Florida women advance in NCAAs, men eliminated

Action continued in the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Thursday with the Florida Gators combining to field six singles competitors and three doubles teams.

Women
No. 1 Allie Will (junior) def. No. 19 Danielle Lao (USC) – 6-4, 6-4
No. 9 Lauren Embree (junior) def. No. 28 Cristina Stancu (Maryland) – 6-2, 6-2
No. 3 Nicole Gibs (Stanford) def. No. 21 Joanna Mather (senior) – 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
No. 26 Sabrina Santamaria (USC) def. No. 61 Sofie Oyen (sophomore) – 6-3, 6-0

No. 13 Burgic/Secerbegovic (Baylor) def. No. 1 Will/Oyen – 7-5, 6-2
No. 22 Embree/Mather def. No. 28 Abu Mushrefova/Hamilton (Northwestern) – 6-0, 6-1

Men
No. 50 Louis Cant (Miss. St.) def. No. 42 Bob van Overbeek (junior) – 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-1
No. 1 Steve Johnson (USC) def. No. 53 Nassim Slilam (senior) – 6-3, 6-2

No. 63 Baroz/Heugas (VCU) def. No. 14 Slilam/Billy Federhofer – 5-7, 7-5, 6-1

Two of four Gators women singles competitors and one of Florida’s doubles pairing advanced to the next round of the individual championships on Friday. All will be competing in the round of 16 as the doubles tournament began with just 32 teams.

The Florida women have won four singles and four doubles NCAA Individual Championships with the last ones coming in 1996 (Jill Craybas) and 2001 (Whitney Lalho/Lehnoff), respectively. The Gators remain the only program in the history of women’s collegiate tennis to sweep the team, singles and doubles titles in the same season, accomplishing that feat in 1996.

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Gators singles go 6-1 in first round Wednesday

Seven Florida Gators tennis players competed in 2012 NCAA Tournament first round action on Wednesday, playing as individuals for the first time since January.

Women
No. 1 Allie Will (junior) def. No. 34 Shannon Mathews (Notre Dame) – 7-6(5), 6-3
No. 9 Lauren Embree (junior) def. No. 49 Anastasia Erofeeva (Tulsa) – 6-0, 6-3
No. 21 Joanna Mather (senior) def. No. 59 Hanna Mar (Duke) – 7-5, 6-4
No. 61 Sofie Oyen (sophomore) def. No. 44 Ecaterina Vasenina (USF) – 6-4, 6-2

Men
No. 42 Bob van Overbeek (junior) def. No. 8 Sebastian Fanselow (Pepp.) – 6-3, 6-4
No. 47 Luka Somen (Virginia Tech) def. No. 48 Tripper Carleton (junior) – 6-2, 6-0
No. 53 Nassim Slilam (senior) def. No. 118 Matija Pecotic (Princeton) – 6-4, 6-4

Six players advanced to second-round action in the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships on Thursday, which coincides with the first round of the doubles competition consisting of 32 teams.

No. 1 Will/Oyen and No. 22 Embree/Mather will both compete for the women, while No. 14 Slilam/junior Billy Federhofer will be the sole team in action on the men’s side.

The Florida women have won four singles and four doubles NCAA Individual Championships with the last ones coming in 1996 (Jill Craybas) and 2001 (Whitney Lalho/Lehnoff), respectively. The Gators men have won two NCAA singles titles (1999 – Jeff Morrison) and one doubles title (1993 – David Blair/Mark Merklein) in team history.

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SIX BITS: tennis, softball, Hill, Thompson, NBA

1 » No. 12 Florida Gators men’s tennis (16-9) continued its hot play in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, completing a 4-0 sweep of the No. 24 Harvard Crimson (23-3) to advance to the round of 16. Florida clinched the doubles point and received singles victories from No. 53 senior Nassim Slilam (6-2, 6-3), No. 66 sophomore Spencer Newman (6-4, 6-2) and sophomore Florent Diep (6-1, 6-4) to grab the victory and move on to the round of 16 for the third-straight season. UF will resume play on Friday against No. 5 Ohio State at noon.

