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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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, tennis, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics did everything they could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six on Saturday but came just short of earning their first national title as the Alabama Crimson Tide edged Florida 197.850-197.775 to win the 2012 NCAA Championship. One of four teams in 31 years to win the national title, Alabama captured their sixth in school history by a 0.075 margin thanks to a stellar 49.500 effort on the balance beam in the final rotation. The Gators led the Crimson Tide by 0.025 heading into the final rotation; however, Florida posted a 49.400 on the floor exercise, allowing Alabama to leap them and earn the championship. All is not lost for the Gators as UF’s individual gymnasts will compete for event national titles on Sunday. Freshman Kytra Hunter already won the NCAA Championship in the all-around on Friday.

2 » Looking to carry some momentum from the 16-inning marathon win Friday night, No. 1 Florida baseball (30-9, 10-7 SEC) was not as fortunate Saturday night falling 5-3 to the Georgia Bulldogs (24-16, 8-9 SEC) at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. UF led 2-1 after the first inning thanks to a two-run bomb by senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/4, HR, 2 RBI, R, SB) but found themselves in a 4-2 hole after UGA rallied for three runs in the top of the third. A solo homer by senior center fielder Daniel Pigott (1/4, HR, RBI, R) cut the Gators’ deficit to a single run in the bottom of the fourth, but Bulldogs’ starter Michael Palazzone and reliever Blake Dieterich combined to no-hit Florida over the final five innings of the game. Georgia’s timely pitching and clutch defense handed the loss to junior left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (5-2, 7.0 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 5 K). UF has not swept a weekend series in over a month hopes to pick up a series win in the rubber match on Sunday at 3 p.m. (ESPN2).

3 » No. 1-seed Gators women’s tennis (20-1) swept the No. 4-seed Ole Miss Rebels (17-8) in the semifinals of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday, using a 4-0 victory to propel them into the finals on Sunday against No. 3-seed Georgia. Florida captured the doubles point in entertaining fashion having split the first two matches 1-1 before the No. 1 duo of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen earned a 9-8 (7-5) victory. Singles action was a more of a breeze for the Gators with No. 23 senior Joanna Mather (6-3, 6-1), No. 10 junior Lauren Embree (6-2, 6-0) and No. 51 Oyen (3-6, 6-1, 6-0) picking up three wins to end the match. UF, which improved to 25-0 all-time in SEC Tournament quarterfinals action on Friday, is now 23-2 in the semifinals and competing for their 18th conference tournament title.Florida defeated Georgia 4-3 on March 4 in Athens, GA in the teams’ sole meeting this season.

4 » No. 3/4 Gators softball (41-5) completed their sweep of the Florida International Golden Panthers (24-23) with a 7-1 victory on Saturday at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. Florida and FIU were scoreless through four innings with Gators sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers (24-3) holding the Golden Panthers hitless for most of the contest. Florida jumped ahead 1-0 in the fifth on a RBI double by sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1/3, RBI, BB), but Rogers allowed FIU to even things up in the top of the sixth. Junior RF Ensley Gammel (1/2, HR RBI, R) put the Gators ahead for good in the sixth with a solo homer that spurned a six-run bottom of the inning including two RBIs by freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-3, 2 RBI, R, BB) and another solo bomb by freshman left fielder Jessica Damico (1/1, HR, RBI, R). Rogers (7.0 IP, 3 H, R, 3 BB, 7 K) completed the outing and her team’s third-straight weekend series sweep.

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FOUR BITS: baseball, gymnastics, tennis, softball

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (30-8, 10-6 SEC) prevailed in a 16-inning marathon on Friday, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs (23-16, 7-9 SEC) 3-2 in the teams’ series opener at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida gave up a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth as Georgia tied things up but neither team posted a run in the following 16 frames. Finally the Gators ended the game by forcing the Bulldogs to commit the first error of the contest for either team. Junior first baseman Vickash Ramjit walked with one out, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and moved over to third thanks to a wild pitch. Junior shortstop Nolan Fontana stepped up to the plate with hopes of driving Ramjit home but struck out swinging; however, Fontana’s third strike was dropped and an error by the catcher (a bad throw to first) allowed Ramjit to cross the plate. Right-handed relievers junior Austin Maddox and senior Greg Larson tossed the final 8.2 innings of the game. Maddox struck out five and allowed four hits in 5.2 innings, but Larson (5-0) earned the win after striking out two in three no-hit innings to conclude the contest. Friday’s game was the longest UF has participated in since 1996.

