Syracuse eliminates Florida lacrosse from NCAA Tournament for second-straight season

With revenge on their minds and a national title still standing as their primary goal, No. 5 Florida Gators lacrosse entered the Carrier Dome on Saturday looking to oust the No. 4 Syracuse Orange from the 2013 NCAA Tournament quarterfinals and continue their run to the first national championship in program history. Instead, rather than take the first step towards the storybook ending that the senior class had hoped to achieve, Florida faltered against its burgeoning rival, falling 13-9 to a Syracuse team that has gotten the best of UF in the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons.

The fact that the Gators (18-3) were forced to play on the home turf of the Orange (18-3) was purely a matter of seeding. That was not without controversy, however, as Florida was awarded the tournament’s No. 5 overall seed despite topping Syracuse 14-10 in a neutral site contest on March 2 and also registering victories over the teams that were handed the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the event.

Nevertheless, the Gators got the opportunity they wanted – to take down the Orange as a measure of revenge for a controversial come-from-behind victory just one year ago in the Final Four of the 2012 NCAA Tournament – but ultimately came up short.

Continue Reading » Syracuse eliminates Florida lacrosse from NCAA Tournament for second-straight season

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Florida lacrosse makes history, advances to 2012 NCAA Final Four with 15-2 rout of Penn State

No. 1 Florida Gators lacrosse became the youngest program in the history of the sport to advance to the Final Four after topping the Penn State Nittany Lions 15-2 in the Elite Eight round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida (19-2) had the advantage on Penn State (12-7) all afternoon, outscoring their opponents 8-2 in the first half and shutting them out 7-0 in the second half on the way to a monumental win for the program.

Midfielders junior Brittany Dashiell and freshman Nora Barry scored three goals each for the Gators, which also received two goals apiece from junior attackers Kitty Cullen and Ashley Bruns and freshman M Shannon Gilroy.

Gilroy also notched a game-high six draw controls, and Barry contributed three of her own to give UF a 15-4 advantage. Bruns, Barry and junior defender Sam Farrell each grabbed three ground balls to lead Florida over Penn State 16-7 in that category.

The Gators also outshot the Nittany Lions 34-12 and committed five fewer turnovers (7-12) than their opponents over the course of the contest.

Junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher continued her dominant presence in the net for Florida, allowing just two goals while registering seven saves.

“I’m really proud of our program, the players, the coaches, the support staff,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said following UF’s victory. “This was a monumental win for us. We’ve been preparing for this since we lost to Duke in this same round last year. These young ladies have put in so much hard work. They have the heart, they have the passion and I thought it really showed today. This was 60 minutes of great lacrosse for Florida. I thought our players across the board defensively, in the goal cage, through the midfield, in the attacking end, absolutely I thought this was one of our best efforts.”

Despite their accomplishments thus far, the Gators still have a tough task ahead of them to advance to the program’s first national title game. Florida will take on No. 4 Syracuse in Final Four action on Friday (live on ESPN3.com); the winner of the match will face either Northwestern or Duke for the championship on May 27 at 8 p.m.

UF fell to SU 12-11 in overtime on March 3 and is 1-1 all-time against the program.

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Florida lacrosse advances by topping Albany 6-4

Surviving stall tactics that kept the contest low-scoring, No. 1 Florida Gators lacrosse (18-2) defeated the Albany Great Danes (12-6) in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament and used their 6-4 victory to advance to the event’s quarterfinal round.

Florida started hot out of the gate, taking an early 4-0 lead before allowing Albany to get on the board with 11:28 remaining in the opening half. The Great Danes did their best to keep the ball away from the Gators’ potent offensive weapons, thus slowing down the pace of the game and reducing UF’s opportunities to put together a blow out, but were unable to score enough on their own even while winning the second half 3-2.

Freshman midfielder Shannon Gilroy, one match after scoring a career-high seven goals to lead Florida to the 2012 ALC Tournament Championship, once again led the Gators with two goals while also registering a team-high five draw controls.

Junior attacker Kitty Cullen, junior M Brittany Dashiell, freshman M Nora Barry and freshman M Nicole Graziano added a goal each.

UF extended their impressive winning streak to 14 games with the victory and will look to increase that number once again a week from Saturday when they take on Penn State in quarterfinal action on May 19 at 12:30 p.m.

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Florida lacrosse wins first ALC Tournament title

There have been plenty of firsts for the young Florida Gators lacrosse program but few will be as memorable as what the team accomplished on Saturday, defeating the Northwestern Wildcats 14-7 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL to capture the 2012 ALC Tournament Championship.

No. 3 Florida (17-2), the top seed in the tournament, played stellar defense throughout the contest and used seven clutch goals and a career performance by freshman midfielder Shannon Gilroy to upend No. 1 Northwestern for the second time this season and third time in the last two years.

The victory marked the first ALC tournament title in school history and the third conference championship overall as UF has won the league’s regular season title in each of the last two years.

