1 » Gainesville Television Network‘s Julie Quittner sat down with Florida Gators center Patric Young for an extensive interview that aired in two parts on Thursday and Friday. In the conversation, Young discusses why he stayed for his senior season (“It really wasn’t a tough decision for me. I felt like I had so much more to learn from Coach [Billy] Donovan.), how he is working to improve his free throw shooting, what the team’s expectations are for the 2013-14 season and his thoughts on the suspension of senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin. He also does an impersonation of Donovan.
The 13 true seniors (and one redshirt junior) that make up 45 percent of the roster for No. 3 Florida Gators lacrosse ensured their legacies were cemented by rallying together and annihilating the defending national champion No. 4 Northwestern Wildcats 22-4 on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL to capture the program’s third-straight American Lacrosse Conference regular season title.
Florida’s seniors scored 15 of the team’s 22 goals on the afternoon but were led by sophomore Shannon Gilroy, who found the back of the net a team-high five times.
The Gators (16-1, 5-1 ALC) handed the Wildcats (13-2, 4-1 ALC) the most lopsided loss in their program’s history. Florida’s 22 goals were also the most that have ever been allowed by Northwestern in a single game.
“Without a question, it was our best effort,” head coach Amanda O’Leary said after the match. “It was just an amazing effort by everybody out there.”
Saturday’s victory marked UF’s third-straight against its ALC rivals and fourth in the last five meetings dating back to the 2011 season. The Gators also concluded the regular season a perfect 9-0 at home.
1 » Despite ending their 2013 NCAA Tournament run in the Elite Eight for the third-straight year, Florida Gators basketball was placed at No. 9 in the final USA Today Coaches’ Top 25 poll of the 2012-13 season. Florida was not the only Elite Eight team to fall outside the top eight of the poll, however, as Marquette checked in at No. 11 in the final rankings. Indiana (Sweet 16 loss to Syracuse) and Kansas (Sweet 16 loss to Michigan) took the two other spots in the top eight. The Gators also checked in at No. 9 and No. 10 in 2011-12 and 2010-11, respectively, after losing in the Elite Eight. Florida will likely enter the 2013-14 campaign ranked in the preseason top-10.
2 » No. 2 Gators women’s tennis (17-2, 10-1 SEC) ran through its competition over the weekend, extending their winning streaks to 10 consecutive team matches and 30-straight individual matches. Florida swept the Ole Miss Rebels (10-10, 4-6 SEC) and Mississippi State Bulldogs (7-12, 1-10 SEC) in a pair of home showdowns over the weekend at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The Gators won all 11 matches and had the opportunity to celebrate Senior Day against the Bulldogs on Sunday. Seniors No. 1 Lauren Embree and No. 125 Caroline Hitimana were each unable to finish their singles matches due to Florida registering a quick 4-0 victory but both won their doubles contests. The No. 20 duo of Embree and junior Sofie Oyen picked up an 8-2 win, while Hitimana and junior Alex Cercone won 8-0.
On Monday, head coach Roland Thornqvist praised Embree at his press conference, making note of her incredible career and tremendous work ethic. “You want to know why Lauren Embree is the best college player to ever play the game?” he asked rhetorically. “It was Monday morning at 8:30, and after a weekend full of matches and practices, she runs to the courts, hits serves for 30 minutes, then I show up and we go at it [on the court] for an hour and 15 minutes. By 10:00, she’s done with two workouts already while the rest of tennis America is still sleeping. That’s why we’re good and that’s why she’s good. She sets the tone, the bar is high, and I think everybody feeds off of it. We’ve just been blessed to have that for four years. Frankly, it’s just amazing.” The Gators women’s tennis program is hoping to win its third-straight national title.