2 » Gators softball, one day after falling hard in a bid for a conference tournament title, learned Sunday that they have earned the No. 5 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida (46-11) will open the tournament as hosts of the Gainesville Regional, which will also feature Florida Gulf Coast, Central Florida and South Florida. UF is 2-2 this season against the field with victories over FGCU (5-0) and USF (3-2) and losses to UCF (2-0) and USF (4-1). The Gators will play their first game on May 18 at 6 p.m. against FGCU. Should Florida be the victor of their regional, they will take on the winner of the Los Angeles Regional featuring No. 12 UCLA, Florida State, San Diego State and Hofstra. UF would likely host the Super Regional in that scenario.

3 » Five-star point guard Kasey Hill, a 2013 Gators’ commitment and the No. 8 player in the country according to Rivals, received high praise from ESPN’s Dave Telep on Thursday. Telep, who has attended five AAU events since March, said Hill stood out as the top performer at the adidas VIP Run and thinks he is one of two players who could be considered the best point guard in the class of 2013. “The most improved player I’ve seen? That would be point guard Kasey Hill,” he wrote. “He’s refined his approach to the point guard slot and in my mind, become an elite player and impact recruit. There’s a difference between being highly rated and being an impact signee. He’s the best point guard Billy Donovan has ever recruited.”

4 » Two NFL writers had some high praise for former Florida wide receiver Deonte Thompson based on how he performed in Baltimore Ravens minicamp on Sunday. FOX Sports’ Aaron Wilson said Thompson “had a good day…speed is eye-catching, caught the ball fairly well, too,” while CBS Sports’ Jason Butt noted that Thompson “looked fluid and sharp, and showcased stellar straight-line speed and quick cuts.” Thompson is one of two former UF players (quarterback John Brantley) who signed an undrafted free agent deal with Baltimore this offseason.

5 » Denver Nuggets forward Corey Brewer became the third former Gators basketball player (and member of the Oh Fours) to be eliminated from the 2012 NBA Playoffs this week after Denver fell 96-87 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday. Brewer, after having some highlight moments during the series, had a rough outing in Game 7. He scored just four points on 2-of-9 shooting (0-for-3 from downtown) with two rebounds and one steal in 13 minutes. Also out of the postseason is center Marreese Speights and the Memphis Grizzlies. Speights also had an admirable series but did not get the opporutnity to contribute much in Memphis’ 82-72 Game 7 loss, scoring just two points on 1-of-2 shooting with two rebounds and a steal in 11 minutes.

6 » Only three former Florida players remain in the playoffs: F Matt Bonner of the San Antonio Spurs and both power forward Udonis Haslem and guard Mike Miller of the Miami Heat. Bonner is averaging 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game this postseason while Haslem is posting averages of 3.8 points and 6.4 boards in 19.0 minutes and Miller is registering 7.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 23.2 minutes.

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SIX BITS: baseball, tennis, Haden, Davis, Calathes

1 » No. 5 Florida Gators baseball (37-14, 15-11 SEC) stalled in a big way on Saturday, getting shut out for the second time this season in a 2-0 loss to the No. 25 Mississippi State Bulldogs (31-19, 13-13 SEC) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. A late scratch with a hamstring injury, junior left-hander Brian Johnson was replaced by sophomore right-hander Jonathon Crawford, who did an admirable job as a spot starter. Crawford (4-2, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, HBP, 3 K) gave up single runs in the first and fifth but received no help whatsoever from Florida’s bats in terms of production or run support. The Gators combined to register just three hits on the evening with the first five batters combining to go 0/19 with one walk and three strikeouts.

2 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis (23-1) registered yet another shutout in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, defeating the No. 31 Washington State Cougars (19-7) and advancing to the round of 16 for the eighth consecutive season. The Gators topped the Cougars 6-0 (shutouts are normally end at 4-0 but three matches finished simultaneously) and combined to go 76-23 in individual games in the seven matches that were completed. The No. 1 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen registered an 8-1 victory, while the No. 22 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather won 8-2 to clinch the doubles point. No. 1 Will (6-3, 6-1), No. 9 Embree (6-2, 6-3), No. 21 Mather (6-3, 6-2), No. 61 Oyen (6-4, 6-0) and No. 79 sophomore Alex Cercone (6-0, 6-2) all won their singles matches as well. UF will take on Michigan on Thursday at 7 p.m. for the opportunity to advance to the quarterfinals.

