Friday Final: Gators soccer star Heather Mitts returns to Gainesville with SEC Network

Former Florida Gators soccer star Heather Mitts, a three-time Olympic gold medalist with the U.S. Women’s National Team and 2013 inductee into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame, recently traded in her cleats for a microphone.

A major part of the Gators’ 1998 NCAA Championship-winning soccer team, Mitts went on to have a 12-year professional career before officially retiring in March 2013. She has since decided to embark on a career in sports broadcasting, which she actually began years ago as a part-time soccer analyst for FOX Sports and ESPN.

Now a sideline reporter (football) and analyst (soccer) for the SEC Network, Mitts will be returning to Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday as part of the broadcast team that will cover Florida’s football game against Eastern Michigan, the first-ever Gators contest that will be aired live on the network.

OnlyGators.com sat down with Mitts for 20 minutes on Thursday. She spoke at length about playing most of her professional career with a Florida teammate and close friend in Abby Wambach, moving into a broadcasting role, her love for the Gators and her admiration for UF head coach Becky Burleigh.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: How tough of a decision was it for you to ultimately retire from the game you love and hang up your cleats for good?
HEATHER MITTS: “You know what? It wasn’t actually that hard because I just felt like I had a lot of injuries towards the end of my career and I was able to do something that I loved for, gosh, as any years as it was. Since college, I literally thought I was going to play one or two years post-college, and I was able to go to three Olympics and one World Cup. To be able to kind of retire on a high note as well, with the Gold medal, being 35 years old with all the injuries that I had, it was just kind of like the right time for me to walk away. I felt really content with my decision.”

Continue Reading » Friday Final: Gators soccer star Heather Mitts returns to Gainesville with SEC Network

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TWO BITS: Gators soccer, Florida All-Access

1 » The No. 8 women’s soccer team opened up the 2014-15 athletic season for the Florida Gators on Friday with a dominant 3-0 win over the in-state rival Miami Hurricanes at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. Senior forward Jillian Graff scored two goals, the first in the eighth minute of the contest, and sophomore F Savannah Jordan added one of her own to fuel the victory. The match marked the first in Florida’s 20th season of women’s soccer, each of which has been led by head coach Becky Burleigh. The Gators have won seven of the last eight Southeastern Conference regular-season titles and were predicted by the league’s coaches to finish on top of the SEC once again this year.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Gators soccer, Florida All-Access

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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.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: soccer, Florida-Georgia, Donovan

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4 BITS: Miller, Pounceys, Calathes, SEC Network

1 » Former Florida Gators forward Mike Miller, after struggling with his decision for nearly a week, has decided to continue his 15-year career alongside LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers. According to ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard and Jeff Goodman, Miller will sign a two-year deal, $5.5 million with the Cavaliers with a player option after the first season. He chose Cleveland and the ability to chase championships with James over Houston and a better monetary offer from Denver after originally seeking a three-year deal worth $12-15 million. Miller will be joining his sixth NBA team following two stints with the Memphis Grizzlies and one each with Orlando, Minnesota, Washington and Miami. Last season, he averaged 7.1 points in 20.8 minutes per game while shooting 45.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Continue Reading » 4 BITS: Miller, Pounceys, Calathes, SEC Network

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Florida Gators women win 2014 Capital One Cup

The Florida Gators women’s athletic program was officially announced Thursday as the winner of the 2014 Capital One Cup.

It is the first time in program history that the women have obtained the award, though Florida’s men’s program captured the first two honors in 2011 and 2012.

In the four-year history of the award, the Gators are the only athletic program to win both the men’s and women’s cups.

Awarded annually to each of the top men’s and women’s Division I college athletic programs in the country, the winner of the Capital One Cup is determined by a scoring system in which points are awarded sport-by-sport depending how respective teams finish in NCAA Championships and the final official coaches’ polls.

Florida (152 points) dominated its competition, winning the cup by an 42-point margin over UCLA (110) and finishing 63 points above the next team from the Southeastern Conference, Texas A&M (89).

The Gators led the way with championships and first-place finishes in gymnastics and softball. Florida also finished in the top 10 nationally in six other sports: indoor track & field (third), outdoor track & field (fourth), lacrosse (fourth), tennis (fifth), swimming (sixth) and soccer (10th).

UF’s men’s athletic program is currently ranked third overall but first among SEC teams with 86 points. Florida is 12.5 points behind the leader, Notre Dame (98.5), but 45 points ahead of the next SEC school, Auburn (41). The men’s standings will become final after the conclusion of the 2014 Colege World Series.

The women’s victory earns the University of Florida a total of $200,000 to go toward student-athlete graduate-level scholarships. The Gators will be presented with the Capital One Cup at the 2014 ESPY Awards on July 16 at 9 p.m.

