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.

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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.

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Gators gymnastics one step closer to the title

By Corey Mitleider and Scott Barr – OGGOA Contributors

No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics dominated the Gainesville Regional on Saturday evening in front of 7,137 fans at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, winning the event with a 198.400, the 10th-highest score in NCAA history.

No. 12 Minnesota scored a 197.100 to finish second and will join Florida in Los Angeles, CA in two weeks as both teams advanced to the 2013 NCAA Championship semifinal set for Friday, April 19 at 3 p.m.

The Gators were led on Saturday by their three all-arounders who finished one-two-three overall in the event. Sophomore Kytra Hunter scored 39.775 to take the title, posting a 9.925 (2nd) on beam as well as a 9.95 on vault (T-1st), bars (2nd) and floor (T-1st). Freshman Bridget Sloan continued her dominance with a 39.675, which included a near-perfect 9.975 on bars to take the individual event title. Senior Marissa King (39.650) finished third with 9.95s on beam (1st) and floor (T-1st).

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SIX BITS: NBA, baseball, Tebow, women, Gillespie

1 » Former Florida Gators currently playing in the NBA collectively had an interesting last three days. Centers Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks and Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls each started March off on fire after concluding February with a career game. Horford averaged 22 points, six rebounds, 3.5 assists and three steals in two weekend games, while Noah posted two more double-doubles and averages of 17.5 points, 10 boards, five assists and 2.5 blocks in his two games. Washington Wizards rookie guard Bradley Beal posted a career-high 29 points in a double-double performance (11 rebounds) on Friday but then went down hard on Sunday with a sprained left ankle that was so painful it reportedly caused him to blackout on the court. X-rays came back negative but Beal remains day-to-day for the Wizards. Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons capped off the weekend with an explosive performance Sunday, scoring a career-high 32 points on 12-of-13 shooting (6-of-7 from downtown) in just 30 minutes. He became the first player since Larry Bird to score 30+ points, shoot 92 percent or better and attempt at least five three-pointers. Parsons, a second-round pick and second-year player, continues to be an incredibly valuable player for the Rockets; he has scored 20+ points in four-straight games.

2 » Entering the weekend unranked and losers of five-straight games to Georgia Southern, Florida Gulf Coast (three) and North Florida, Florida baseball first dropped its sixth-straight contest before rallying to win the final two games of its weekend series against the Miami Hurricanes. The Gators (5-7) handed the Canes (10-2) their first two losses on the season, toppling their foes with a four-run eighth inning on Saturday and a four-run third inning on Sunday. Sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue (3/8, 4 RBI, R, 2 BB) led Florida offensively and helped both freshman right-handed reliever Jay Carmichael (1-1) and sophomore RHP Johnny Magliozzi (1-0) pick up their first victories of the season. UF plays five games in the next seven days including a home-and-home against Jacksonville and a three-game series at home against Indiana.

Read five more BITS of Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: NBA, baseball, Tebow, women, Gillespie

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2013 Florida Gators gymnastics primer: Title time?

By Corey Mitleider and Scott Barr – OGGOA Contributors

Coming off narrowly missing out on the program’s first national championship since 1982 (AIAW) at the 2012 NCAA Super Six last season, No. 3 Florida Gators gymnastics opens the 2013 season seeking to become just the fifth team in NCAA history to win the national title (Georgia, Alabama, UCLA, Utah). Florida came within 0.075 points of Alabama at the Super Six last April and has added significant talent while not being forced to replace many routines from their second-place finish. Head coach Rhonda Faehn, coming off the Gators’ eighth conference title, hopes to have her team peak at the right time when the postseason begins.

Florida opened the 2013 schedule last week with a home victory against Ball State and travels to LSU on Friday for its first Southeastern Conference meet of the season.

The Gators schedule is always supremely challenging and 2013 is no different with a home meet against reigning national champion Alabama and road meets against four teams that went to nationals last year: LSU, Arkansas, Georgia and Utah. UF will have an excellent opportunity to scope out the competition it will face leading up to the national championship throughout the regular season, at the SEC Championships and at the NCAA Southeast Regionals, which will be hosted in Gainesville, FL in March.

