Florida softball sweeps Gainesville Regional; Gators set to host Super Regional

By Jordan McPherson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 5 Florida Gators softball (48-11) is one step closer to making its sixth Women’s College World Series appearance in seven years after closing out a sweep of the Gainesville Regional with a victory on Sunday.

Breezing through its first two opponents at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, UF shut out the Central Florida Knights (43-18) in the regional final on Sunday, winning 7-0 and advancing to the Super Regional portion of the 2014 NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in an eight-year span.

Gators junior right-hander Lauren Haeger (7.0 IP, 5 H, 5 K) tossed a five-hit shutout in Sunday’s finale to pick up her 10th win of the season and drop her ERA to a team-best 1.57. After giving up back-to-back singles to open the bottom of the first, Haeger calmed down and retired the next 11 batters, only scatting five singles in the contest.

But her contribution to Florida’s win extended much further than the pitcher’s circle. Haeger (1/5, HR, 3 RBI, R) blasted her team-leading 19th home run of the season — a one out, two-run shot in the first inning — which was also her third homer in as many games during the Gainesville Regional.

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Northwestern ousts Florida lacrosse from NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals in double overtime

By Jordan McPherson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

In order to advance to the Final Four for the second time in three seasons, the No. 4 Florida Gators had to take down the rival No. 5 Northwestern Wildcats for the third time in as many meetings this year.

Unfortunately for the Gators, which defeated the Wildcats on the road by one point apiece in each of the first two meetings, Northwestern took control at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, and defeated the hosts 12-11 in double-overtime .

UF has now been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the quarterfinal round for the third time in four years. It was the second time in three seasons that a team took down Florida in a double overtime quarterfinal match.

The Wildcats (14-6) thumped the Gators (18-3) on draw controls, 16-9, with Northwestern attacker Alyssa Leonard, the NCAA career leader in the category, registering a match-high seven, more than double anyone else on the field.

It was a back-and-forth game on offense for both teams. After Leonard opened up the scoring 2:41 into the game, Florida went on a 4-0 run over the course of 9:06 in the first half to take a 4-1 lead. The Wildcats finished off the half by similarly scoring four unanswered goals to take a 5-4 lead into halftime.

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Michigan F Jon Horford transfers to Florida

Updated on Tuesday, May 13 at 5 p.m.

Forward Jon Horford, a Michigan Wolverines transfer and the brother of former Florida Gators standout Al Horford, has decided to play out his final year of eligibility in Gainesville, Florida, according to ESPN.com‘s Jeff Goodman.

Entering his redshirt senior campaign, Jon Horford (6-foot-10, 250 pounds) will be eligible to play immediately due to the NCAA’s graduate transfer exemption after receiving his undergraduate degree from Michigan in May.

The school announced his transfer on May 13, noting that he started graduate-level classes when the Summer A semester began on May 12.

Florida has a crowded frontcourt in 2014-15 but should be able to find a fair amount of playing time for Horford. He averaged 3.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.8 minutes per contest last season and originally decided to transfer to see more time on the court.

That may not be possible with the Gators, which will have sophomore Chris Walker, redshirt senior Damontre Harris, redshirt juniors Dorian Finney-Smith and Alex Murphy, and five-star incoming freshman Devin Robinson in the frontcourt.

Walker is likely to start at power forward or center next to either Harris or Murphy with Finney-Smith playing small forward. Horford will give Florida a big body and great energy off the bench to spell Walker and Harris but could see an uptick in playing time should Harris once again fall out of favor with the program.

With Horford’s transfer, UF has filled its final scholarship for the 2014-15 campaign.

Four-star guard Brandone Francis and four-star point guard Chris Chiozza are the other two incoming freshman aside from Robinson. All three first-year players are ranked among the top 42 prospects in the nation for 2014, according to Rivals.com.

Murphy will not be eligible until the spring semester after transferring in the middle of the 2013-14 season; however, the Gators plan to petition the NCAA for a waiver that would allow the legacy to play at the start of the campaign.

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Sharrif Floyd lead plaintiff in suit against NCAA

Former Florida Gators defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is the lead plaintiff in a federal antitrust class-action lawsuit filed Friday which accuses the NCAA and 11 conferences of capping the value of athletic scholarships and therefore fixing the grant-in-aid student-athletes can receive while attending universities.

According to Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann, who first reported the lawsuit after receiving and publishing a full copy of the 65-page document, it is the first of its kind to include females as plaintiffs and name 11 conferences (not just the primary five) as co-defendants.

The plaintiffs are not only seeking monetary damage but more importantly “challenging the anticompetitive rules of the NCAA and those conferences limiting the grant-in-aid money eligible to its full-scholarship athletes.”

By only covering “tuition, required institutional fees, room and board, and required course-related books,” the grant-in-aid scholarships “leave full-scholarship student athletes with a significant shortfall” by not covering the “entire cost of attending college,” according to Zelle Hofmann Voelbel & Mason LLP, the law firm bringing the suit.

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Florida Gators gymnastics wins share of second-straight NCAA National Championship

By Jordan McPherson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

After trailing for most of the Super Six for the second-straight year, it came down to sophomore Bridgette Caquatto pulling off a miracle for No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics, which forced a late tie and split the 2014 NCAA Championship on Saturday night in Birmingham, AL.

UF’s final competitor in the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center, Caquatto needed to score a 9.95 on floor if the Gators wanted to earn a share of the national title with the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners.

And she delivered, matching her career-high mark for the third time this season as Florida locked up with Oklahoma for the lead just one year after winning the title for the first time in program history.

