Gators soccer captures first SEC title since 2010

No. 11 Florida Gators soccer (14-4-1, 11-2 SEC) has captured the Southeastern Conference Championship for the first time since 2010, defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks (6-9-4, 3-7 SEC) at Eugene E. Stone III Stadium in Columbia, SC

Florida triumphed 3-0 on Thursday, getting on the board thrice in the second half.

Junior transfer forward Adriana Leon scored what would eventually become the championship-winning goal at 64’ after taking a pass from senior forward Erika Tymrak, driving inside the box and delivering a great strike.

Sophomore midfielder Annie Speese added an insurance goal for the Gators just minutes later at 73’ when she booted a rebound off of a cross into the back of the net. Speese then registered another at 87, deflecting in a perfect pass from sophomore defender Tessa Andujar while standing in the middle of the box

The SEC regular season title is the 12th in the program’s 18-year existence but the first for Florida since the team won five-straight from 2006-10.

The Gators badly needed Thursday night’s victory after unexpectedly falling to Alabama 1-0 last weekend and breaking a 19-match winning streak against the SEC West program. Instead of having the conference championship secured heading into the season finale, Florida’s title hopes came down to the wire.

UF will now look to secure its first postseason title since 2010 as the No. 1 seed in the 2012 SEC Tournament, which is set to begin on Oct. 31 and last through Nov. 4.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

SIX BITS: Harvin’s healthy, Raymond wins, books, soccer & volleyball split, Floyd’s repayment

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin is healthy – finally. After being nagged by injuries throughout his college career and having persistent migraines limit the amount of time he could practice and play for the Minnesota Vikings during his first two years in the NFL, Harvin has finally cleared all of that up and hopes to become the dynamic playmakers his teammates, coaches and fans know he can be. He told the St. Paul Pioneer Press last week that he has “tremendous confidence in my ability” and proved that Sunday, taking the opening kickoff 103 yards down the field for a touchdown. Having missed fewer than two practices in the offseason (for precautionary reasons due to sore ribs), Harvin is ready and raring to go and hopes to continue the electricity he showcased over the weekend.

2 » Former Florida tennis player Lisa Raymond has always seemed to excel in doubles action, where she is 700-251 all-time as a professional and has been a part of 71 title-winning duos (she was even half of the No. 1 pair in the world back in 2000). Raymond, with four Grand Slam doubles titles to her name this century, was looking to win her first this decade, teaming with Liezel Huber at the 2011 U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Entering the tournament as the No. 4 seed, Raymond and Huber made it all the way to the finals where they defeated No. 3 seed Vania King/Yaroslava Shvedova 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) to win Raymond’s fifth Grand Slam and earn her the world No. 1 ranking she has been looking to recapture for nearly 11 years. At 38-years-old, Raymond would be considered by most to be a relic of professional tennis, but she told The New York Times that her age was an advantage going into the event. “I think that’s probably one of our biggest assets as a team is our experience,” she said after the victory. “We have years and years and years of being in finals of Slams, winning the championships, being down breaks in the third set to win or lose a Slam.”

3 » Two former Gators in the team’s Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame – running back Emmitt Smith and linebacker Jack Youngblood – are releasing brand new books chronicling their lives. Smith’s is titled Game On: Find Your Purpose – Pursue Your Dream “outlines the principles that helped him become a winner on and off the football field.” Youngblood’s – Because It Was Sunday – The Legend of Jack Youngblood – gives “readers and football fans an unprecedented, candid account of [his] remarkable life journey.” He will be at the University of Florida’s Alumni Hall promoting the book on Oct. 1, the day it is scheduled to be released.

4 » No. 9 Florida soccer (5-2) split a pair of games over the weekend, dropping a heartbreaker 3-2 to the No. 5 Florida State Seminoles on Friday before soundly defeating the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 5-0 on Sunday. UF and FSU went back-and-forth Friday with the Seminoles scoring at 4’ and 55’ and the Gators knocking goals in at 45’ (junior midfielder Erika Tymrak) and 68’ (junior MF Holly King). With the match tied 2-2, Florida State’s Tiffany McCarthy scored her second goal of the evening and fifth of the season at 72’ to push her team to victory. Florida rebounded Sunday with a shutout victory including goals from freshman forward Tessa Andujar, Tymrak (16’), freshman defender Lauren Silver (24’), sophomore MF Caroline Triglia (43’) and senior F Lindsay Thompson (58’).

5 » Competing in the Nike Big Four Classic in Palo Alto, CA, No. 7 Gators volleyball (7-2) also split their weekend matches. Florida defeated the No. 10 Texas Longhorns in five sets (25-22, 20-25, 25-13, 21-25, 15-12) on Friday prior to being beat in similar fashion by the No. 3 Stanford Cardinal (17-25, 20-25, 25-20, 25-21, 13-15) on Sunday. Senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel led the way for the Gators with a total of 35 kills and 33 digs in back-to-back double-doubles, and senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy followed suit with 26 kills and 59 assists in two double-double performances of her own.

6 » Gators sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, as part of his punishment by the NCAA, is required to make arrangements to repay $2,700 to a charity of his choosing in addition to having already sat out the first two games of the 2011 season. Many OGGOA readers have asked via e-mail, comments and Twitter how Floyd will come up with the money before the Tennessee game on Saturday. The answer is simple: he doesn’t have to. According to a NCAA compliance expert who spoke with us over the weekend, Floyd – in conjunction with the University of Florida – only must submit to the NCAA his decision on how and over what period of time he plans to make payments. Further details on what Floyd chooses to do will likely be unavailable going forward, but the concern over him being able to pay the money prior to playing should be squashed in the interim.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Florida soccer starts 2-0 with two wins in Miami

With the triumphs of last year now in the rear-view mirror, it was up to No. 9 Florida Gators soccer to get the 2011-12 athletic season off with a bang. Florida (2-0) accomplished this feat over the weekend, defeating the Miami Hurricanes (0-1) and Florida International Golden Panthers (0-2) with a pair of 2-0 victories in Miami, FL.