2 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics finished second in Session II of the 2012 NCAA Championships on Friday, advancing to the 2012 NCAA Super Six for a chance to win the first national title in team history. UF finished with a final score of 197.650, just 0.025 behind session winner Alabama. Freshman Kytra Hunter also captured the NCAA all-around individual national title – the first in team history – with a 39.725 in the event. The Gators will compete for the team national championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. (streamed live on ESPN3.com) and the rest of the individual titles on Sunday.

3 » No. 1-seed Florida women’s tennis (19-1) swept the No. 8-seed Tennessee Volunteers (14-12) in 2012 SEC Tournament second-round action on Friday, advancing to the semifinals where they will face No. 4-seed Ole Miss on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Gators easily won the doubles point and got three quick wins from sophomores No. 68 Alex Cercone, No. 51 Sofie Oyen and No. 121 Olivia Janowicz to end the contest relatively early. Florida will participate in the semifinals for the 25th time in school history, continuing their undefeated streak (25-0) in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. The No. 4-seed Gators’ men’s tennis team (14-9) was not as fortunate, falling 4-1 to the No. 5-seed Ole Miss Rebels (13-7) and eliminating themselves from the event.

4 » No. 3/4 UF softball (40-5) swept a doubleheader against the Florida International Golden Panthers (24-22) on Friday and will look to close out the series with a victory in game three on Saturday. Florida won the early contest 7-4 behind the offense of freshman left fielder Briana Little (1/3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB) and closing ability of freshman RHP Alyssa Bache (S2, 3.0 IP, 4 H, 2 K). The Gators used the strong arm of freshman RHP Lauren Haeger (12-2, CG, 5.0 IP, 3 H, BB, 4 K) to help them coast to a 9-0 shutout victory in the evening game. Haeger (1/4, HR, R), freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2/3, 2 R, BB), sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1/1, HR, R, 2 BB) and junior catcher Kelsey Horton (1/3) contributed two RBIs each in the contest.

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Gators rack up five titles over the weekend

The weekend of April 15-17, 2011 was a good one for the Florida Gators as University of Florida student-athletes brought home five separate titles for the school.

No. 3/5 Gators men’s golf won the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship, leading after every single round of the event. Florida finished with a combined 848 (+8), five strokes ahead of second-place Alabama to win the school’s 200th all-time SEC title.

Competing for the Gators in the event, redshirt senior golfer Andres Echavarria also won the 2011 SEC Men’s Individual Championship with a three-round total of 209 (-1).

With No. 7 Florida gymnastics failing to advance to the 2011 NCAA Super Six, the team had three student-athletes competing individually. One came through as sophomore Marissa King claimed the 2011 NCAA Championship in the vault on Sunday. King scored a 9.8750 in the vault and became UF’s first NCAA event winner since 1998.

Two other Gators teams clinched outright conference titles over the weekend.

No. 5/6 Florida lacrosse (14-1, 5-0 ALC) defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores (7-7, 1-4 ALC) 8-7 Sunday to continue a 14-game winning streak and take sole possession of the regular season 2011 ALC Championship. No. 1 Gators women’s tennis (22-1, 11-0 SEC) followed suit, shutting out the South Carolina Gamecocks (12-9, 4-7 SEC) 7-0 on Saturday to go undefeated in conference play and capture the 2011 SEC title.