1 » Florida Gators point guard Erving Walker was honored on Senior Day before Sunday’s game. Because the game aired on CBS and the broadcast began following the ceremony, most fans did not get to see Walker enter the court with his mother to a loud ovation from his fans. The entire clip, including the video highlight package of some of Walker’s best plays in orange and blue, can be viewed below courtesy of GatorVision.tv:
2 » No. 3 Florida softball improved to 19-1 on the season and extended their winning streak to nine games after winning six contests from Thursday-Sunday by a combined score of 53-1. UF defeated Eastern Michigan 2-1 in extra innings on Thursday before beginning the Lipton Invitational, which the team hosted in Gainesville, FL. The Gators again beat EMU on Friday (16-0) and followed that up with a thrashing of Gardner-Webb (9-0) in the evening. Florida beat GWU a second time on Saturday (14-0), adding a win against Tennessee State (8-0) later that afternoon and a victory over Campbell (4-0) on Sunday. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (10-0) earned two wins striking out 19 batters and giving up one earned run in 17.0 innings (she also made one relief appearance). Freshmen RHPs Alyssa Bache (3-0) and Lauren Haeger (6-1) each added two victories with neither giving up a single run and the latter mowing down 15 batters in 10.0 innings. The Gators’ offense was impressive all weekend long, but two players in particular stood out for their powerful performances. Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie went 12/20 with four home runs, 10 RBIs, 11 runs and three stolen bases over the six games, and junior catcher Kelsey Horton matched her with four dingers of her own alog with 14 RBIs, six runs and three walks. UF will play five road games this week including two against Mississippi State and three at Tennessee.
3 » It is looking more and more like Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson will be wearing different colors in 2012. With no reports of negotiations for an extension occurring between Nelson and Cincinnati brass, the local media expects that he will hit the market as an unrestricted free agent next week. Should that occur, it is believed that the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans will make a run at him. The Dolphins in particular look like a promising landing spot for Nelson considering former Bengals defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle, who helped resurrect Nelson’s career in Cincinnati, was hired as Miami’s new defensive coordinator after the season.
4 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (10-1) earned a nail-biting victory on the road Sunday against the No. 6 Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2). The Gators defeated the Cornhuskers 196.95-196.825, earning two individual event victories while only winning one of the four overall events. junior Ashanée Dickerson and sophomore Alaina Johnson each won the vault with a score of 9.90, while junior Marissa King took home the balance beam victory with a 9.925 mark. Florida’s sizable win in the beam (49.325-48.950) was enough to push them past Nebraska in the overall score. UF will take on No. 7 Utah in their regular season finale on Senior Night on Friday, March 16 at 7 p.m.
5 » No. 4 Gators lacrosse (4-2) dropped their second game to a top-10 ranked opponent this season, falling 12-11 in double overtime to the No. 9 Syracuse Orange (2-2) at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Behind 6-4 at the half, Florida rallied over the final three minutes of the second period, scoring three-straight goals to knot the contest at 10 as the whistle sounded. SU got on the board first in overtime, but UF matched their visitors again to force a sudden death second overtime period. The Orange did not take long to make their move, scoring at 5:05 to end the game. Junior midfielder Brittany Dashiell led the Gators with three goals (including the tying score in the first overtime), an assist, six draw controls and five ground balls (a season high for the team), while junior attacker Kitty Cullen had an off game with only one goal in 10 shots. Despite scoring fewer goals than their opponent, Florida had more shots than Syracuse (39-26) and committed fewer turnovers (9-20). UF is scheduled to face Georgetown on the road Wednesday before returning home to host Temple on Saturday.
6 » Both involved in close matches, No. 15 Gators women’s tennis and No. 10 Florida men’s tennis wound up with different outcomes when taking on the No. 5/6 Georgia Bulldogs’ women’s and men’s squads over the weekend. Florida’s women improved to 8-1 by taking down Georgia 4-3 on the road. The Gators won two of three matches to earn the doubles point with victories from the No. 13 pairing of junior Allie Will and sophomore Sofie Oyen and the No. 31 duo of junior Lauren Embree and senior Joanna Mather. No. 1 Will fell in singles action to No. 11 Chelsey Gillickson, but No. 18 Mather, No. 23 Embree and No. 39 Oyen were all victorious to earn the overall win.
