FOUR BITS: track, tennis, lacrosse, softball

1 » Neither the top-ranked men nor the third-ranked women were able to bring home a team title in the 2013 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championship for the Florida Gators, but the track & field program did conclude the four-day event with five individual titles. Sophomore Kyle Strawn started things off on Thursday by winning the SEC title in the men’s hammer throw; his championship toss went 66.90m/219-6 and also marked a personal best. Florida added a second individual SEC crown on Friday when redshirt freshman Jimmy Clark gutted out a tough 10,000 meters in 29:44.54 to win the Gators’ first title in the event since 1987. Though Florida went title-less on Saturday, the Gators added three on Sunday to close the event. UF swept the triple jump with senior Omar Craddock (16.46m/54-0) and sophomore Ciarra Brewer (13.85m/45-5.25) defending their 2012 titles by winning the men’s and women’s championships, respectively. Freshman Marija Vucenovic also got in on the fun by winning the women’s javelin with a throw of 51.30m/168-4.

The Florida men (123.00) finished second to Arkansas (152.50), while the UF women (106.00) placed fourth. The Gators were hoping to win the athletic program’s ninth SEC team title of the season but must instead settle for a school record-tying eight as the league’s 2012-13 season has officially come to a close.

2 » No. 1 Florida women’s tennis began competing in the 2013 NCAA Tournament over the weekend and swept both of its opponents, defeating the Marist Red Foxes and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 4-0 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The Gators ran through the Red Foxes without dropping a single game, winning both doubles matches 8-0 and all three singles contests 6-0, 6-0. Georgia Tech was a tougher out for Florida but still went down rather easily as UF won the doubles point with 8-6 and 8-2 victories and took singles in short order. No. 1 senior Lauren Embree beat No. 98 Elizabeth Kilborn 6-0, 6-0 in her last home match, and No. 116 senior Caroline Hitimana led 6-1, 3-3 in her match but did not finish; both players were involved in victories that led to the doubles point. Embree received a standing ovation after he victory; she and Hitimana leave UF never having lost a team match (55-0) at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex. Action continues for Florida on Friday when it takes on Duke in a round of 16 match in Urbania, IL.

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SIX BITS: top 25, tennis, Muschamp, PIT, Tebow

1 » Despite ending their 2013 NCAA Tournament run in the Elite Eight for the third-straight year, Florida Gators basketball was placed at No. 9 in the final USA Today Coaches’ Top 25 poll of the 2012-13 season. Florida was not the only Elite Eight team to fall outside the top eight of the poll, however, as Marquette checked in at No. 11 in the final rankings. Indiana (Sweet 16 loss to Syracuse) and Kansas (Sweet 16 loss to Michigan) took the two other spots in the top eight. The Gators also checked in at No. 9 and No. 10 in 2011-12 and 2010-11, respectively, after losing in the Elite Eight. Florida will likely enter the 2013-14 campaign ranked in the preseason top-10.

2 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (17-2, 10-1 SEC) ran through its competition over the weekend, extending their winning streaks to 10 consecutive team matches and 30-straight individual matches. Florida swept the Ole Miss Rebels (10-10, 4-6 SEC) and Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-12, 1-10 SEC) in a pair of home showdowns over the weekend at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The Gators won all 11 matches and had the opportunity to celebrate Senior Day against the Bulldogs on Sunday. Seniors No. 1 Lauren Embree and No. 125 Caroline Hitimana were each unable to finish their singles matches due to Florida registering a quick 4-0 victory but both won their doubles contests. The No. 20 duo of Embree and junior Sofie Oyen picked up an 8-2 win, while Hitimana and junior Alex Cercone won 8-0.

On Monday, head coach Roland Thornqvist praised Embree at his press conference, making note of her incredible career and tremendous work ethic. “You want to know why Lauren Embree is the best college player to ever play the game?” he asked rhetorically. “It was Monday morning at 8:30, and after a weekend full of matches and practices, she runs to the courts, hits serves for 30 minutes, then I show up and we go at it [on the court] for an hour and 15 minutes. By 10:00, she’s done with two workouts already while the rest of tennis America is still sleeping. That’s why we’re good and that’s why she’s good. She sets the tone, the bar is high, and I think everybody feeds off of it. We’ve just been blessed to have that for four years. Frankly, it’s just amazing.” The Gators women’s tennis program is hoping to win its third-straight national title.

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Continue Reading » SIX BITS: top 25, tennis, Muschamp, PIT, Tebow

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FOUR BITS: track titles, baseball, tennis, lacrosse

1 » Though it did not have the same team success that the swimming program did over the weekend, Florida Gators track & field still put together an impressive overall performance at the 2013 Southeastern Conference Championships. Florida’s men (117.00) finished second and the women (87.50) came in fourth to Arkansas, which won both titles (152.50, 114.50). The Gators captured six individual SEC titles overall.

