Sunday, August 31, 2014

UF Volleyball: #10 Florida vs Oklahoma

Before the football game tonight (which ended up getting cancelled due to nonstop rain and lightning), I attended the Gator volleyball game against Oklahoma. The Gators were able to grind out a victory in the final game of the Active Ankle Challenge as they beat the Sooners in five sets 28-26, 25-12, and 15-8.

Oklahoma gave the #10 ranked Gators all of they could handle this game as they won both the first and the fourth sets 25-22. I was genuinely surprised as I thought Florida would wipe the floor with Oklahoma after I watched the Sooners play a lackluster game against Georgia Southern on Friday. Nevertheless, the Gators remained resilient and were able to hold off the upset-minded Sooners.

Offensively, four Gators reached double digits in kills today. Those four were Alex Holston (19), Simone Antwi (13), Noami Santos-Lamb (12), and Carli Snyder (11). Holston accounted for 21 of the team's 80 points as she dug out three balls and assisted on four blocks. In the assists category, it was all Mackenzie Dagostino as she tallied 51 assists today.

Speaking of blocks, the Gators had 13 of them today. In solo blocks, Carli Snyder led the way as the freshman outside hitter had three of them. Freshman middle blocker Rhamat Alhassan had five assisted blocks and one solo block. Junior setter Mackenzie Dagostino followed the lead of Alex Holston as she also assisted with four blocks and had a solo block of her own. Rounding out the block party is the other middle blocker Simone Antwi who had three of them.

On the digging side of defense, three Gators had double digit digs. Senior Holly Pole led the team with 18, Taylor Unroe was second with 17, and Madison Monserez rounds it out with 11. Both Pole and Unroe also combined for three service aces.

Now 3-0, the #10 Florida Gators will prepare to do battle with the #13 FSU Seminoles as they head to Tallahassee on Thursday, September 4, at 6 p.m. The memory of that NCAA Tournament loss should still be fresh in the minds of the Gators, so I know they will be ready to bring it in this rivalry game. As for Oklahoma, they fall to 2-1 and will head to Dallas to take on the Texas Southern Tigers (0-0) in the SMU Tournament which begins on Friday, September 5. Game time is set for 4 p.m.

*All stats accredited to

Saturday, August 30, 2014

UF Roars to 2-0 Start In 2014 Active Ankle Challenge

Florida Gator volleyball is finally back! I was very fortunate today to be able to catch both of the team's games at 12 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. against Georgia Southern and Idaho. The #10 Gators swept both matches 3-0 and in the process reminded me of how dominant they are.

In the first game against the Georgia Southern Eagles, I showed up at the end of the first set due to bike problems that I had to get fixed at the local bike shop on campus. The Gators would win the first set 25-19, and this would be the closest set of them all as they took the next two 25-11 and 25-15, respectively.

I was able to witness the debut of Florida's new freshman middle blocker Rhamat Alhassan. She is easily the tallest player on the team at 6'4 and will serve as an intimidating presence in the front court this season. In her debut, she notched six kills, recorded a block, and assisted on three other blocks. She accounted for 8.5 of the team's total points.

The only player who recorded more kills than Alhassan was redshirt junior Noami Santos-Lamb. After seeing very limited action last year, Santos-Lamb scored eight kills against Georgia Southern, assisted on one block, and recorded two digs. She contributed the second highest amount of team points with 7.5.

Defensively, libero Taylor Unroe began her senior season on the right foot as she registered seven digs and two service aces. She wasn't the only one selling out on defense as fellow seniors Holly Pole and Madison Monserez each recorded five digs. Junior setter Mackenzie Dagostino had the most digs against Georgia Southern with eight. She also tallied 23 assists.

After quickly dispatching Georgia Southern, the team had about a six hour break until their next match at 7:30 p.m against the Idaho Vandals. I went to my afternoon classes after the first match, then arrived at the O-Dome pretty early to watch the Oklahoma/Georgia Southern match. Oklahoma won in four sets, and I think they will pose no threat to the Gators on Saturday.

As for how the Gators did against Idaho, it was another convincing victory as they swept all three sets 26-24, 25-17, and 25-13. Yes, the first set was close, but I attribute this to the nerves the girls might have been feeling with a huge crowd packing the O-Dome for their first night game of the year. The Gators tend to start slow and finish with a bang, and this match was no different.