Florida’s men rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to tie things up with Georgia 3-3 but simply could not complete the comeback victory. The Bulldogs won the doubles point by taking down two of the three ranked duos for the Gators. The No. 8 pairing of junior Billy Federhofer and senior Nassim Slilam won their match, but the No. 18 duo of junior Tripper Carleton and sophomore Spencer Newman and the No. 43 team of sophomore Andrew Butz and junior Bob van Overbeek both fell 8-4. Singles wins by Carleton, Slilam and sophomore Michael Alford tied the match, but No. 51 van Overbeek fell to No. 3 Wil Spencer 6-7(4), 6-0, 7-5 in a final that lasted 2:28.
Despite a valiant effort that kept the score close most of the game, the No. 13/16 Florida Gators (22-9, 10-6 SEC) were unable to hold off the top-ranked team in the country, dropping their third-straight game to end the 2011-12 regular season and falling 74-59 to the No. 1/1 Kentucky Wildcats (30-1, 16-0 SEC) on Senior Day at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Florida senior point guard Erving Walker was honored before the contest but was one of three Gators backcourt members to struggle mightily during the game, scoring just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting in his final appearance in the O’Dome. Guards junior Kenny Boynton and freshman Bradley Beal were also ineffective shooters, combining to hit just 3-of-18 shots from the field and 2-of-10 from beyond the arc.
Sophomore center Patric Young led the way for the Gators with team-highs of 21 points (on 10-of-15 shooting) and nine rebounds. He was matched by Wildcats forward Anthony Davis, who posted game-highs of 22 points and 12 boards for the visitors.
Kentucky started the game on fire from the floor, hitting five of their first six shots (including eight points from G Terrance Jones) to jump ahead 11-4. However, three-pointers by Walker and junior F Erik Murphy on consecutive possessions were part of a quick 10-2 run that gave Florida their first lead of the game at 14-13.
The Wildcats would not be down long, answering the Gators with a 15-2 scoring stretch that earned UK a 28-16 advantage with 7:41 remaining until the break. Kentucky extended that lead to 16 points with 4:08 left, but Florida cut their deficit to eight, ending the half on a 10-2 run including back-to-back threes by Walker and Boynton.
UF maintained their energy coming out of the break, outscoring UK 12-6 and capping their stretch with a powerful dunk by Young to cut the Wildcats’ lead to two with 16:25 left in the game. However, the Gators found themselves down double digits just minutes later as Kentucky responded yet again by scoring eight-straight points.
Florida quickly found some rhythm again and rebounded with another impressive stretch to get within four, but the Wildcats answered back immediately by using a 9-0 run to jump ahead 13 points with 6:09 left in the game.
UK played strong and maintained their double-digit lead the rest of the way, holding UF to just one field goal over the final 9:03 of the contest.
Kentucky bested Florida scoring from the field (52.5-38.2%), downtown (41.7-27.3%), in the paint (40-28), off turnovers (8-2) and on second-chance opportunities (16-10). The Wildcats also outrebounded the Gators 36-30 and 11-9 on the offensive glass and forced seven turnovers on as many steals.
With the loss, Florida retained their bye but will drop to the No. 4 seed in the upcoming 2012 SEC Tournament, facing the winner of five-seed Alabama and 12-seed South Carolina in second-round action on Friday at 3:30 p.m. The game will air live on SEC Network (check your local listings for availability).
Redshirt seniors quarterback John Brantley and running back Chris Rainey have won championships and seen the Florida Gators reach immense success during their five years with the team. Unfortunately for both men, the vast majority of that success came before they were elevated to full-time starting roles.
With Florida posting a losing record in Southeastern Conference (3-5) play for the first time since 1986 and treading just above the Mendoza line at 6-5 overall, the duo have a unique opportunity to leave a lasting impression on Gators fans this Saturday.
Florida will host the Florida State Seminoles in The Swamp, a game that also marks Senior Day for UF’s seven fifth-year seniors and 11 true seniors.
“It’s not going to really hit me until that day comes. I don’t think it’ll be a scary feeling. I’ll just be sad, get over it when that day comes and then get ready for bigger and better things in the future,” said Rainey while looking ahead to the event.