“It was absolutely incredible,” Gators head coach Rhonda Faehn said in a post-meet interview. “Our athletes, I mean, they knew what was on the line, and they just competed their hearts out.”

Florida and Oklahoma both posted a 198.175 — the highest score in Super Six history — and subsequently split the title after a long delay as judges attempted to ensure there was no method by which to break the tie. By tying with the Gators, the Sooners became just the sixth program to finish in the top spot. LSU (197.600) finished in third and Alabama (fourth, 197.550), Georgia (fifth, 197.050) and Nebraska (sixth, 196.500) rounded out the field.

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Florida Gators gymnastics reaches Super Six, looks for second straight title

By Jordan McPherson — OnlyGators.com Contributor

Behind a strong all-around performance courtesy of senior Alaina Johnson (T-2nd, 39.600) — who finished with top-five scores on vault (T-5th, 9.900), uneven bars (T-2nd, 9.925) and balance beam (T-2nd, 9.900) —No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics advanced to the Super Six of the NCAA Championships for the third consecutive season and eighth time in the last nine years.

Florida posted a 197.650 in the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center to tie No. 4 Alabama for the top spot in Session II of the semifinals on Friday in Birmingham, AL.

No. 9 Nebraska finished third with a 197.100 to join Florida and Alabama in advancing to the Super Six over Utah (197.025), UCLA (197.000) and Penn State (194.825).

With the win, the Gators will look to defend their national title in Saturday’s Super Six with the field also comprised of Oklahoma, LSU and Georgia. Nebraska is the lone team in the field that did not compete in the 2013 NCAA Championships, when Florida became just the fifth team ever to win an NCAA national title in the sport.

UF competed in the Olympic rotation during its time in the semifinals. After posting its best mark of the season on vault (49.550) at the University Park Regional on April 5, Florida scored a 49.375 team score on the horse — the best team total in both semifinals — to begin competition in Birmingham.

The Gators then extended their lead by notching a 49.550 on bars, the program’s highest total at the NCAA Championships and the fourth-best score in NCAA Semifinals history. Sophomore Bridget Sloan (9.950) posted the highest score on the event, while Johnson (9.925), senior Mackenzie Caquatto (9.925) and sophomore Bridgette Caquatto (9.900) all had big outings to help UF expand its lead.

After taking a .200 advantage over second-place UA halfway through the competition, Florida struggled on beam, earning a 49.300. Sloan fell for the second consecutive meet after checking her balance twice, resulting in a career-low score on 9.200 on Friday for the All-American. The miscue also took her out of contention for the All-Around award.

Despite Sloan’s stumble, Mackenzie Caquatto and Johnson kept the Gators afloat by posting 9.900s on beam while Claire Boyce and junior Kytra Hunter scored 9.850s.

With just one event remaining, Florida rebounded on the floor routine, scoring a 49.425.

After posting sub-9.900 scores all evening, Hunter — who scored four perfect 10s on the floor this season — tied with Boyce and Sloan for a team-best 9.900 to cap the event for UF. Hunter finished with a 39.475 all-around, tying for the eighth-best total in Session II.

NCAA Super Six competition begins Saturday at 7 p.m. and will air live ESPN3.com.

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15 Gator Bites for Tuesday, April 15

From time to time, OnlyGators.com will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons was involved in a card accident before his team’s game on Monday – don’t worry, he’s OK – when a woman ran a red light and hit his sports utility vehicle. What happened next? “She said she ran a red light and it was her fault,” Parsons told the Houston Chronicle. “She had a little car so it kind of messed up the front bumper of my car. She was OK. Asked me to sign her insurance card.” Parsons led Houston with 21 points in 40 minutes on Monday. He entered the game recovering from a hip injury he suffered last week.

» According to Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com, the Philadelphia Eagles have a high level of interest in Gators outside linebacker Ronald Powell. Kempski notes that Philadelphia has a history of selecting high-upside players that were ranked among the top players in the country coming out of high school seeing as the Eagles used a seventh-round selection on running back Bryce Brown in 2012.

» The final USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll came out following the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and the individual ballots of all 32 coaches that voted were released as well. Five coaches – Tim Cluess (Iona), Matt Driscoll (North Florida), Tim Floyd (UTEP), Shaka Smart (VCU) and Don Verlin (Idaho) – voted Florida into the No. 2 spot over Kentucky, while four other coaches picked UF at No. 4 behind Wisconsin. One coach – Mike McConathy of Northwestern State – ranked the Gators fifth in the final poll.

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Freshman PF Chris Walker announces return to Florida Gators for sophomore season

Freshman power forward Chris Walker announced Wednesday that he intends to skip the 2014 NBA Draft, continue playing college basketball and return to the Florida Gators as a sophomore for the 2014-15 season.

“This year has been a great one, and I’m happy to say I will be joining the gatornation again for one more year!” he wrote Wednesday afternoon on Twitter.

Walker, an athletic frontcourt player who joined the team in mid-December after being declared academically ineligible for the fall semester, did not play his first game until Feb. 4 while serving an NCAA suspension for accepting impermissible benefits.

He averaged 4.8 minutes over the 18 games he did play, amassing a grand total of 34 points, 24 rebounds and eight blocks on the season.

As he neither went through the offseason strength and conditioning program nor spent the summer and fall practicing with the team, Walker was far behind when he eventually became eligible for the Gators.

His length and athleticism were apparent in his rebounding and shot blocking, but he often rushed shots when getting post touches and was considered a liability on defense.

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