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FOUR BITS: Meyer, Sturgis, World Cup, U.S. Open

1 » Speaking at the Sound Mind Sound Body football camp in Detroit, Michigan over the weekend, Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer discussed lessons he learned from the military about teamwork and how it is so much more important to be a team than in individual in the sport of football. In doing so, he praised the 2008 national title-winning Florida Gators, stating for the second time in as many years that he thinks that group was the best team in college football history. “I’ve been a part of a couple great teams. I think the best team that’s ever played the game [was] in ’08. That was animal instincts [that] took over on the field; they protected each other,” he told the group. “Have you ever tried to reason with a wild animal? You never reason with a wild animal; they protect each other. Have you ever tried to negotiate, evaluate, take a play off? If you’re a wild animal, that doesn’t happen.” (Hat tip: Yahoo! Sports)

2 » Miami Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis threw out the first pitch at Saturday’s home game for the Miami Marlins. Sturgis will enter his second NFL season in 2014 looking to hold down his starting job with the Dolphins. Though he flashed his signature strong leg and dead-on accuracy at times in 2013, Sturgis did go through his share of struggles, finishing 26/34 (.765) with seven field goals of 50+ yards.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Meyer, Sturgis, World Cup, U.S. Open

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FOUR BITS: DeSclafani, Muschamp, Frazier, Noah

1 » Former Florida Gators right-handed pitcher Anthony DeSclafani got the call on Tuesday. He will make his first appearance in the big leagues Wednesday night as the starting hurler for the Miami Marlins. DeSclafani, who has posted a 3-4 record and 4.19 ERA in eight starts with the Jacksonville Suns of the Double-A Southern League, is being brought up to the majors as a replacement for ace Jose Fernandez (torn UCL) in Miami’s rotation. Whether he remains with the Marlins for the duration of the season will be determined at a later date, though Kevin Slowey and/or Brad Hand could wind up taking Fernandez’s spot in the rotation. “He’s a guy that’s done well in the minor leagues and we felt like he was probably the most ready to make the start,” manager Mike Redmond said of DeSclafani, according to ESPN.com. “Out of all of our younger guys, he’s probably a little more polished because he’s a college guy and he’s got a few more innings under his belt, as far as experience.”

2 » Continuing his tour of Gator Clubs across the state, Gators head coach Will Muschamp stopped in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday and once again touched on a number of topics. While he did not specifically talk about cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson not being selected in the 2014 NFL Draft last week, he did discuss the subject in a roundabout way. “[NFL teams] are going to watch the film. They’re not watching the combine workout. They’re not listening to some street agent and what they think you are. And they dang sure ain’t watching some show to figure out where to draft people,” he said, according to Rivals.com‘s Bryan Holt ($). “They’re going to watch film, and the players who do well and perform on film, those guys get drafted – especially the ones that are clean. They need to learn for themselves as much as anything. That’s something each individual needs to take on his own responsibility.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: DeSclafani, Muschamp, Frazier, Noah

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12 Gator Bites for Tuesday, January 21

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.

» The three Florida Gators participating in the 2014 Senior Bowl arrived over the weekend and got measured on Monday. Guard Jon Halapio checked in at 6’3-1/2” and 320 pounds, wide receiver Solomon Patton was the smallest player measured at 5’8-1/2” and 179 pounds, and cornerback Jaylen Watkins was listed at 5’11-3/8” and 194 pounds. Watkins will be updating OnlyGators.com on his status this Wednesday as he and his teammates prepare for the game on Saturday at 4 p.m. on NFL Network.

» Patton, a native of Mobile, AL, was not initially invited to the all-star game played in his hometown but rather received the opportunity to participate in the Senior Bowl last Tuesday after winning an MVP award at the inaugural Medal of Honor Bowl. He is not the only one excited. “It’s going to be great,” his father Solomon Patton, Sr., told AL.com. “It’s something we’ve dreamed about since he started playing football. It’s always been a dream of ours and his for him to make it back here [to play].” Patton also spoke about proving to scouts and team executives that he can play despite his relatively diminutive stature. “I might be small, but I can make big-time plays regardless of my size,” he said. “I’m just going to go in relaxed and od what I’ve been doing all year.”

» Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll on Monday said wide receiver Percy Harvin should be cleared to return to practice by Wednesday and ultimately compete in Super Bowl XLVIII. Harvin was held out of Sunday’s NFC Championship game due to lingering symptoms from a concussion he suffered two weekends ago. He has only played 39 total snaps in two games this season.

Check out NINE more Gators news bites…after the break!

Continue Reading » 12 Gator Bites for Tuesday, January 21

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