TWO BITS: Florida soccer advances to Elite Eight; Gators volleyball captures 21st SEC title

1 » No. 10 Florida Gators soccer on Sunday advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2014 NCAA Tournament after taking down the No. 16 Texas Tech Red Raiders 3-2 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators may have fallen short of winning their league crown, but Florida is making a significant effort in NCAA play, moving on to the quarterfinals for the fifth time in program history and first since 2003. UF got on the board first with senior midfielder Havana Solaun striking the ball from 20 yards out; it deflected off the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand, and then the post, before finding the back of the net and putting the Gators up 1-0 at 14′. Florida went ahead 2-0 at 21′ after scoring on a glancing header by sophomore forward Savannah Jordan, which came off a free kick from senior MF Annie Speese. Texas Tech fought back with consecutive goals at 37′ and 64′ to tie thing sup, but Speese notched the game-winning goal at 81′ to send UF forward in the postseason.

The Gators will travel out west to continue their trek toward the NCAA title as Florida will next take on the Stanford Cardinal on Friday at 10 p.m. in Palo Alto, California.

2 » It was an eventful week for No. 6 Gators volleyball, which captured the outright 2014 Southeastern Conference Championship on Friday with a 3-1 win against the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi. The SEC regular-season title is Florida’s second in the last three years and 21st in the last 24 seasons (1991-2008, 2010, 2012), all of which have come under head coach Mary Wise. On Sunday, the Gators won their 18th-straight match of the season, taking down the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Florida has its longest winning streak since 2010 and will play its final games of the regular season on Wednesday vs. South Carolina and Saturday at Texas.

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Former Gators OL Mo Collins, 38, has died

Former Florida Gators offensive lineman Mo Collins, a three-year starter and a member of the Gators’ 1996 National Championship team, passed away Sunday morning. He was 38.

According to the Charlotte Observer, Collins “had been receiving dialysis treatments for kidney failure.”

Collins spent the last year as head coach of West Charlotte High School, his alma mater. He originally joined the program as an offensive line coach in 2013 and took over head coaching duties this season after the team went winless last year. At the time of his passing, West Charlotte had a 4-5 record, posting its most victories since 2010.

While at Florida, Collins won two SEC Championships (1995-96) and played in two national title games (1995-96) with the Gators.

Following his redshirt junior season, Collins decided to become a professional and was selected with the No. 23 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. He spent his whole six-year career with the Raiders, starting 64 of the 71 regular-season games in which he appeared and playing in Super Bowl XXXVII.

OnlyGators.com sends our condolences and best wishes to the Collins family.

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Florida Gators release new basketball uniforms

Florida Gators basketball on Thursday released a sneak peak of the team’s slightly-redesigned new uniforms ahead of the 2014-15 season.

It is the first time Florida has refreshed its standard set of uniforms (home, away, alternate) since it adopted the Nike Hyper Elite line in 2011-12.

The Gators are still using the general Nike Hyper Elite style – with gator scales and the two National Championship trophies displayed slightly more prominently down on the full back of the jerseys – but have changed the styling along the sides of the uniforms and bottom of the shorts.


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Urban Meyer at Florida: “I thought I was dying.”

Updated on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Photo Credit: ESPN Images

Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer appeared on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” on Tuesday and discussed, among other topics, what ultimately led to him deciding to depart the Florida Gators – first after the 2009 season and then for good at the conclusion of the 2010 campaign.

“I thought I was dying,” Meyer said in the taped interview. “Absolutely [I was depressed]. Mentally, I was broke.”

Meyer tells a tale of stress and depression, explaining that he dropped a significant amount of weight (37 pounds) while self-medicating in order to simply go to sleep at night while the head coach at Florida.

“Now I’m taking two Ambiens. I would drink a beer on top of it, just to get some sleep. Not many people know that,” he said. “And I go from 217 pounds to 180 pounds. I lose 37 pounds…and we’re undefeated.”