Rhamat Alhassan brought her 'A' game in just her second collegiate match as she recorded a career high 13 kills while also assisting on three blocks. Fellow middle blocker Simone Antwi was right there with her as she also racked up 13 kills and blocked one ball on the night. The strong play of both UF's middle blockers was critical tonight as they represented 19.5 of the team's 61 points.

Some other offensive stars who stuck out to me were junior Ziva Recek, sophomore Alex Holston, and freshman Carli Snyder. Recek had seven kills and one service ace on the night. Her clutch serving at the end of the first set helped the Gators narrowly take it from Idaho and obtain an important 1-0 lead.

Holston had seven kills as well and was critical in the service game as she notched 4 service aces. She accounted for 11 Gator points, the third highest on the team behind Antwi and Alhassan.

I mention freshman outside hitter Carli Snyder as an offensive standout because she genuinely captivated me tonight. In the Georgia Southern game, I saw just a mere glimpse of her as she played two sets and recorded six kills. Against Idaho, however, each one of her three kills had me jumping out of my seat!

Whether or not my seating location had something to do with this (I sat across the Gator bench in the first game and then sat behind the visitors bench during the second game), all of Snyder's kills seemed to be coming at lightning speed. She has a very powerful attack and I see her as a great offensive asset for the Gators going forward. She also had an amazing block tonight in the third set that had the entire O-Dome rocking.

Speaking of defense, Taylor Unroe was on point in this game as well as she recorded 11 digs with one service ace. Right behind her in this category were Mackenzie Dagostino (9 digs) and Holly Pole (8 digs). Dagostino also had 38 assists on the night, giving her 61 assists between the two games.

I will also mention that junior outside hitter Gabby Mallette did not play in either of the two matches today. I do not know the reason for this. Hopefully she will be back out on the court real soon.

At 2-0, the #10 Gators will be back at it on Saturday as they take on the Oklahoma Sooners (2-0) at 2:30 p.m. Idaho (0-2) and Georgia Southern (0-2) will meet each other in the early game at 12 p.m. Even though the Gators' first football game kicks off at 7:00 p.m., I will definitely be at the O-Dome to support the Gators as they seek to start their season 3-0!

*All stats accredited to

Sunday, August 24, 2014

UF Soccer: Miami vs #8 Florida

On a rainy August 22nd night, the #8 Gators took the field against the rival Miami Hurricanes. Despite a few weather delays, the Gator soccer team was able to emerge victorious by a score of 3-0.

Senior forward JIllian Graff stole the show early as she scored her first goal of the season a little less than 10 minutes into the game. She would strike again in the second half with another goal in the 64th minute. Star sophomore forward Savannah Jordan also left her mark on the game with a goal in the 68th minute.

Senior goalkeeper Taylor Burke had one save on the night, which is pretty good considering Miami only had two shots on goal. Florida dominated the 'Canes in shots on a goal by a margin of 17-2. The Gators' smothering defense allowed Burke to notch her first shutout of the year and puts them at 1-0 on the season.

Next up for the #8 Gators are the South Florida Bulls at home, who they are currently playing as I write this article. After USF, Florida will head to Norman to play the Oklahoma Sooners on August 29 at 8 p.m. As for Miami, they are currently taking on UCF in Orlando and will then head home to play the FGCU Eagles on August 29 at 7 p.m.

*All stats accredited to

Thursday, August 14, 2014

2014 Florida Gator Women's Soccer Season Preview

            Today, the 2014 Florida Gator soccer team kicks off its season with an exhibition game against FIU at 7 p.m.  I recently caught up with sophomore forward Savannah Jordan, who garnered many accolades after a spectacular freshman year, and asked her for her thoughts on the season.
“I am super excited about this season! I think our team has amazing potential this year. We have a majority of our team returning from last year and I think we have only grown from then. I can't wait to play again with all of my teammates. The vibes and attitudes on the team are nothing but positive and I think everyone is really determined to go far this year.  I'm looking forward to this season getting started!”
Savannah Jordan has every right to be optimistic as the team only lost four players to graduation.  This year, the team will be composed of eight seniors, five juniors, seven sophomores, and four freshmen.  With most of the team returning, the Gators should once again be very competitive in the SEC as well as the country.
Their schedule intrigues me as they will face many Top 25 opponents in #2 FSU, #6 Stanford, #9 Texas A&M, and #14 South Carolina.  The Gators themselves are ranked at #8 and I expect them to stay up in the polls throughout the entire season.  Some other intriguing nonconference matchups for the Gators are games against Miami at home, and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State on the road.
Personnel wise, the Gators’ top scorer returns in forward Savannah Jordan.  She netted 22 goals last year and I won’t be surprised if she surpasses that mark in 2014.  Another impact player on offense is senior midfielder Havana Solaun.  She led the team in assists with nine last year and also scored eight goals of her own.
Defensively, the Gators return seven players who all had significant playing time in 2013.  Anchored by seniors Lauren Silver, Karina Gutsche, Annie Bobbitt, and Tessa Andujar, the Gators defense should fare very well this year. 
Rounding off the Gator defense is senior goalkeeper Taylor Burke.  Allowing just 10 goals while tallying 13 wins and 9 shutouts, Burke will be the primary option at keeper this year as backup Nora Neset Gjøen signed a contract to play for LSK Kvinner in Norway.
As for predictions, I believe the 2014 Gator soccer team will do big things this year.  I think they will finish the regular season 16-2 with those two losses potentially coming from FSU and Stanford (who they both play exactly one week apart from each other). 
They will go undefeated in SEC play (11-0) to win the regular season title and earn the #1 seed in the SEC Tournament.  In the tournament, they will face the Texas A&M Aggies for the second straight year for the SEC Championship and will defeat them to win the championship and avenge their 2013 loss to the Aggies.