Photo Credit: Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun

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FOUR BITS: tennis wins SEC, gym, Davis, Hill

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators women’s tennis (22-1, 11-0 SEC) shutout the South Carolina Gamecocks (12-9, 4-7 SEC) 7-0 on Saturday to capture the outright 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship for the regular season at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The victory not only won Florida the SEC title and a No. 1 seed (including a bye) in the upcoming 2011 SEC Tournament, it was also the team’s 102nd consecutive regular season victory and 93rd-straight at home. The No. 8 doubles team of sophomore Allie Will and freshman Alex Cercone took down their No. 32-ranked opponents 8-4. No. 7 Will and No. 51 Cercone each won their singles matches, as did No. 20 sophomore Lauren Embree, No. 37 junior Joanna Mather, No. 49 freshman Olivia Janowicz and No. 104 freshman Sofie Oyen. The No. 43 duo of Embree and Oyen also won their doubles match earlier in the day.

2 » No. 5 Gators gymnastics was not as successful over the weekend, failing to advance to the 2011 NCAA Super Six team final by finishing fourth in Session II of the 2011 NCAA Championships semifinals. Florida finished with 196.125 points behind Alabama (197.05), Nebraska (196.85) and Utah (196.20). Fortunately for the Gators, three of the ladies advanced to the NCAA individual event finals on Sunday. Freshman Alaina Johnson will compete in vault, uneven bars and floor exercise; sophomore Marissa King will try her hand at vault and floor exercise; and senior Maranda Smith will participate in the floor exercise. All three were named to the All-American First Team.

3 » Florida 2012 running back commitment Mike Davis (Stone Mountain, GA) won a Most Valuable Player award for his group at the Nike Football Training Camp in Athens, GA on Friday. “Mike did some incredible things,” Jake Campbell, running backs coach at the camp, told ESPN. “He has great lateral movement and change of direction. He’s terrific in the open field. He’s a true running back where things come so natural to him. He’s versatile and has soft hands. He’s also a strong ball carrier who really seems to understand the position.”

4 » Gators safety Will Hill, waiting to find out who will take a chance on him in the 2011 NFL Draft, participated in a local prospect day for the New York Giants on Thursday. The Newark Star-Ledger’s Mike Garafolo says Hill “has the Giants intrigued” to the point that they have “look[ed] into the personal side of things” regarding his character.

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TWO BITS: gymnastics in NCAAs, Hill returns

1 » No. 5 Florida Gators gymnastics will begin semifinal action in the 2011 NCAA Championships on Friday evening at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, OH. Competing in Semifinal II along with Alabama, Kent State, Nebraska, Oregon and Utah, Florida hopes to finish in the top three in order to advance to the NCAA Super Six – the final stage of competition for a national title.

2 » Back wearing orange and blue for the first time since 1994, new Gators wide receivers coach Aubrey Hill is happy to be back home. Calling his return to Gainesville, FL a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Hill told University of Florida senior writer Scott Carter that he is the one who reached out to head coach Will Muschamp about joining his first staff. “When he got the job, I sought him out,’’ Hill said. “I’m just very thankful for the opportunity to be able to come back home to your alma mater and to be able to give back to the players, give back to the community, and give back to this wonderful Gator Nation.” Muschamp explained why having Hill on board can help the team be successful. “I think having someone on the coaching staff who attended the University of Florida is really important when dealing with the players,’’ he said. “Aubrey has walked in their footsteps. He has been on their practice field, was in their classrooms and knows the culture of the Gator Nation. He’s accomplished what a lot of these players want to accomplish – he has been part of championship teams.”

You can check out the rest of the feature story by clicking here, though a choice quote has been republished below:

Q: You are the recruiting coordinator. How do you approach recruiting?
A: I really, really enjoy recruiting. Why do I enjoy recruiting? I look back when I was recruited and how important it was in picking a school. As an assistant coach, we have to give them all the information that can help them make a decision. They can pick it for several reasons: football, academics, proximity to home. What we try to do as coaches is try to tie them all in. There is no way I can do my job without the head coach. Sometimes I can’t do my job without the area coach. We all collectively work on getting a kid here. Recruiting is just selling what you believe in, and it’s an easy sell when you are talking about the University of Florida.

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