Hunter perfect again; No. 2 Florida tops No. 1 OU

Junior Kytra Hunter did it again.

For the second time in as many meets, Hunter stepped onto the mat with poise, held her head high, took a deep breath and put together a flawless turn at the floor exercise. The result was the same, too: perfection.

Led by Hunter’s 10.0, No. 2 Florida Gators gymnastics (4-0, 2-0 SEC) shut down the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners (3-1, 1-1 Big 12) on Friday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville FL, defeating its third ranked and second top-five opponent in four meets this season.

Just one week after Hunter and sophomore Bridget Sloan, the last two defending champions in the NCAA All-Around respectively in 2012 and 2013, posted back-to-back 10.0s on floor, the duo came close to replicating their effort.

First up was Sloan. She failed in her charge, picking up a measly 9.950 after her routine rocked the O’Dome. Little did her teammates, coaches or the fans in attendance know what would come next from Hunter.

Continue Reading » Hunter perfect again; No. 2 Florida tops No. 1 OU

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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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SIX BITS: gymnastics, Floyd, Kansas, Parsons

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics did not conclude its incredible weekend on Saturday after it won the 2013 NCAA Championship, the first NCAA title in program history. Instead, Florida was right back at it on Sunday as its gymnasts competed in individual events with the hopes of bringing additional championships back to Gainesville, FL. Freshman Bridget Sloan, who captured the 2013 NCAA Championship in the all-around on Friday, doubled up with a title in the balance beam (9.900) on Sunday. She actually would have won three individual championships had it not been for junior teammate Alaina Johnson, who edged Sloan 9.9125 to 9.900 in the uneven parallel bars to win a title of her own.

2 » Florida’s national championship-winning gymnastics team will be honored at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center during a special celebration on Monday at 7 p.m. Gates open at 6 p.m. and access to the event is free. The celebration will be the first held inside the O’Dome for a Gators championship-winning program since basketball won its second of back-to-back titles in 2007. GatorVision.tv will have a live stream of the event for fans outside of Gainesville. OGGOA will tweet a link at 7 p.m.

The Florida school website on Monday posted a terrific feature on head coach Rhonda Faehn, who has been nothing short of spectacular since joining the program in 2002. Though the national title had been elusive for Faehn, she knew that the Gators could be one of the top programs in the country when she took the job. “It was a gold mine just waiting for success,” she told senior writer Scott Carter about Florida. “I felt there was so much potential. Who wouldn’t want to go there? It was undiscovered almost and people needed to see how amazing it was. That’s what I felt for years when I was coaching at other places, that Florida was just incredible.” Added athletic director Jeremy Foley about Fahen: “She built our program. When we hired her, the goal was we wanted to be like Alabama, we wanted to be like Georgia, we wanted to be like Utah, we didn’t understand why we couldn’t be like them. We wanted to be a factor. Look at what she has done. I feel great for her, her staff, and obviously these kids.”

Check out four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: gymnastics, Floyd, Kansas, Parsons

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Florida gymnastics wins second-straight SEC title

By Corey Mitleider, Scott Barr (OGGOA Contributors) and Adam Silverstein

No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics lived up to its national ranking on Saturday, taking home the 2013 Southeastern Conference Championship in Little Rock, AR. Florida edged No. 3 Alabama 198.000-197.800 to capture the ninth league title in program history (third in the last four years) and become the first team to win back-to-back SEC Championships since Georgia won three-straight from 2004-06.

No. 6 LSU (197.700) and No. 5 Georgia (197.325), two other evening session participants, rounded out the top four as no team from the afternoon session was in the running after Auburn led the Session I field with a 195.550. UF had to beat three of the other top six teams in the nation just to win the league title.

The Gators were led on Saturday by 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year Bridget Sloan, who paced Florida with an SEC title-winning score of 39.750 in the all-around. Sloan registered at least 9.925 in each event and split the title with LSU’s Rheagan Courville, the 2013 SEC Gymnast of the Year. She also tied with Georgia’s Brittany Rogers for the SEC title in the uneven bars (9.950) and was part of a five-way tie along with sophomore Kytra Hunter for the SEC title in the floor exercise (9.950).

Scoring a 49.375 on their first rotation (vault), the Gators started the event in last place. However, two 49.500s on bars and balance beam followed by an event-ending 49.625 on floor (each gymnast scored 9.900 or better) pushed Florida into first.

Head coach Rhonda Faehn, who was announced as 2013 SEC Coach of the Year earlier in the week, saw three members of her team be honored individually by the conference. Sloan was announced as a First Team All-SEC member on all-around, bars and floor and was also honored with a nod on the SEC All-Freshman Team. Hunter was also placed on the First Team All-SEC, and senior Ashanée Dickerson received Second Team All-SEC honors.

