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In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week Orange & Blue News will keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.
Gators women's tennis advanced to the semifinals (Final Four) of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth-straight season on Sunday when they took down No. 8 California 4-2 during quarterfinal action in Champaign, IL. No. 1 Florida picked up a pair of 8-4 victories in doubles to take the first point but did struggle for a short while in singles action, dropping two matches but only giving up the lead for a moment. No. 1 senior Lauren Embree did her job by routing No. 8 Anett Schutting with ease 6-2, 6-0 and leading her squad to victory once again. UF has now won 16-straight NCAA Tournament games dating back to 2011 and has not lost in the event since dropping the 2010 national title game to Stanford 4-3. As it turns out, the Gators and Cardinal will square off in the semifinals on Monday night. Florida is on a 19-match winning streak dating back to March 3. UF is in the semifinals for the seventh time in the last nine seasons and the 23rd time in program history.
A positive-minded Tim Tebow was recently in Jacksonville, FL - not for a tryout but rather a speaking engagement - and had some fun at his own expense when someone in the crowd at New Life Christian Fellowship asked him about his most memorable moment from his breakout 2011 season. "One of my favorite stories, ironically, was against the New York Jets," Tebow replied with a smile. "And probably my greatest Jets highlight, I guess." Self-deprecating or not, Tebow remains without a team and it is looking increasingly likely that he will not be on an NFL roster this season. It has become apparent that the distraction of "Tebowmania" is more of a deterrent to teams than the kinks in Tebow's throwing motion or his overall ability to play the game.
The continuously-surprising and inspiring No. 2 Gators softball team advanced to Super Regional play for the sixth time in the last seven seasons after taking down South Florida 2-0 in the finals of the Gainesville Regional on Sunday. Florida, which topped Hampton 7-1 on Friday and routed USF 11-1 in a five-inning, run-ruled contest on Saturday, went hitless for 6.1 innings in Sunday's finale but was still able to post a pair of runs in the fourth inning. Bulls hurler Sara Nevins walked four Gators batters and hit another with a pitch, allowing UF to plate the runs that led to its eventual victory. Junior righty Hannah Rogers (7.0 IP, 3 H, 5 K), earned the victory with a complete game shutout. Also impressing over the weekend was sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger, who matched the school's single-game RBI record with seven on Saturday. Florida will host UAB in Super Regional action beginning May 23.
One thing that should not be questioned is the commitment of linebacker Brandon Spikes to his team, the New England Patriots. Spikes has a fantastic relationship with owner Robert Kraft, who he has previously called similar to a father figure, and head coach Bill Belichick loves the way he runs the Patriots' defense. However, according to ESPNBoston.com, Spikes "hasn't been seen much at Gillette Stadium since the off-season program began in mid-April" and the reason is believed to be his contract. He is entering the final season of his rookie contract and is set to earn $630,000 in salary. It would not be surprising if Spikes signs a deal slightly below market value to remain with New England at some point before the start of the season.
Running back Mike Gillislee became the latest Gators draftee to sign his NFL contract this weekend, doing so with the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Gillislee's four-year rookie deal maxes out at $2.322 million. He received a $162,800 fully-guaranteed signing bonus split over the four years and will average $580,700 per season in salary alone before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2017. Gillislee was chosen by Miami with the No. 164 overall pick in the fifth round, two spots ahead of Caleb Sturgis, who went No. 166 to the Dolphins and has already been signed by the team. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins has also inked his deal with Miami. Gillislee will compete for the starting job against second-year Lamar Miller and third-year Daniel Thomas.
Syracuse took down Florida lacrosse over the weekend, eliminating the Gators from the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight season. In 2012, the Orange earned a controversial overtime win that put revenge at the forefront of UF's collective mind. However, No. 5 Florida being underseeded and therefore forced to play at No. 4 Syracuse in quarterfinal action, wound up being a big obstacle to overcome. Though the match was tied 4-4 at the half, SU outscored UF 9-5 down the stretch to pull off the 13-9 win. The Orange held at least a two-goal lead for most of the second half and simply outplayed the Gators on the afternoon. Eleven of Florida's 13 seniors (along with one redshirt junior) made up the team's inaugural recruiting class, which set a goal to not only build the program but also win a national title before their careers were out. Though the Gators did not accomplish that feat, they have won three ALC Tournament titles and two ALC regular-season crowns in their four years, undoubtedly creating a championship-winning tradition for the young program.