The teams traded goals to open the match, but the Gators went on a 4-0 scoring stretch including two goals each by Gilroy and junior attacker Kitty Cullen to take an early 5-1 lead. UF was able to maintain that four-goal advantage through the break by matching both goals the Wildcats scored down the stretch and taking a 7-3 lead into the half.

Florida and Northwestern took turns scoring in the second half with the Gators’ lead never dipping below three goals for the duration of the contest. In fact, once UF’s lead was cut to three, Florida scored three-straight goals to jump ahead 11-5 with 12:44 left in the match. The Gators held on down the stretch, using a combination of tough defense, controlled ball handling and consistent scoring to outlast the Wildcats and pick up the hard-fought victory.

Joining Gilroy’s efficient, effective and dominating offensive performance (seven goals on nine shots with three draw controls) were Cullen (three goals on six shots) and junior A Caroline Chesterman (two goals on three shots). Midfielders junior Brittany Dashiell and freshman Nora Barry added a goal each.

Florida handed Northwestern their worst loss in nine years and is proving to be a major thorn in the side of a team that has won six of the last seven national titles. The Gators are 3-1 against the Wildcats over the last two seasons with all three victories resulting in ALC titles (two regular season, one tournament). Florida is also the first team besides Northwestern to win the ALC Tournament in the event’s six-year history.

The Gators will now set their sights on the 2012 NCAA Tournament where UF may very well earn the No. 1 overall seed in the event. Either way, Florida will play host at least through the quarterfinals of the event as long as they are awarded a top-four seed.

ALC Tournament MVP: Junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher
ALC All-Tournament Team: Brittany Dashiell, Shannon Gilroy, Mikey Meagher, junior defenders Sam Farrell and Jamie Reeg

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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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FOUR BITS: Leak, Demps, lacrosse, Tebow

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Chris Leak supposedly signed with the Orlando Predators of the AFL on Monday and the team wants to name him their starter for Saturday’s game, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “We would like to bring him in as the face of the franchise, and I hope he ends up as our starting quarterback,” team general partner Brett Bouchy told the paper. Unfortunately for both sides, Leak was not able to join the team Monday or Tuesday thanks to his former squad the Jacksonville Sharks. According to the Florida Times-Union, even though Leak refuses to play for Jacksonville and the team does not want him back the Sharks have not released him from his contract and still retain his rights. “If the Predators want Leak, they have coach [Les] Moss’ number and we will be more than happy to trade him,” Jacksonville managing partner Jeff Bouchy (Brett Bouchy’s brother) said. “We cannot see any scenario in which Leak will wear a Sharks uniform again.” Leak’s future is now in limbo as he waits to find out if one Bouchy will trade the other something for his services. He has bounced around the CFL and AFL since being passed over by the NFL and actually played for the Jacksonville franchise this season before being replaced as starting quarterback after a five-touchdown performance. “It was an unfortunate situation in Jacksonville, but I’ve moved on,” Leak said. “I’m just very excited about the opportunity to play at home.”

2 » With the 2012 NFL Draft approaching, one name that continues to be notably absent is former Gators running back and current Florida sprinter Jeff Demps, who chose after the season to bypass the NFL in order to concentrate on running track and the 2012 London Olympics. Demps likely would have been a third- or fourth-round pick in the draft but chose an uncertain path that he enjoys over a certain future that did not hold the top spot in his heart. “Just, during the football season, I enjoyed football, but I just felt I had to be on the track,” he told FOX Sports in in yet another article about his decision and future in sports. “I had to follow my heart, and my heart said to be with track. It’s a career decision.”

3 » Gators lacrosse swept the ALC weekly awards on Monday. Junior atacker Gabi Wiegand won Offensive Player of the Week, junior defender Sam Farrell picked up Defensive Player of the Week and midfielder Nora Barry was named Rookie of the Week. It is the first time since the ALC expanded to three weekly awards that one team has swept all three in a single week.

4 » Could QB Tim Tebow already be winning over New York Jets players through a few days of offseason camp? According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Jets No. 2 wide receiver Jeremy Kerley was pleasantly surprised how well Tebow has been performing already and offered up some praise for his new teammate. “Different than Mark, different than Mark,” he said of Tebow as a quarterback. “His ball comes out a little bit stronger, but he’s accurate, he’s more accurate than what I thought he was going to be. But he’s a good dude, he has a great personality, he’ll bring a lot of personality to the team.” The Ledger asked him how much more velocity Tebow throws with as compared to Mark Sanchez. Kerley’s answer: “A LOT, a lot more velocity. No dis to Mark, he brings it man.”

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No. 5 Florida knocks off No. 1 Northwestern 8-7, captures second-straight ALC title

For a program only in its third season of existence, Florida Gators lacrosse continues to make plenty of noise. No. 5 Florida (15-2, 5-0 ALC) took down the previously undefeated No. 1 Northwestern Wildcats (14-1, 4-1 ALC) on Saturday, outscoring their hosts 8-7 at Lakeside Field in Evanston, IL to capture their second ALC regular season title in as many seasons.