Faehn’s SEC Coach of the Year honor is her fourth in as many years and sixth since taking over the program in 2003 (2006-07, 2010-13). She is the seventh Gators coach to win the award during the 2012-13 athletic season joining Will Muschamp (football), Billy Donovan (men’s basketball), Mary Wise (volleyball), Becky Burleigh (soccer), Paul Spangler (women’s cross country) and Gregg Troy (men’s swimming).

Sloan is Florida’s fourth-straight SEC Freshman of the Year joining Hunter (2012), junior Alaina Johnson (2011) and Dickerson (2010) as recent winners of the award.

The Gators have a week off before they host one of six NCAA Regional meets at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Saturday, April 6. The teams joining No. 1 Florida in the Gainesville Regional will include the No. 12 and No. 13 ranked squads along with three other programs ranked between No. 19-36, regionally selected based on proximity to Gainesville, FL. The top two teams at each of the six regional events will compete in the NCAA Championships from April 19-21 in Los Angeles, CA.

The SEC title brought home by the gymnastics team is the Gators’ seventh as an athletic program during the 2012-13 season. Florida has also won SEC Championships in men’s basketball (regular season), volleyball, soccer (regular season, tournament), women’s cross country and men’s swimming.

Photo Credit: Southeastern Conference

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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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TWO BITS: baseball signees, Faehn extended

1 » Florida Gators baseball saw six of its 2012 signees drafted in the first two days of the 2012 MLB Draft and there is a legitimate shot that all sign their contracts and never wind up stepping foot on campus. Below is a list of all six players selected and any current information available on their decision-making process.

OF Lewis Brinson (Tamarac, FL) – No. 29 (first round) to Texas
Brinson has told the official MLB blog that he is already close to signing.
RHP Lance McCullers (Tampa, FL) – No. 41 (comp. round A) to Houston
A top-15 talent, McCullers fell due to concerns over signability. The new collective bargaining agreement gives teams limited funds in which to pay draftees, but the Astros will be able to save money in other areas and offer McCullers a significantly higher contract than his draft slot would typically provide him. Houston’s official website, which spoke to McCullers on Tuesday, said he is prepared to “go through the negotiating process with an open mind and accept any offer he and his family find to be fair.” His father, a former MLB player, said he has “a good feeling that it’s going to go pretty smoothly.” Despite high hopes from Florida fans that McCullers falling in the draft meant he might wind up playing for the Gators, it does not appear that will be the case.
OF Jesse Winker (Windermere, FL) – No. 49 (comp. round A) to Cincinnati
Expected to sign with the Reds.
OF Max White (Williston, FL) – No. 73 (second round) to Colorado
Has told local area reporters that he plans to sign with the Rockies.
RHP Jonathan Sandfort (Winter Springs, FL) – No. 103 (third round) to Pittsburgh
SS Avery Romero (St. Augustine, FL) – No. 104 (third round) to Miami

2 » Florida women’s gymnastics coach Rhonda Faehn received a contract extension that will keep her in orange and blue through the 2017 season, the school announced on Monday. Faehn, who has yet to win a national title with the Gators but came excruciatingly close in 2012 (falling 0.075 points short), will have at least five more years to accomplish that goal. “It’s extremely exciting,” she said in a statement. “I absolutely love the University of Florida. The institution, the athletics, the academics … It’s just a tremendous, all-around everything place for our family.” The gymnastics program has been a juggernaut under her stewardship with Florida capturing three Southeastern Conference titles and finishing in the top five in the NCAA Championship seven times. UF also announced that the gymnastics studio, which has been undergoing renovations and will not be completed for six more months, will run the school a cool $4.5 million.

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SIX BITS: swimming, Gal, gym, tennis, lacrosse

1 » During the 2011 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships on Friday, the Florida Gators men’s team brought home a pair of National Championships. Competing in Minneapolis, MN, senior Brett Fraser captured the national title in the 200-yard freestyle. He was also part of the four-man team – including senior Conor Dwyer, junior Jeffrey Raymond and sophomore Sebastien Rousseau – that won the championship in the 800-yard freestyle relay.

2 » Former Florida golfer Sandra Gal picked up the first LPGA victory of her career on Sunday, winning the Kia Classic and $255,000. She finished at a 16-under 276 and won on the 18th and final hole on Sunday. “I’m a bit overwhelmed,” she said after the win. “you know, it was close all day long, so I had to kind of dig deep to pull out some shots. I’m just happy to have finally done it. I had a good feeling about today when I woke up.”

3 » Gators gymnastics was honored Wednesday when a number of players were awarded with spots on 2011 All-Southeastern Conference teams. junior Ashanée Dickerson and freshman Alaina Johnson earned First Team recognition, while junior Nicole Ellis, senior Alicia Goodwin, sophomore Marissa King and senior Maranda Smith were named to the Second Team. Johnson also picked up a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. Joining her with an overall honor was Rhonda Faehn, who won her second-straight SEC Coach of the Year award. It is the fourth of her career.