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FOUR BITS: gymnastics, baseball, softball, tennis

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics advanced to the 2012 NCAA Championships on Saturday by winning the NCAA Raleigh Regional title with a team score of 197.325. Florida took down Ohio State (196.225) to win the event and also surpassed N.C. State (195.975), Penn State (196.650), North Carolina (194.025) and Kent State (193.575); finishing second, OSU also earned an opportunity to compete for the title. Four Gators won five total event titles on Saturday with junior Ashanée Dickerson posting a season-best 39.65 to claim the all-around for herself. Dickerson shared the vault (9.95) and uneven bars (9.90) titles with sophomore Alaina Johnson and cheered on as junior Marissa King picked up the balance beam (9.925) title and freshman Kytra Hunter won the floor exercise (9.95). Johnson (second), King (fourth) and Hunter (sixth) all finished high in the overall standings, and Florida posted the highest team total in every individual event as well. The victory was UF’s 12th regional title overall and their eighth in the last nine years. The NCAA Championship will be decided from April 20-22.

2 » Likely to lose their top ranking on Monday, No. 1 Gators baseball (25-7, 7-5 SEC) has continued its slide by dropping a home series over the weekend to the No. 7 LSU Tigers (25-7, 8-4 SEC). Florida has now lost five of their last seven games including consecutive three-game series for the first time since 2008. The Gators scored six or more runs in all three games but struggled with their pitching and defense in both the opener and series finale. Florida fell 7-6 to LSU on Thursday as junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (4-1) gave up six earned runs on seven hits with a walk and just two strikeouts in four innings. The Gators rebounded with a 7-0 win Friday thanks to a great performance from sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (3-1, 6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K). Sunday’s game started on a positive note with UF leading 7-2 through three innings. However, Florida’s bullpen gave up six unanswered runs over the final six innings to drop the heartbreaker. Sophomore RHP Karsten Whitson started but only lasted an inning after hitting two batters, giving up two hits and allowing two runs (one earned). The Gators bullpen combined to allow six earned runs on 13 hits as the Tigers fought back for the victory. Already having won the series’ first two games, Florida will look to close out Florida State on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Tallahassee, FL.

3 » No. 6 UF softball (35-4, 15-2 SEC) had a much more successful weekend, sweeping the Ole Miss Rebels (16-21, 3-11 SEC) to extend their winning streak to six games. The Gators got it done on the mound and at the plate, outscoring the Rebels 28-4 in the three games. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (20-2) started the first two games and posted a pair of solid performances by allowing just one earned run on four hits with four walks and nine strikeouts in 11.0 innings (including a complete game effort on Friday). Freshman RHP Alyssa Bache (5-0) concluded the weekend for the Gators by giving up three earned runs on three hits but registering five strikeouts in five innings. Though Florida’s pitching was dominant, the plate work of freshman designated hitter Bailey Castro was even better. Castro combined to go 4/7 with three home runs, eight RBIs, five runs and three walks. She hit two bombs on Sunday including her first career grand slam while registering a career-high seven RBIs. UF will travel to face Central Florida on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Orlando, FL.

4 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (17-1, 10-0 SEC) continued their march to the postseason while clinching at least a share of the 2012 SEC Championship for the regular season with a pair of 7-0 sweeps over the weekend. Florida took down the No. 40 Arkansas Razorbacks (10-10, 2-7 SEC) on Friday and No. 39 LSU (11-10, 4-5 SEC) on Sunday with their players winning all 30 sets they competed in over the weekend. UF has now swept four consecutive opponents and 13 of 18 this season. The Gators will look to win the SEC regular season title outright on Saturday at South Carolina. No. 9 Florida men’s tennis (13-8, 6-4 SEC) was not as successful as their female counterparts, taking down Arkansas (14-10, 1-8 SEC) 7-0 on Friday before falling 4-2 to No. 27 LSU (13-9, 4-6 SEC) on Sunday. The Gators won 15 of 16 sets and were successful in a pair of tiebreakers in the former contest but were beat handily to close out the weekend. UF will host USC on Saturday at 1 p.m. to end the regular season.

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FOUR BITS: women’s bball, baseball, softball, gym

1 » Having returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009, nine-seed Florida Gators women’s basketball (20-12) picked up a hard-fought 70-65 victory over the eight-seed Ohio State Buckeyes (25-7) in first-round action on Sunday. Florida led early and maintained their advantage throughout the contest, eventually pulling away in the final few minutes for the win. Junior forward Jennifer George led the way for the Gators with 16 points (she also added six rebounds), but senior guard Lanita Bartley was the player of the game with 15 points, four boards, three assists and two steals. Florida will now face top-ranked Baylor (35-0) and player of the year Brittney Griner on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. live on ESPN2.