2013 SEC Individual Titles (6)

» Men’s 60-meter hurdles – Eddie Lovett (7.54 seconds)* [third-straight]
» Men’s long jump – Marquis Dendy (8.25m/27-0.75)* [back-to-back]
» Men’s weight throw – David Triassi (21.59m/70-10)
» Men’s 800 meters – Sean Obinwa (1:48.40)
» Women’s mile – Cory McGee (4:35,33) [second in three years]
» Women’s distance medley relay – Mandy Perkins, Amani Bryant, Agata Strausa, Cory McGee (11:13.45)

2 » Florida baseball (3-5) got swept right out of the top 25 over the weekend as the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (5-1) outscored their hosts 23-9 over three games from Friday-Sunday. The Gators have now lost four-straight games, and their schedule does not get easier going forward. Florida is set to face Miami in a three-game series Friday-Sunday and opens up SEC play on March 15. Seven league teams are currently ranked including Arkansas (2), Vanderbilt (3), LSU (4), South Carolina (8), Mississippi State (13), Kentucky (15) and Ole Miss (17).

3 » On Sunday at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in front of a crowd of 1,033, the second-largest in program history, No. 4 Gators women’s tennis came from behind to defeat the No. 13 Stanford Cardinal 4-2. Florida (6-1) and Stanford (4-2) have split the last four meetings between the programs in NCAA play with the Gators earning the home victory after losing the doubles point. Florida knotted the match at 1-1 when junior Olivia Janowicz won her contest 6-2, 6-2 but soon fell behind 1-2 as No. 33 Ellen Tsay took down freshman No. 44 Danielle Collins by the same score. UF jumped back on top 2-1 when junior No. 9 Sofie Oyen beat No. 68 Kristie Ahn 6-2, 6-2 and took a 3-1 lead as junior No. 116 Alex Cercone upset No. 10 Krista Hardebeck 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. The remaining showdowns went back-and-forth but it was eventually freshman Brianna Morgan who won her second match point against No. 98 Stacy Tan to earn a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory and deliver a big win for the Gators.

4 » No. 3 Florida lacrosse (6-0) remained undefeated after earning a 17-7 victory over the Albany Great Danes (0-1) on Sunday. The Gators jumped 3-0 in the early going and held a 12-3 lead at the half, cruising in the second half for the double-digit win. Sophomore Shannon Gilroy led the way with five goals on six shots. senior Ashley Bruns (four) and senior Kitty Cullen (three) combined for seven of the other 10 goals. Florida’s next opponent is No. 6 Syracuse, the team that won a controversial overtime match over UF in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The schools will go head-to-head in Miami Gardens, FL on Saturday.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, tennis, Young, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball improved to 13-1 this season by defeating the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (6-5) Friday night in the first of a three-game weekend series. FGCU right-hander Ricky Knapp held Florida in check through five innings, giving the Eagles a 2-0 cushion thanks to a two-run homer by catcher Andrew Valencia in the top of the fourth inning. Junior RHP Hudson Randall (7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 6 K) got the start for the Gators and held on just long enough ensure he did not suffer a loss as junior C Mike Zunino knotted the game with a two-run bomb of his own in the bottom of the sixth. Zunino doubled up with another two-run homer in the eighth, knocking in all four of Florida’s runs on the evening and earning a win for junior left-handed pitcher Steven Rodriguez (3-0, 0.2 IP, K). Junior closer Austin Maddox grabbed his fourth save of the season, striking out three of four batters in the final frame.

2 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (9-1, 3-0 SEC) won the team’s 100th consecutive home match at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex on Friday night, defeateing the No. 22 Vanderbilt Commodores (10-5, 2-1 SEC) 6-1. Florida, which holds the longest active home winning streak for a NCAA Division I women’s sports program, has not fallen on their home court since 2004. The No. 13 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen and the No. 31 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather each won their matches to earn the doubles point for the Gators. Florida also won five of six singles matches with No. 1 Wil, No. 18 Mather, No. 23 Embree, No. 39 Oyen and junior Caroline Hitimana pulling out victories while No. 49 sophomore Alex Cercone fell in a match that lasted over two hours. No. 9 Gators men’s tennis (9-4, 2-1 SEC) also beat the Commodores (5-7, 0-3 SEC) 6-1 on the road in Nashville, TN.

3 » Florida sophomore center Patric Young said after Friday’s game against Alabama that he will return for his junior season in orange and blue, according to a conversation he had with Matt Watts, the sports editor of The Independent Florida Alligator. Young, however, told Watts that he was not sure what freshman guard Bradley Beal planned to do about his future. Beal is currently projected by many analysts as a potential top-10 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft even though his shooting numbers have been suspect for the Gators this season.