In the NCAA Tournament, I predict that the Gators will hit their peak and win a bunch of close games to claim the second National Championship in the program’s history.  This will be a special season for Gator soccer, and I can’t wait to be out there at James G. Pressly Stadium to watch history unfold!  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

2014 Gator Women's Lacrosse: A Year In Review

I'll come right out of the gate and be honest. I only went to two Florida Gator lacrosse games the entire year. The first involved me and my friend freezing in 45º weather as rain descended upon us in a blowout win over Jacksonville. The second game I went to was against James Madison. The weather was much better this game but I think I still left before the half because I primarily came for a free shirt. Despite my very poor attendance, I still did my best to keep up with the progress and results of the Gator women's lax team throughout the season.

The team sported an 18-3 record during the year and ripped off two separate winning streaks of both 8 and 10 games. They won the regular season American Lacrosse Conference title for the fourth straight year in the young program's history as well as their second ALC tournament championship. With the ALC falling apart due to conference realignment issues, Florida will become a member of the Big East conference (which still exists in lacrosse) in the 2015 season.

In the NCAA Tournament, a familiar ALC foe in Northwestern eliminated the Gators in the quarterfinals in a 12-11 contest that required overtime. This was the third meeting between these two squads and all three of the games were decided by one point.

I believe that the Gators were at a disadvantage entering this game as they had already beaten Northwestern twice before. Losing by just one point in both those games (one being the ALC Championship) meant that Northwestern would eventually be due for a win. Unfortunately for the Gators, it came during the biggest game of the season. If it makes anything better, however, I will also mention that Northwestern would go on to lose to the eventual National Champion Maryland Terrapins.

Now, here are the Gator lax players who led the way in these respective stat categories:

Goals: Shannon Gilroy (86) (Junior)

Assists: Lauren Lea & Sammi Burgess (20) (Sophomore/Freshman)

Points: Shannon Gilroy (106) (Junior)

Shots: Shannon Gilroy (173) (Junior)

Ground Balls: Nora Barry (43) (Junior)

Draw Controls: Shannon Gilroy (82) (Junior)

Saves: Mary-Sean Wilcox (77) (Sophomore)

Wins: Mary-Sean Wilcox (10) (Sophomore)

Losses: Cara Canington (3) (Redshirt Senior)

Goals Allowed: Mary-Sean Wilcox (101) (Sophomore)

Caused Turnovers: Shannon Gilroy (24) (Junior)

Turnovers: Sammi Burgess (26) (Freshman)

For a team with just two seniors and six upperclassmen in total, the Florida Gators set the bar high once again in 2014. Winning the conference championship and nearly reaching the Final Four is an achievement that many schools wish they could do on a consistent basis. What's even scarier is that the Gators did this with a roster predominantly composed of freshmen and sophomores. Florida is going to have some pretty formidable lax squads in the upcoming years as these girls become juniors and seniors.

In terms of coaching, head coach Amanda O'Leary is one of the best in the business. She has done an absolute amazing job with this team with 243 wins in just five seasons. I won't be surprised if she leads one of these star studded Gator lax teams to a National Championship before I graduate.

As for my final thoughts on the 2014 season: I think it was another fantastic year for the UF lax team that they can learn and build on going forward. I can confidently say the excitement of this season has motivated me to attend a lot more games next year.

*All stats accredited to