2 » No. 1 Gators baseball (19-1, 3-0 SEC) extended their winning streak to a school-record 17 games, sweeping their series against the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-13, 0-3 SEC) with another pair of wins on Saturday and Sunday. Florida outscored Vanderbilt 23-5 over the weekend, beginning with a 10-2 victory in their Southeastern Conference opener on Friday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. The Gators pulled out a 5-1 win on Saturday on the heels of one of junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson’s best outings. Johnson improved to 3-0 while recording a career-high nine strikeouts in 6.0 innings and giving up just two singles. UF was up 1-0 through 4.5 innings but scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth including two RBIs apiece from senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/3, HR, R, BB) and senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (1/5, R). Florida captured Sunday’s contest with an 8-2 victory behind another solid outing from sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford (2-1, 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 6 K). The Gators offense was fueled by a trio of solo homers from Tucker (1/3, RBI, 2 R, BB), freshman designated hitter Taylor Gushue (1/4, 2 RBI, R) and freshman second baseman Casey TurgeonSEC Player of the Week award in his career on Monday.

3 » No. 4 Florida softball (26-2, 7-1 SEC) also swept a conference opponent over the weekend, taking down the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-12, 2-6 SEC) by a combined score of 17-3 over three days at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers and freshman RHP/first baseman Lauren Haeger dominated the weekend for the Gators. Rogers (14-1, S 2) earned two victories and a save, while Haeger (8-1) picked up a win and also went 5/8 over the three-game stretch with a homer, six RBIs and a run scored.

4 » No. 6 Florida lacrosse (8-2) defeated the William & Mary Tribe (2-6) 21-8 on the road Saturday. Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell led Florida with five goals, and UF added four more each from junior attackers Kitty Cullen and Gabi Wiegand and freshman M Shannon Gilroy.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, softball, gymnastics, Leak

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (17-1, 1-0 SEC) extended their winning streak to a school-record 15 games on Friday by toppling the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-11, 0-1 SEC) 10-2 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Junior right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (3-0, 6.2 IP) matched a season-high with six strikeouts while allowing two earned runs on six hits. Behind 2-0 through 4.5 innings, Florida rallied for a five-run bottom of the fifth as eight batters stepped to the plate. The Gators added four more runs in the bottom of the seventh and another in the eighth to pull away for the decisive victory. Senior right fielder Preston Tucker (2/5, 3 RBI, R) and freshman first baseman Taylor Gushue (1-4, 2 RBI) led the way offensively but junior shortstop Nolan Fontana (1-4, RBI) and senior outfielder Daniel Pigott (3-5, RBI) each crossed the plate twice for Florida. Game two against the Commodores is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday (CSS), and the Gators will conclude the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. (FSF).

2 » No. 4 Florida softball (24-2, 5-1 SEC) got back to their winning ways on Friday with 9-1 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks (19-10, 2-4 SEC) at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. Sophomore RHP Hannah Rogers (13-1) put together a complete game in a run-ruled five-inning outing, giving up one earned run while striking out two, walking two and scattering four hits. Freshmen 1B Lauren Haeger (2-3) and designated hitter Bailey Castro (1-1, HR, R, 2 BB) each notched three RBIs to help fuel the Gators’ offense. UF will wrap-up their three-game series USC by hosting them twice more on Saturday (Sun Sports) and Sunday at 1 p.m.

3 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (11-1) posted the second-highest total in the nation this season to conclude the 2012 regular season with a 197.900-196.475 victory over the No. 7 Utah Utes (7-3) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville. Sophomore Alaina Johnson captured event titles in the vault (9.90), uneven bars (9.95) and balance beam (9.925) while also winning the all-around (39.675). She split two of her titles with teammates as juniors Ashanée Dickerson (uneven bars) and Marissa King (balance beam) matched her scores. King also split the floor exercise event title with freshman Kytra Hunter (9.95). The Gators will next compete in the 2012 SEC Championships on March 24 before moving on to the NCAA Regionals on April 7.

4 » In his first game as starting quarterback of the AFL’s Jacksonville Sharks, former Florida signal caller Chris Leak completed 21 of 31 passes for 196 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Jacksonville, the league’s defending champion, scored 38 unanswered points in the second half to pull away for a 52-28 victory.

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