3 » No. 12 Florida men’s tennis (15-9) began competing in their version of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday and started as hot as their female counterparts did with a 4-0 sweep of the Navy Midshipmen (18-9). The Gators won the doubles point (8-4; 8-3) and were led by their ranked players in singles action. No. 42 junior Bob van Overbeek (6-1, 6-0), No. 53 senior Nassim Slilam (6-0, 6-0) and sophomore Florent Diep (6-0, 6-0) were victorious in their individual matches as No. 48 junior Tripper Carleton and No. 66 sophomore Spencer Newman also lead at the time the contest was stopped. Florida will face Harvard in second-round action on Sunday for the chance to move on to the round of 16.

4 » A high school student in Independence, OH needed a prom date after the one she was scheduled to go with bailed at the last minute. Her response? Tweet Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden to see if he will accompany her to one of the biggest events in her young life. To Joyce Grendel’s surprise, Haden accepted her invitation and picked her up Friday afternoon in a white Lamborghini to give her a night that she will undobutedly never forget. Haden told FOX 8 in Cleveland, OH that he never attended his senior prom (because he enrolled early at UF) and was just as nervous as his date. “I [was] nervous, too,” he said. “We were taking pictures with me and her family. I feel this is very legit, like I was getting ready, ‘Does this look cool?’ when I’m getting ready. I feel like I’m very legit. This is my prom, too.” This is not the first time Haden has gone above and beyond to put a smile on the face of one of his fans, which begs just one question: How totally awesome is Joe Haden?

5 » Former Gators linebacker Andra Davis never finished his degree at UF but 10 years later can now call himself a college graduate. Davis completed his bachelor’s degree in social sciences this semester and officially graduated from UNLV on Saturday, achieving a lifelong dream and providing a great lesson to his children. “Stay in school, because academics are one of the most important things in life,” he said, according to the Las Vegas Sun. “It’s easy for me to tell [my children] you need to do this or do that, but if I didn’t finish, they could have been like, ‘Daddy, you didn’t finish school and you’re successful.’” Davis is currently a free agent after spending the last two years playing for the Buffalo Bills and is unlikely to be re-signed by the team. His NFL career may very well be done which is another reason why getting his college degree was so important at this time in his life. “It was like, ‘OK, well, I need to have something to fall back on in case football doesn’t work out,” Davis said. “When I was younger, my first few years, I used to think I was invincible. As you get older, you start to see your skills diminishing, and along with kids and a wife, you start to have a different focus.”

6 » Dallas Mavericks head of international scouting Alvydas Pazdrazdias told EuroHoops.net on Friday that point guard Nick Calathes, selected by Dallas with the No. 45 overall pick in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft, will have an opportunity to make the team this season. Calathes, whose contract with Panathinaikos concluded this season, will be able to compete with the Mavericks’ summer league team. Dallas, which will probably have a hole at point guard heading into the 2012-13 season, could very well use a player like Calathes if he can prove he has upped his game. “I believe he can adapt to our system,” Pazdrazdias said. “He is a good player, from who you don’t expect to score a lot of points, but you can be sure he will take care of all the other things, always for the best interest of your team. He plays for the team and does everything for his team to win.”

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FOUR BITS: Hunter, lacrosse, tennis selections

1 » Florida Gators freshman gymnast Kytra Hunter, who won a pair of 2012 NCAA Championships in the all-around and vault last month, was named the recipient of the Honda Sports Award on Wednesday. The honor, which basically makes Hunter the “gymnast of the year” by recognizing her as the best student-athlete in her sport, is awarded to one female in 12 different NCAA-sanctioned sports. It is the second straight year that a Gators student-athlete has won one of the awards with outfielder Kelsey Bruder bringing home the honor for softball in 2011. In the 36-year history of the Honda Sports Award, Florida has won it 15 times in six different sports (UF student-athletes were honored in two sports in 1982).