4 » No. 3 Gators softball (21-2, 2-1 SEC) dropped their second game of the season on Friday, falling 1-0 to the No. 9 Tennessee Lady Vols (15-3, 1-0 SEC) due to a defensive miscue in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (11-1, 6.2 IP, 5 H, R, 2 BB, 4 K) was tagged for her first loss of the season as Tennessee’s Ellen Renfroe outdueled her, only allowing three hits and one walk while striking out 15 Florida batters. The Gators will look for revenge against the Lady Vols and hope to win the series with back-to-back victories on Saturday on Sunday.

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FOUR BITS: Pro Day, Tim Tebow, tennis, WBK

1 » Though the date has been set for at least a few weeks now, the Florida Gators officially announced this week that the team will hold its Pro Day on March 13. Free and open to the public, Pro Day will feature a number of draft-eligible Gators working out for NFL scouts and coaches from around the league right on Florida Field in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida also announced that seven players who graduated in 2011 – quarterback John Brantley, defensive end William Green, defensive tackle Jaye Howard, defensive back Moses Jenkins, running back Chris Rainey and wide receiver Deonte Thompson – are scheduled to participate. Also in attendance to work out for scouts will be former Gators including DT Troy Epps, DT Lawrence Marsh, DB Dorian Munroe, DB Wondy Pierre-Louis and WR Justin Williams.

2 » EA Sports announced via their Facebook page that QB Tim Tebow is one of two Denver Broncos players representing his team in the online voting for cover athlete for the Madden NFL 13 video game. Voting begins March 7; after the field is cut down to 32 players, head-to-head votes will take place until the final cover athlete is picked. Tebow, who was on the cover of NCAA Football 11 two years ago, may actually want to avoid winning this contest due to the dreaded and much-publicized Madden curse.

3 » No. 15 Florida women’s tennis (6-1) swept the Florida State Seminoles (5-4) at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex for the team’s 99th consecutive home victory. The Gators, now 52-1 all-time against the Seminoles, beat their in-state rivals 7-0. The No. 13 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen won 8-2, leading the way for three doubles victories. No. 1 Will (6-1, 6-2), No. 39 Oyen (6-2, 6-1), No. 18 senior Joanna Mather (6-3, 6-1), No. 23 junior Lauren Embree (6-2, 6-2) and sophomore Olivia Janowicz (6-4, retired) all won their singles matches as well in the rout. Florida will compete in back-to-back road meets against Tennessee on Friday and Georgia on Sunday before returning to Gainesville, FL looking for their 100th straight win at home next Friday against Vanderbilt.

4 » Eight-seed Gators women’s basketball (18-11, 8-8 SEC) is set to begin action in the 2012 SEC Tournament by taking on the nine-seed Auburn Tigers (13-16, 5-11 SEC) on Thursday at 1 p.m. With the game airing live on FOX Sports Network, fans can watch as Florida tries to pull out a victory for the opportunity to square-off with one-seed Kentucky on Friday at 1 p.m.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, tennis, SEC TV

1 » Florida Gators baseball (2-1), despite losing the third game of their season-opening series to the No. 16 Cal State Fullerton Titans (1-2), remained the No. 1 team in the country on Monday when the new polls were announced. After winning their first game of the season 7-3, Florida beat CSF 5-2 Saturday evening before falling 8-5 on Sunday.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson (1-0) was erratic through five innings Saturday, allowing two earned runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Junior reliever Austin Maddox (1) came on in the sixth and earned the save by striking out three batters in four one-hit innings. Freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1-3) – named SEC Freshman of the Week on Monday – led the way with two RBIs (on a bases-clearing triple) and a walk, while senior first baseman Preston Tucker and junior catcher Mike Zunino had two hits and a RBI apiece.

The Gators took an early 3-0 lead Sunday, but junior left-hander Brian Johnson was pulled after striking out five and walking one while giving up two hits in four innings. Sophomore RHP Jonathon Crawford (0-1) replaced him and imploded, giving up four earned runs on five hits while only recording one out. Florida’s bullpen struggled, and UF only added two runs down the stretch. Junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-4) and senior left fielder Daniel Pigott (1-5) each had two RBIs in the game, while Tucker (in at right field) was the most efficient from the plate, going 3-4 with a RBI and walk.

2 » No. 1 Gators softball (9-0) continued their dominant start to the 2012 season with two more wins over the weekend following their 8-0 victory in the series opener against the Michigan State Spartans (1-7). Florida freshman RHP Alyssa Bache (1-0), in her first appearance of the season, came close to a perfect game in her start, striking out four in a complete game and tossing a no-hitter through four of her five innings. The Gators run-ruled the Spartans 11-1 with freshman 1B/DH Lauren Haeger (2-3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R) and junior C Brittany Schutte (3-3, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) leading the way.