After ending their team’s six-game winning streak against the Seminoles with a 31-7 drubbing a year ago, the Gators have a chance to avenge that loss and partially make up for being 0-5 against ranked opponents including rivals Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina.
“This win will probably override all the losses,” Rainey said. “We ain’t looking at nothing negative. We just got to keep going. There are a lot of games that we should have won but lost. It would be a good thing for us to leave the season with.”
Brantley agreed with his classmate, nothing that defeating Florida State could go a long way to making up for a lackluster season overall.
“It would make everything a lot better,” he said. “That’s the one team that is always circled on your schedule each year. Definitely it would make up for it. Having a win over FSU, no matter what your record is or anything, that’s always huge.”
Taking a more conservative approach, Florida head coach Will Muschamp agreed that beating FSU would be a good note to end the season on but added that it does not make up for UF’s failures this year.
“I don’t’ know that it would override the losses,” he said. “Certainly ending [the season] on a positive note against Florida State would be certainly a shot in the arm for us emotionally heading into a bowl game, heading into the offseason and sending the seniors out the right way.”
To prepare for the showdown, Muschamp will have the Gators’ seniors – including Brantley and Rainey – address the team Friday night before the game. They will reminisce on their Florida careers and try and give the team an extra boost to take down an arch rival and end the regular season with a bang.
For their part, Brantley and Rainey have their heads on straight heading into the game and hope to look back on Saturday’s potential victory with pride.
Brantley, a Gators fan growing up, said he has absolutely “no regrets whatsoever” about how his college career has played out and is ready to take down a team he has disliked his whole life in the Seminoles.
The mindset possessed by Rainey is one Muschamp has been trying to get the team to buy into from day one, something that could serve them quite well on Saturday.
“I had a crazy career,” Rainey said on Monday. “All I have to do is just keep my head up, stay focused and keep looking ahead. Everybody is going to have highs and lows, all I have to do is keep being positive.”
An entire team wearing orange and blue will be able to share in that positive feeling if they can pull out a victory on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
1 » Former Florida Gators walk-on defensive lineman Gary Beemer, who is most famous for scoring a touchdown as a replacement running back on Senior Day last season, received the 2011 John Stucky Award for being one of the “most impressive young strength coaches” who take the oral portion of the certification and are interviewed about their knowledge. Beemer, who is currently an intern in Florida’s strength and conditioning department, hopes to make a career in the field. He will learn from one of the best, head strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, one of only 71 people in the world to hold a Master of Strength and Conditioning certification, according to the University of Florida.
2 » Gators sophomore outfielder Kamm Washington is set to transfer out of the program, according to a report from the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser. Washington, who played in 33 games this season, is looking at a number of options. “He left on his own free will,” his mother, Cheryl Washington, told the Post. “It was not a good fit.”
It was a special weekend for Florida Gators softball, which sent its seniors off with a two-day celebration concluding in the team’s fourth-straight Southeastern Conference East division title. The baseball team, on the other hand, fought through a three-game road series that left their chances at a regular season title up for grabs.
Just two days after a hard-fought 1-0 victory at home against Florida State, No. 4 Florida softball was just as scrappy against the No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers on Friday, breaking a 3-3 tie with a solo home run from lead-off hitter freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) in the bottom of the seventh inning to earn a 4-3 victory. Senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher drew the start for the Gators but was pulled after giving up three earned runs and only striking out two batters in 4.2 innings. Florida was down 3-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth but rallied with two outs to tie the game. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers came on for the final 2.1 innings, striking out four and only allowing a single hit to earn the victory.