UF clinched a share of the 2011 ALC title by defeating Northwestern 13-11 last season before winning the championship outright a few days later after beating Vanderbilt. The Wildcats got a measure of revenge on the Gators in 2011 by prevailing over their new rivals for the ALC Tournament Championship in a 10-9 slugfest. Florida will be the No. 1 seed in the tournament for the second-straight year.

Three Gators juniors – midfielder Brittany Dashiell and attackers Ashley Bruns and Gabi Wiegand – each scored two goals in Saturday’s contest. Junior goalkeeper Mickey Meager was equally clutch for the orange and blue by picking up seven saves on 14 shots over the course of the match.

Florida got out to an early 2-0 lead and scored the final three goals of the opening period to hold a 5-2 advantage at halftime. Northwestern scored three goals to open the second period (including two by Erin Fitzgerald) to even things out at 5-5, but it took Bruns less than 30 seconds to put UF back ahead 6-5 with 25:39 remaining.

The Wildcats soon evened things up and then took their only lead of the game, 7-6 with 20:51 left, but were unable to maintain their momentum. Gators freshman M Nora Barry tied the match a minute later on an assist from freshman M Nicole Graziano and both sides went scoreless over the next 14 minutes.

Wiegand (four points) then stepped up unassisted at 5:47 and scored what would become the game- and championship-winning goal for UF.

Northwestern has now lost two total regular season matches since 2004 after dropping late-season contests to Florida in each of the last two seasons. UF also ended NU’s 24-game winning streak.

The Gators will return to Gainesville, FL as they prepare to host the 2012 ALC Tournament May 3-5. Florida, as the No. 1 overall seed, receives a first-round bye and will participate in semifinal action on May 4 at 7 p.m.

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FOUR BITS: Powell, Jenkins, lacrosse, Zunino

1 » Florida Gators junior Buck linebacker Ronald Powell tore his anterior cruciate ligament during the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut and photographer David Carr happened to capture the moment about one second before the injury occurred. As you can see below, courtesy of InsidetheGators.com, Powell was pulling up from attacking the ball carrier as he believed freshman LB Antonio Morrison had him tackled. However, redshirt sophomore tackle Chaz Green kept playing through the whistle (as he should) and shoved Powell in the back to get him away from the play. Powell planted his left foot at the same time as the push and tore his ACL as a consequence.

2 » Former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins, just three weeks before the 2012 NFL Draft, has fired Ben Dogra of CAA and hired Malik Shareef of DSI as his new agent. However, as is tradition with anything Jenkins does, there appears to be two sides to the story. Though Jenkins’s camp claims that he did indeed fire Dogra and bring on Shareef, a report from the Orlando Sentinel notes that it was Dogra who decided to no longer represent Jenkins. “The only reason we decided to move on is because they’re too big,” Jenkins’s “mentor” Sandy Cornelio told NFL.com. “We weren’t getting personal attention, so we decided to move on. That was it. And we told them. We called them professionally and said, ‘Hey, we’re moving on. We came to the conclusion that we honestly believe a smaller agency that pays us more attention will be better for us.’ [Dogra] told us that he understood and he would help in any way he could. At the end of the day, we came to the conclusion that the kid drafts himself by his performance.”

Regardless of which party made the decision, changing agents so close to the draft undoubtedly raises any remaining eyebrows that may not have been previously. And though Jenkins and Cornelio may be justified in feeling they were not getting enough personal attention from CAA, they are undoubtedly incorrect in believing that it is solely Jenkins’s performance that will dictate his draft position. If it was he would be a consensus top-15 pick; instead he’s rumored to fall out of the first round due to character concerns. Shareef previously represented Cleveland Browns CB Joe Haden who switched over to Drew Rosenhaus in November.

3 » Gators lacrosse (13-2, 3-0 ALC) took down the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (7-4, 0-2 ALC) on Saturday in the first overtime victory in program history. Florida defeated Johns Hopkins 13-12 in double overtime and extended the game twice by scoring the final goal both in regulation and the first overtime. The only goal of the game for junior attacker Gabi Wiegand came with just seven seconds remaining in the contest, giving UF their first extra opportunity. Junior attacker Kitty Cullen and freshman midfielder Nora Barry combined for seven goals on 11 shots and respectively scored the game-tying goal in the first overtime and game-winning goal in the second overtime. Florida moved up one spot from No. 5 to No. 4 in the country in the latest top 25 poll.

4 » Ranking the top 50 prospects available for the 2012 MLB Draft, ESPN Insider’s Keith Law has given plenty of respect to three junior Gators. Law lists catcher Mike Zunino as the second-best player available, noting that “most scouts seem to think he doesn’t get past Seattle at No. 3.” He also has left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson at No. 24 overall and shortstop Nolan Fontana at No. 26 overall; Law considers both the fifth-best prospect at their respective position.

Extra BIT » Despite neither being drafted nor signed as an undrafted free agent by a NFL team in 2011, former Florida safety Will Hill is “hoping to make a comeback” with the New York Jets and New York Giants “showing interest” according to SI.com NFL Draft analyst Tony Pauline. Hill hails from New Jersey and has been training in the area.

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