a short-lived single-goal deficit.

That is when Gilroy took over, scoring three-straight goals over the final 10:25 of the half, including one 15 seconds before the break, to give the Gators a 7-3 lead as the teams headed into the locker rooms.

The Orange had their chances late in the half but saw consecutive shots bang off the post. UF junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher was also exceptional in the opening period, registering 10 saves on 18 shots and saving all three free position attempts she faced.

Meagher’s offense gave her an even larger cushion in the second half as junior A Caroline Chesterman scored 37 seconds into the period and Dashiell followed with a free position goal to increase Florida’s lead to 9-3.

The Gators continued their scoring onslaught with junior A Ashley Bruns getting on the board and Dashiell notching her third goal of the match (the team’s second hat trick) to extend UF’s advantage to a match-high seven goals. Dashiell soon matched Gilroy with her fourth score of the match, putting Florida up 12-5 with 17:15 remaining.

Not ready to go down without a fight, the Orange scored three-straight goals in under four minutes to get within four of their top-ranked opponent. Gilroy picked the perfect time to score her fifth goal of the evening, tossing it into the net with 7:19 left in the game to give the Gators back a five-goal lead at 13-8.

However, Syracuse completely erased Florida’s five-goal advantage, tying the match at 13 by extending their scoring run to 8-1 to end the second half. The Gators allowed the game-tying goal with just 30 seconds remaining while down two women due to a pair of yellow cards being assessed inside the last minute of regulation.

After both teams went scoreless in the first three minutes of overtime, Florida won a draw control and stalled for approximately two minutes in order to get the final shot of the period. Wiegand eventually took that shot and scored with nine seconds remaining, but the goal was rescinded due to her scoring with an illegal stick.

The match then went into sudden death overtime with the first goal scored sending that respective team into the national title game. The Orange won the draw control and, following a timeout, scored the game-winning goal to send the Gators home for good.

Meagher, after registering 10 saves on 18 first-half shots, only notched five more over the duration of the contest. Syracuse outshot Florida 43-24 and held a 19-6 advantage on ground balls Friday evening.

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FOUR BITS: Parsons, Beal, lacrosse, baseball

1 » Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons is back in Gainesville, FL continuing rehabilitation on a partially torn right labrum he suffered during the season. OGGOA learned of Parsons’s injury on Friday and was told that he has already been rehabbing the shoulder for a month and is not allowed to have any contact until June at the earliest. He did not undergo shoulder surgery as it was not required by doctors. Houston plans to have Parsons, a 2012 NBA All-Rookie second team member, in action during their summer league games. He will likely participate in one or two contests and spend the rest of the time practicing and working out with his teammates.

2 » Just over a month away from the 2012 NBA Draft, Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal continues to be a hot name amongst scouts and front office executives. Not only is he almost cemented in to be a top-five overall selection, Beal is seen by many to be one of the three best players available and could go as high as No. 2 overall according to ESPN’s Andy Katz, who notes that his “physical stature and his ability to make shots mean he’s ready to contribute.” Continued…

NBA.com’s David Aldridge:

Beal, who finished second on the Gators in scoring last season, is the choice of just about every pro scout and evaluator I’ve spoken with, and there isn’t one of them who believes he won’t be taken in the top five or higher in June’s Draft.

“I’m not comparing him to Ray [Allen], but he’s the best I’ve seen since Ray in terms of being able to catch and shoot,” said an official from a Southeast Division team — who, indeed, just compared the 6-foot-3 Beal to Allen, the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers. [...]

“He has a chance to be really good,” said a Central Division personnel man. “Super high-character guy, too. He can do a lot more than he’s shown. Works his tail off. Just all of the things you want. He’s like the flavor of the month.”

Said a Northwest Division scout: “He’s not tall, but he’s big and thick and strong. He has a lot of poise to him. I think he has upside. He didn’t have an elite shooting year, but it’ll get better. His stroke is good. It’s just a matter of taking more shots and making them.” [...]

“The one thing that hindered him was Boynton and Walker were chuckers,” said a Southwest Division scout. “I saw him against Arizona and I wanted Bradley to get (ticked): ‘Why don’t y’all pass the ball?’ But he stayed in his lane. If Bradley had played with a better point guard, he probably would have had better numbers.” [...]

“I think he can guard people,” the Northwest scout said. “He’s really, really strong, very physical. I think he takes it personally. He wants to guard. And if you’re going to play for Billy (Donovan) you have to have some of that in you.”

3 » Set to participate in their first Final Four on Friday, members of No. 1 Florida lacrosse learned earlier in the day that they had been awarded prestigious honors by WomensLax.com. The organization, one of three nationally that hands out awards each postseason for women’s lacrosse, named Amanda O’Leary the Coach of the Year, junior Mikey Meagher the Goalie of the Year and placed four Gators – Meagher, junior attacker Kitty Cullen, junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell and freshman M Shannon Gilroy – on their list of All-Americans. Cullen is the only player who was honored in the same way last season and becomes the first player in team history to earn consecutive All-America selections.

4 » Two members of No. 2 Florida baseball – juniors Brian Johnson and Austin Maddox have been named to the watch list for the 2012 John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award. Johnson (6-4, 3.88 ERA, .310 avg., 5 HR, 34 RBI) has done more two-way work than Maddox has this season, earning 45 starts as a hitter and 14 as a pitcher. Maddox (3-2, 12 S, 1.43 ERA, .265 avg., 5 RBI) has appeared in 28 contests as a closer/reliever but has only hit in 25 games with 18 of those coming as a starter.

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