4 » No. 1 Florida women’s tennis continued their march to the postseason with a pair of impressive shutout victories over the weekend. The Gators (17-1, 6-0 SEC) took down the Ole Miss Rebels (8-6, 1-4 SEC) 7-0 on Friday and the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-10, 0-6 SEC) 7-0 on Sunday.

5 » Following suit was No. 19 Florida men’s tennis (12-5, 5-1 SEC), which took down Mississippi State (9-6, 4-2 SEC) in a 4-3 nail biter on Saturday. With the match tied, No. 6 senior Alexandre Lacroix took No. 84 Artem Ilyushin into a third-set tie breaker to pull out the victory. Lacroix won 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(5) to give UF its eighth 4-3 finish.

6 » No. 9 Gators lacrosse (10-1, 1-0 ALC) continued its spectacular sophomore season on Saturday, taking down the Ohio State Buckeyes (5-4, 0-1 ALC) 10-8 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Ohio State actually outscored Florida 5-3 in the second period but was unable to overcome UF’s 7-3 first-period advantage. Sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen, on her way to likely earning conference and perhaps national honors this season, scored six goals on 11 shots for the Gators. She now has a team-high 49 goals and 53 points on the season.

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SIX BITS: awards, softball, lacrosse, gymnastics

1 » Florida Gators track and field head coach Mike Holloway was honored with the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s National Men’s Indoor Head Coach of the Year award on Friday for the second-straight year. Holloway, who has led Florida to back-to-back NCAA Indoor Championships over the last two seasons, continues to rack up the national and regional awards. One of his assistants on the men’s team, Dick Booth was awarded National Men’s Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year by the USTFCCCA as well.

2 » The state of Mississippi was no match for No. 2/3 Florida softball (30-1, 6-0 SEC) this week as the Gators took down the Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-14, 2-2 SEC) at home in a pair of contests during the week and swept the Ole Miss Rebels (10-21, 0-6 SEC) in a three-game road series over the weekend. Florida outscored Ole Miss 37-6 over the course of the three games and made the most out of nearly every opportunity.

Senior first baseman Megan Bush set a new school record and now has a 19-game hitting streak after turning in a spectacular performance in which she combined to go 6-9 from the plate with 10 RBI, three runs and four walks. On the hill for the Gators all weekend was freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (16-1), who started all three contests and did not allow a single earned run all weekend. In 9.0 innings, Rogers only gave up five hits, three unearned runs and three walks while striking out nine batters. Also turning in stellar performances in the three-game set were senior second baseman Aja Paculba (4-10, 6 RBI, 5 R, 4 BB), freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (3-11, 5 RBI, 4 R, BB) and senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (4-6, 4 RBI, 5 R, 6 BB).

3 » Continuing to excel in only their second year in existence, No. 8/10 Gators lacrosse (8-1) took down another ranked opponent by defeating the No. 11/14 Syracuse Orange (2-4) 16-11 on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns tied her career high (and school record) with six goals; she also notched an assist for a season-high total of seven points. Florida received plenty of scoring help from sophomore midfielders Kitty Cullen and Brittany Dashiell, each of whom contributed hat tricks. Since losing an overtime contest to North Carolina on Feb. 12 to start the regular season, UF is on an impressive eight-game winning streak.

4 » Competing for the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship, No. 1 Florida gymnastics (17-2, 5-1 SEC) dropped a heart-breaker to the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide 197.225-196.975. The Gators won the bars and floor exercises, but the Crimson Tide used greater total margins in the vault and beam to improve their team total and capture the crown. After the event, Florida’s Rhonda Faehn was named 2011 SEC Coach of the Year for the fourth overall and second-straight time, and Alaina Johnson was awarded with 2011 SEC Freshman of the Year.

5 » Failing to qualify for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Gators women’s basketball (19-14) accepted a bid to the 2011 Women’s National invitation Tournament and defeated the UMBC Retrievers (20-12) 59-47 in first-round action on Friday. Redshirt junior guard Jordan Jones scored a game-high 18 points for Florida, which will ply Florida Gulf Coast (28-3) in the second round on Monday at 7:05 p.m.

6 » No. 13 UF men’s tennis (11-5, 4-1 SEC) dropped a pair of head-to-heads over the weekend as they were defeated by the No. 3 USC Trojans (14-2) 4-3 on Thursday and Rebels (9-4, 3-2 SEC) 4-3 on Saturday. No. 6 senior Alexandre Lacroix lost all four of his events including both singles matches and both doubles matches as the No. 46 duo with teammate sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr.

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