Florida was just as dominant on Sunday with a 15-4 win over Michigan State though Haeger (3-0) did give up four earned runs on five hits and four walks with five strikeouts in her complete game victory. Sophomore SS Cheyenne Coyle (1-2) had a homer and four RBIs with a run and a walk and was supported by Schutte (1-1, 4 R, 3 BB) and junior RF/DH Kelsey Horton (1-2, BB), who had two RBIs each. Schutte took home SEC Player of the Week honors on Monday, and Haeger picked up a Freshman of the Week nod.

3 » Even though Florida lost last week to Stanford and fell from No. 1 to No. 2 in the national rankings, the women’s tennis team (5-1) got a bit of good news Saturday night. The Connecticut women’s basketball team fell to St. John’s that evening, ending a 99-game home winning streak dating back to March 6, 2007. It was the longest such streak in NCAA women’s athletics and second-longest nationally among any collegiate sport. UF women’s tennis now owns the longest home winning streak as the Gators have won 98 consecutive matches at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. Florida will try to match UConn’s 99-game streak against No. 13 North Carolina on Sunday and can surpass it next Wednesday against Florida State.

4 » According to the Times Free Press of Chattanooga, TN, the annual football game between Florida and Tennessee that has been aired on CBS every year “since the network became the primary broadcaster of SEC games in 1996” may get bumped in 2012 because of a more attractive matchup between Alabama and Arkansas. The Alabama-Arkansas game, which is normally set to occur a week later in the season, was bumped up a week because of all of the shuffling that had to be done to accommodate Texas A&M and Missouri in the SEC’s schedule for next year. The paper reports that Florida-Tennessee “is the only league contest CBS has shown all 16 years, and it has been televised in prime time on five occasions.”

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FOUR BITS: Lee, women’s tennis, Rivals, Lochte

1 » Former Florida Gators forward/center David Lee posted the second triple-double of his career Tuesday night, scoring 25 points (on 9-of-19 shooting) with 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the Golden State Warriors in a heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma City. Lee’s triple-double and Monta Ellis’s career-high 48 points were simply not enough to propel the Warriors to victory. In 21 games this year with Golden State, Lee is already playing better than he did a year ago, averaging 18.7 points (+2.2) and 10.0 rebounds while shooting 50.8 percent from the field.

2 » No. 1 Florida women’s tennis (4-0) swept the South Florida Bulls (3-2) 7-0 on Tuesday, winning their 98th consecutive home match at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. Junior Allie Will (No. 3), senior Joanna Mather (No. 4) and sophomores Sofie Oyen (No. 34) and Alex Cercone (No. 41) each won their singles matches in straight sets while junior Lauren Embree (No. 25) took three sets to win her singles tilt. The No. 10-ranked team of Oyne/Will and No. 15 duo of Embree/Mather each won their doubles matches handily. The Gators will travel to California over the weekend for back-to-back contests on Friday and Sunday against Pepperdine and Stanford. Florida topped Stanford 4-3 for the 2011 NCAA Championship on May 24.

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Gators tennis teams advance to Sweet 16

Sunday was a special day for the Florida Gators tennis program as both the No. 8 men’s and No. 2 women’s teams advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament after sweeping their opponents on a sunny day at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL.

After a weather delay forced their contest to continue Sunday, the Florida men (20-8) got the day started early and shut out the No. 27 Miami Hurricanes (15-9) 4-0.

The No. 17 duo of senior Alexandre Lacroix and sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. led the doubles teams, winning their match 8-2. Joining them to cinch the doubles point was junior Nassim Slilam and sophomore Billy Federhofer (7-6).

No. 7 Lacroix (6-1, 6-1), No. 89 Slilam (6-2, 6-2) and freshman Spencer Newman (6-0, 6-4) all won their singles matches; Newman’s victory clinched the contest for the Gators. Lacroix’s singles win propelled him to historic status. He is now the all-time overall wins leader in school history with 209 career victories.

The Florida women (27-1) wrapped up the afternoon in similar form, shutting out the South Carolina Gamecocks (14-11) 4-0 behind a strong team performance.

The 45th-ranked team of sophomore Lauren Embree and freshman Sofie Oyen made short work of their opponents, beating them 8-2 for the Gators’ first doubles win. Freshman Olivia Janowicz and junior Joanna Mather followed them with an 8-3 victory, clinching the doubles point for Florida.

No. 7 sophomore Allie Will absolutely trounced No. 44 Anya Morgina of South Carolina, stifling her in straight sets (6-0, 6-0). Helping her complete the sweep for the Gators were No. 42 Mather (6-2, 6-2) and No. 54 freshman Alex Cercone (6-0, 6-3); the latter victory clinched the match.

Florida men’s and women’s tennis will play later this week in Stanford, CA. The men compete on Thursday at 3 p.m., while the women take the court on Friday at 3 p.m.

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