The Gators took advantage of the Volunteers early in Saturday’s game and held on to a two-run lead earned in the first frame to win the series with a 2-0 victory. With one out, senior second baseman Aja Paculba (2-3, R) singled to left field; senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (1-3, HR, 2 RBI, R) followed her by stepping up to the plate and smacking a homer to center field on a full count for the game’s only runs. Brombacher (3.1 IP, 2 K, 3 H) once again earned the start for Florida, but Rogers (3.2 IP, 4 K, 3 H) threw the second half of the contest to earn her second win over Tennessee. Saturday also marked the first half of UF softball’s Senior Day. Brombacher and catcher Tiffany DeFelice were honored prior to the game, which resulted in the team’s 24th shutout win on the year.
Putting everything together on Sunday, the Gators (47-8, 21-7 SEC) started hot out of the gate and routed the Volunteers (44-10, 20-8 SEC) 7-2 to conclude regular season action with nine-straight victories while simultaneously capturing the SEC East division title. Rogers (30-5) tossed a complete game, allowing single runs in the first and fifth innings on a total of five hits. Down 1-0 after the first three outs, Florida scored two runs in the bottom of the first and added another in the second. The Gators then poured on four runs in the fourth including a lead-off dinger from designated player Kelsey Horton (2-3, HR, RBI, R) on the first pitch she saw. Also performing well Sunday were junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2-4, 2 R), Paculba (2-3, RBI, 2 R, BB), Bruder (1-3, RBI, R, BB) and sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte (2-4, 2 RBI, R). Florida honored Bruder, Paculba and first baseman Megan Bush before the game as the second half of the school’s senior day festivities. The day ended with the Gators not only capturing their fourth-straight SEC East crown (fifth overall) but also having won 17 of their last 18 games.
With their regular season now complete, UF has earend the No. 2 overall seed in the 2011 SEC tournament, which they will begin on Thursday with a first-round game against No. 7-seed Auburn. The game will air live on ESPNU at 1:30 p.m.
No. 4 Florida baseball saw its dominant seven-game winning streak come to an end Thursday in Fayetteville, AR as they blew a 3-1 lead through six innings to fall 4-3 to the No. 18 Arkansas Razorbacks. After scattering hits through his first five innings, starter sophomore RHP Hudson Randall (8-2) allowed a triple and home run in back-to-back at-bats in the bottom of the sixth that let Arkansas tie the game at three runs apiece. Randall gave up his second homer of the game two innings later, and the Razorbacks escaped the first game of the series with a victory. Three Gators – junior right fielder Preston Tucker (2-4, RBI, R), senior 2B Josh Adams (2-3, R) and junior LF Daniel Pigott (2-2, RBI) – notched pairs of hits in the contest, but the team simply could not capitalize when it counted.
Florida fought from behind all night on Friday and eventually fell to Arkansas 5-3, dropping the road series after the first two games. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (7-2) lost his second game of the season after allowing three earned runs (four total) in just four innings of work. The Gators trailed from the first inning on, taking their only lead at 2-1 in the third before the Razorbacks scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to jump back ahead 4-2.
Florida (36-12, 18-6 SEC) got back to its winning ways on Saturday, rallying for three runs in the top of the seventh inning to slay Arkansas (32-15, 12-12 SEC) 5-3; it was the Gators’ first road win against the Razorbacks since 2005 (eight games). Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (5.2 IP, 6 K, 3 ER, 6 H) shut out Arkansas through the first four innings of the game and allowed Florida to take an early 2-0 lead. The Razorbacks would respond with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth, but sophomore RHP Austin Maddox came in to get the final out and stop the bleeding for the Gators. Florida responded with a fierce rally that scored three in the seventh. Three-straight singles ending with one from Tucker (1-4, RBI, R) scored sophomore SS Nolan Fontana (2-5, RBI, 2 R) from third to tie the game and another up the middle by Pigott (2-4, 2 RBI, R) allowed two more runs to cross the plate for the Gators. Maddox (2-0) tossed the final three innings, striking out one and walking one as Florida held on for the victory.
The Gators remain in the hunt for the SEC title but have two more series (on the road against Vanderbilt and at home against Kentucky) to play along with two non-conference games (home vs. North Florida and Jacksonville) before the regular season concludes. Vanderbilt leads the SEC with a 19-5 record, but Florida and South Carolina are both just a game back at 18-6.