2 » One of six Florida lacrosse players to be honored by the American Lacrosse Conference on Wednesday, freshman midfielder Nora Barry was named the 2012 ALC Rookie of the Year after registering 32 goals (on 54 shots) in 17 games during the regular season. Barry’s goal total was the fifth-highest on the Gators, but she led the team in ground balls and also finished second in draw controls. Three Florida juniors – attacker Kitty Cullen, M Brittany Dashiell and defender Sam Farrell – were named to the All-ALC First Team, while Barry, junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher and junior A Gabi Wiegand received second-team nods.

3 » Four members of No. 2 Gators women’s tennis found themselves placed in the brackets for the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships when the selections were announced on Wednesday. Junior Allie Will not only earned the No. 1 seed in the singles tournament but is also one half of the No. 1 doubles team along with sophomore Sofie Oyen. Junior Lauren Embree was placed in the grouping of singles seeds 9-16, Oyen was chosen as an alternate and the pairing of Embree/senior Joanna Mather also made it as an at-large doubles team. Florida has not won a NCAA singles title since 1996 (Jill Craybas) or a doubles title since 2001 (Whitney Laiho/Jessica Lehnhoff).

4 » No. 11 UF men’s tennis also had four players selected for the NCAA Individual Championships as senior Nassim Slilam and juniors Tripper Carleton and Bob van Overbeek all received at-large bids for the singles bracket. (Sophomore Spencer Newman is listed as an alternate.) Additionally, the duo of Slilam/junior Billy Federhofer will compete in the doubles draw. The Gators have not won a NCAA singles title since 1999 (Jeff Morrison) or a doubles title since 1993 (Mark Merklein/David Blair).

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SIX BITS: Walker, softball, Nelson, gym, lax

1 » Florida Gators point guard Erving Walker was honored on Senior Day before Sunday’s game. Because the game aired on CBS and the broadcast began following the ceremony, most fans did not get to see Walker enter the court with his mother to a loud ovation from his fans. The entire clip, including the video highlight package of some of Walker’s best plays in orange and blue, can be viewed below courtesy of GatorVision.tv:

2 » No. 3 Florida softball improved to 19-1 on the season and extended their winning streak to nine games after winning six contests from Thursday-Sunday by a combined score of 53-1. UF defeated Eastern Michigan 2-1 in extra innings on Thursday before beginning the Lipton Invitational, which the team hosted in Gainesville, FL. The Gators again beat EMU on Friday (16-0) and followed that up with a thrashing of Gardner-Webb (9-0) in the evening. Florida beat GWU a second time on Saturday (14-0), adding a win against Tennessee State (8-0) later that afternoon and a victory over Campbell (4-0) on Sunday. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (10-0) earned two wins striking out 19 batters and giving up one earned run in 17.0 innings (she also made one relief appearance). Freshmen RHPs Alyssa Bache (3-0) and Lauren Haeger (6-1) each added two victories with neither giving up a single run and the latter mowing down 15 batters in 10.0 innings. The Gators’ offense was impressive all weekend long, but two players in particular stood out for their powerful performances. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie went 12/20 with four home runs, 10 RBIs, 11 runs and three stolen bases over the six games, and junior catcher Kelsey Horton matched her with four dingers of her own alog with 14 RBIs, six runs and three walks. UF will play five road games this week including two against Mississippi State and three at Tennessee.

3 » It is looking more and more like Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson will be wearing different colors in 2012. With no reports of negotiations for an extension occurring between Nelson and Cincinnati brass, the local media expects that he will hit the market as an unrestricted free agent next week. Should that occur, it is believed that the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans will make a run at him. The Dolphins in particular look like a promising landing spot for Nelson considering former Bengals defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle, who helped resurrect Nelson’s career in Cincinnati, was hired as Miami’s new defensive coordinator after the season.

4 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (10-1) earned a nail-biting victory on the road Sunday against the No. 6 Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2). The Gators defeated the Cornhuskers 196.95-196.825, earning two individual event victories while only winning one of the four overall events. junior Ashanée Dickerson and sophomore Alaina Johnson each won the vault with a score of 9.90, while junior Marissa King took home the balance beam victory with a 9.925 mark. Florida’s sizable win in the beam (49.325-48.950) was enough to push them past Nebraska in the overall score. UF will take on No. 7 Utah in their regular season finale on Senior Night on Friday, March 16 at 7 p.m.