The Gators opened the season on Friday against the Hurricanes and took it to their in-state rivals right from the get go. Sophomore forward Taylor Travis scored Florida’s first goal of the season at 37’, and freshman midfielder Havana Solaun tacked on another at 51’ to lead the Gators to victory.

Junior MF/F Erika Tymrak got the assist on both goals, setting up a cross for the first score and passing it from the top of the box to the left side for the second.

Before returning to Gainesville, FL for a week of practice, Florida stayed in town, took a day off and faced FIU on Sunday. Like their first match of the season, the Gators scored once in each half and came away with a 2-0 win.

Freshman F Tessa Andujar placed the first one in the net, converting a cross from senior defender Jazmyne Avant in the 40th minute. Joining her on the scoreboard was senior MF/F Tahnai Annis, who corralled a through pass from freshman MF Annie Speese and struck it in from 12 yards out at 63’.

Florida split up the goalkeeping duties over the weekend with senior Brooke Chancey (five saves) and freshman Taylor Burke (three saves) each registering a shutout while playing the full 90 minutes.

The Gators will continue their road trip with a pair of contests next weekend in Knoxville, TN. Florida will take on Texas A&M on Friday and UCLA on Sunday before returning to the University of Florida for a three-game homestand.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

FOUR BITS: Pouncey, Black, Hill, soccer commits

1 » Florida Gators center Mike Pouncey has heard the doubters, but he is steadfast in believing a few things: (1) he’s better than his brother, (2) staying another year at UF had a positive affect on him and (3) he will be drafted higher than No. 18 overall [where the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Maurkice Pouncey in 2010]. “I think I block in the open field better, but like I said, we’re the same player,” Mike quipped during the media session at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. He also told CBS’s Len Pasquarelli that not being picked before his brother would cause him great anxiety. “I won’t sleep, man, if I don’t go higher than he did,” he said. “I mean, I came back to [the Gators] for a reason. It’s not like we have a bet or anything. He keeps saying, like, ‘OK, you can go 19th [overall]. That would really be good.’ But I want to be higher, if possible. That would be good, too.” Pouncey also discussed his early season struggles. “There was a lot of [focus] on the bad shotgun snaps at the beginning of the year,” he noted. “But things got a lot better as the year went on. And people were looking at one or two snaps out of the 70 that I played, and making a judgment on them. Scouts, they’re looking at all 70 plays and grading them. Judge me on a whole game. I think I can play.”

2 » Florida safety Ahmad Black is sick of having his size criticized, especially when scouts only have positive things to say about all of his other attributes. Nevertheless, he has not let the insults get him down and continues to push ahead toward his goal of starting in an NFL secondary sooner than later. “It’s frustrating,” he said, according to the Sun-Sentinel. “At the end of the day, it’s about making plays, You’ve got the big guy that’s fast and can make plays and you just want to make more plays than that guy. I get to the ball, I’m fast. At the end of the day, I get what they’re saying. But can he make plays or can he not? That’s how I live. Teams may pass on me because of my size, but the team that picks me up will definitely have something good.”

3 » Black was not the only Gators safety to depart this season; junior Will Hill left a year early to pursue his dream of playing football professionally while providing for his family. Before the combine, Hill was the subject of a feature story by the Newark Star-Ledger. In it he noted that he was concerned with how teams perceived his character. “How are they going to judge me as a person, see me as a person?” Hill said. “Character issues are a big thing in the NFL and that can make or break you, so that’s the biggest pressure.” The writer speaks with a number of people close to Hill to get a fuller picture about the type of person he is both on and off the field. The paper also spoke with ESPN’s Todd McShay, who had this to say about Hill’s future:

“He’s going to be asked a lot of questions. He’s going to have to answer them sincerely and NFL teams are going to have to feel comfortable with him. When you’re one of the top 30, 40, 50 players, teams are going to overlook more than when it comes to guys who are somewhere in the 100s, 150-250 overall — it’s like anything in life. And with Will Hill, obviously, there are some of those questions.”

4 » Florida soccer, which finished the 2010 season ranked No. 12 in the country and No. 1 in the SEC, announced Monday that 13 players will be joining the team as part of the 2011 recruiting class. Joining the Gators in the fall are forwards Tessa Andujar (San Clemente, CA) and Jillian Graff (Medina, OH); defenders Savannah Berry (Encinitas, CA), Annie Bobbitt (Fleming Island, FL), Kim Sapienza (Gainesville, FL), Lauren Silver (Delray Beach, FL) and Taylor Thigpen (Jacksonville, FL); midfielders Lindsey Cooper (Seminole, FL), Katrina Gutsche (Valrico, FL), Jennifer Larrick (Westford, MA), Havana Solaun (Gainesville, FL) and Annie Speese (Augusta, GA); and goalkeeper Taylor Burke (Medina, OH). Cooper is the sister of former Gators star wide receiver Riley Cooper, and Burke signed her National Letter of Intent with the track & field team so she will not count against soccer’s scholarship limit. For more information on the newest Florida student-athletes, click here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,