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FOUR BITS: soccer, Florida-Georgia, Donovan

1 » The 2014-15 athletic season officially kicks off for the Florida Gators on Friday at 7 p.m. when the No. 8 Florida soccer team hosts the Miami Hurricanes at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. Gators soccer will be kicking off its 20th season, all of which have been led by head coach Becky Burleigh. Florida returns all 11 starters from 2013 with sophomore forward Savannah Jordan looking to build on her incredible freshman campaign. UF shared the 2013 Southeastern Conference Championship with Texas A&M and has been voted as the preseason favorite to repeat. Florida has won 13 SEC regular-season titles including seven of the last eight dating back to 2006.

2 » The school will be holding its first-ever Rally in the Swamp student pep rally on Sunday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m., six days before the Gators kick off their 2014 season against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday, Aug. 30. The event will include “Florida cheerleaders and dazzlers, mascots, head coach Will Muschamp and members of the Gator[s] football team.” While there, “students will learn some of the great traditions” of the program, distribute student section t-shirts, win prizes and eat pizza. As OnlyGators.com first reported on Wednesday, there are approximately 2,000 student tickets still remaining out of the school’s allotment of 21,500. According to executive associate athletics director Mike Hill, Florida has sold out its student section every season during his 21-year tenure with the program.

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ESPN Forecast names Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan the best in college basketball

An ESPN-commissioned 45-member panel “that collectively possess[es] vast college basketball experience, knowledge and perspective” has spent the last five weeks breaking down the top 50 college basketball coaches in the country. On Thursday, the panel known as ESPN Forecast listed Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan as its No. 1 coach in the nation.

Though Eamonn Brennan, writing on behalf of the panel’s decision, does not state exactly why Donovan edged out the rest of the group in a head-to-head comparison – the remainder of the top five included Kentucky’s John Calipari, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Louisville’s Rick Pitino – a compelling case is made for how successful Donovan has been at Florida over the last five seasons.

Even though the departure of the Oh Fours and an about-face decision about leaving the Gators for the NBA were part of the reason the program missed back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in 2008 and 2009, UF has bounced back in a major way.

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LSU tops Florida baseball 2-0 in SEC Tournament

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

For No. 1 seed Florida Gators baseball, playing five elimination games in as many days proved to be a bit too much as the No. 3 seed LSU Tigers pulled away with a 2-0 victory on Sunday in the finals of the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

LSU (44-14-1) edged Florida (40-21) by using four pitchers in a shutout victory. A day after collecting 12 hits, the Gators managed only two in nine innings.

Both squads were scoreless through seven innings until Tigers designated hitter Sean McMullen he launched a two-run blast off of junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Harris (2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER).

Florida had six outs left to try to overcome the 2-0 deficit. The Gators managed to get the lead runner on base in the ninth when junior second baseman Casey Turgeon (0/3) walked, but he was erased on the base paths when sophomore shortstop Richie Martin (0/3) hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Sophomore center fielder Harrison Bader (0/3) was retired on a ground out to end the game.

Turgeon, Martin, Bader and junior catcher Taylor Gushue (0/3) – the first four hitters in UF’s lineup – combined for a dreadful 0-for-12 in Sunday’s tournament final. Bader entered the game 10-for-16 in Hoover.

Redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson (6.0 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, K) had his ups and downs all season for Florida but was stellar against LSU and likely pitched his way into UF’s rotation for the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

The Gators on Sunday evening learned that they would host one of 16 regional sites for the NCAA Tournament, which will have its 64-team field announced live on ESPNU at noon on Monday.

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Cats knock Gators baseball into losers bracket

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Entering the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed and the league’s outright regular season champion, Florida Gators baseball (37-20) dug itself an early hole and eventually dropped its first game of the event 4-2 to the No. 9 seed Kentucky Wildcats (34-22).

A subpar start from Florida freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) resulted in two quick runs for Kentucky in the contest’s first frame.

Freshman designated hitter Peter Alonso (1/4, RBI) cut the Gators’ deficit in half with an RBI ground out in the second, but Shore gave up his first home run of the season in the top of the third inning to Wildcats third baseman Max Kuhn. It was a two-run shot that extended UK’s lead to 4-1.

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