5 » No. 4 Gators lacrosse (4-2) dropped their second game to a top-10 ranked opponent this season, falling 12-11 in double overtime to the No. 9 Syracuse Orange (2-2) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Behind 6-4 at the half, Florida rallied over the final three minutes of the second period, scoring three-straight goals to knot the contest at 10 as the whistle sounded. SU got on the board first in overtime, but UF matched their visitors again to force a sudden death second overtime period. The Orange did not take long to make their move, scoring at 5:05 to end the game. Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell led the Gators with three goals (including the tying score in the first overtime), an assist, six draw controls and five ground balls (a season high for the team), while junior attacker Kitty Cullen had an off game with only one goal in 10 shots. Despite scoring fewer goals than their opponent, Florida had more shots than Syracuse (39-26) and committed fewer turnovers (9-20). UF is scheduled to face Georgetown on the road Wednesday before returning home to host Temple on Saturday.

6 » Both involved in close matches, No. 15 Gators women’s tennis and No. 10 Florida men’s tennis wound up with different outcomes when taking on the No. 5/6 Georgia Bulldogs’ women’s and men’s squads over the weekend. Florida’s women improved to 8-1 by taking down Georgia 4-3 on the road. The Gators won two of three matches to earn the doubles point with victories from 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. No. 1 Will fell in singles action to No. 11 Chelsey Gillickson, but No. 18 Mather, No. 23 Embree and No. 39 Oyen were all victorious to earn the overall win.

Florida’s men rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to tie things up with Georgia 3-3 but simply could not complete the comeback victory. The Bulldogs won the doubles point by taking down two of the three ranked duos for the Gators. The No. 8 pairing of junior Billy Federhofer and senior Nassim Slilam won their match, but the No. 18 duo of junior Tripper Carleton and sophomore Spencer Newman and the No. 43 team of sophomore Andrew Butz and junior Bob van Overbeek both fell 8-4. Singles wins by Carleton, Slilam and sophomore Michael Alford tied the match, but No. 51 van Overbeek fell to No. 3 Wil Spencer 6-7(4), 6-0, 7-5 in a final that lasted 2:28.

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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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Gators tennis wins two SEC titles on Sunday

Easter Sunday was a day of celebration for the Florida Gators tennis program as both the men’s and women’s teams won a 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship after fighting their way through their respective tournaments.

The No. 17 and five-seed men’s team (18-8) defeated the No. 11 and three-seed Kentucky Wildcats (26-8) 4-0 in the tournament final at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The victory is Florida’s fourth men’s tournament victory (1994, 2000, 2005) in seven opportunities.

Senior Alexandre Lacroix, junior Nassim Slilam, sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr., sophomore Bob van Overbeek, sophomore Billy Federhofer and freshman Andrew Butz all saw victories on Sunday. The duos of Slilam/Federhofer and van Overbeek/Butz both won their matches; van Overbeek, No. 44 Bangoura and No. 93 Slilam also captured singles victories. No. 8 Lacroix came out of the tournament with Most Valuable Player honors and was named to the All-Tournament Team along with Slilam.

The No. 2 and one-seed women’s team (25-1) won its 17th SEC Tournament title in the 24-years it has existed, defeating the No. 14 and two-seed Tennessee Volunteers (17-4) 4-0 at Barksdale Stadium in Knoxville, TN.

Sophomore Allie Will, junior Joanna Mather, freshmen Alex Cercone and freshman Olivia Janowicz collected victories to fuel the Gators’ shutout. The duos of No. 9 Will/Cercone and Mather/Janowicz won their matches; No. 6 Will, No. 50 Janowicz and No. 51 Cercone were also victorious in singles competition.

Will was named the MVP and, along with Janowicz, picked for the All-Tournament Team.

The victories Sunday mark the 11th and 12th conference titles won by the University of Florida in 2010-11. It is the third time in school history that both programs won the SEC Tournament in the same season (2000, 2005).

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