WRUF Profiles

Gator Soccer Spotlight: Player to Watch

By on November 4th, 2014

When most people think of the word freshman, they tend to associate it with connotations that relate to youth, immaturity, and inexperience, among other things. However, despite being a freshman, UF Defender Courtney Douglas has shown that she possesses characteristics that are uncharacteristic of what people would expect of her for her age.

Just like many of her teammates, the St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School graduate was introduced to soccer at an early age and began playing the sport when she was just 5 years old. But the thing that distinguishes her the most from the other players on the current roster is her experience playing at the international level.

Douglas has made several appearances with the Jamaican national team in Caribbean Football Union tournaments and CONCACAF Women’s championships over a 2 year span, and has also played competitively for the Erin Mills Soccer Club in her native Ontario, Canada. Douglas believes these experiences have made her a much better player.

“I think those experiences definitely helped me,” said Douglas. “Playing for a national team, that’s crazy. And I think it’s definitely helped me progress as a player and improve my skills, be more competitive, and play at a higher level.”

Although Douglas, a 2011 Ontario Youth Soccer all-star selection, was pursued by many top notch soccer programs throughout the country thanks in large part to her great defending and tackling skills, she ultimately chose to accept UF’s scholarship offer because of a few key factors.

“The coaches, the program, and the school, academic wise. Compared to other schools, it’s unbelievable to me, said Douglas. “Comparing it to other schools, it just, it met my expectations and it’s been a thrill so far being here.”

The Gators are playing extremely well so far this season and Douglas believes they are definitely capable of accomplishing great things as long as they continue playing well.

“We’re doing well so far. We just have to keep playing our game, stay on task, and just keep up what we’re doing,” she said. “I think we’ll definitely make it to the SEC Finals and win the championship.”

After graduating from UF, Douglas ultimately hopes to be able to play soccer professionally.



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Erica LaGrow’s Journey: From UNC to UF

By on April 30th, 2014

A first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer at the University of North Carolina her senior year in 2008, Erica LaGrow helped the Tar Heels to four consecutive quarterfinal appearances in the NCAA championship.

LaGrow’s hometown is Skaneateles, N.Y. was a midfielder at North Carolina, who started all four years and ended her career with 80 goals and 15 assists to go along with 90 ground balls and 84 draw controls. She brought that experience to Florida, when she was hired to become an assistant coach once the program was created in 2010.

“Obviously being a part of a program that’s been successful in the past, has taught me a lot about technique, a lot about skills and whole game concepts that I was able to transfer over here to Florida.”

LaGrow was also a member of the United States Women’s National Team for five years. She was a member of the touring team that captured the Prague Cup in 2008. The Prague Cup is a tournament in Europe which hosts lacrosse national teams, and multiple Division I schools to compete for a championship. She credits the experience of being a part of the National Team, to helping her become a better coach.

“You learn a lot, you know how to speak with each other, you know how to coach things, you know how to make each other better.”

At the University of Florida, LaGrow coordinates the offense with assistant coach Michelle Tumolo. The Gators offense last year finished second in the nation in scoring margin. Florida also finished with the fifth best scoring offense in the country, and sixth in points. The team’s offensive philosophy revolves around the players that are currently on the team.

“We create an offense around the players that we have, obviously develop those skills for each player and as a whole on offense,” LaGrow said. “We teach the basics and run more of a motion style offense.”

With the lacrosse season already in full swing, the Gators have set their goals high. “Any division one program, their goal is to win conference championships and national championships,” LaGrow said. “I think on a day-to-day basis, we have to get better each day and improve our skills, improve our offense, and improve the defense from top to bottom.”

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Thornqvist’s Experience is the Best Teacher

By on April 28th, 2014

Roland Thornqvist is nothing but familiar to the game of tennis. As a two-time All-American at North Carolina and a professional in the 90s, Thornqvist has certainly played his fair share.

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Thornqvist has made his way through the NCAA. Starting his head-coaching career at the University of Kansas and then spending some time at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina, he eventually landed the job at Florida in 2002.

Thornqvist said, “I always thought Florida tennis was the pinnacle of college tennis so when the job opened up here, I basically just applied for it. When I was offered the job, it was a layup to take it.”

Coaching the Gator women tennis team to 3 NCAA Team Championships, he has helped the program achieve monumental success. Now in his 13th year as head coach, Thornqvist isn’t depending on just luck to make it happen again.

Thornqvist said, “Being a good player can be a double-edged sword but I try to use it to put myself in the better players … shoes, and think, ‘what was it I needed?’ and try to provide some of those things to our players.”

However, it’s not solely his experience as a player that has contributed to the achievements he’s made as a coach.

“I don’t think it’s a prerequisite to have been a great player, per say, to be a good coach. I think being a good coach is understanding players, knowing when to say ‘what’ and sometimes that’s even more important than X’s and O’s frankly,” said Thornqvist.  

But he knows his X’s and O’s. Since then the start of his UF coaching career, he has won SEC Coach of the Year three times and has left his mark all over the Florida tennis record books.

“The atmosphere Dave (Balogh, assistant coach) and I have tried to create where it’s one of hard work and sweat and fitness, but yet camaraderie, loyalty, a love for Florida and the Gator tennis program that sort of stays with our players when they leave for a long, long time. I think that’s what I’m very proud of”, said Thornqvist.

The fifth-ranked Gators will seek their 18th consecutive team NCAA appearance under Thornqvist this season

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UF Seniors Hungry for More

By on April 28th, 2014

Three particular members of the Florida women’s tennis team know what it’s like to win 2 national championships. They know how it feels to claim numerous SEC regular season and tournament titles. Most importantly, they know what it takes to be great.

This season, these 3 Gator seniors are determined to make their last season one for the books.

“We’ve been there through all the stress and the very high pressure, and now we might feel a little bit of the pressure coming in but we’re an extremely close team. We’ve been through so much together,” said senior Olivia Janowicz (below).

This past weekend, the fifth-ranked Gators traveled to the state of Alabama to take on Auburn and Alabama. While they were able to top Auburn, 4-0, on Friday, they were unable to capture the second win of the weekend, falling to Alabama on Sunday, 4-3.

Despite some of the recent losses, head coach Roland Thornqvist is confident about the remainder of the season.

“I think we’re getting more physically stronger. Playing outside in the heat and humidity definitely is a positive for this team, “Thornqvist said, “We’ve got great athletes who can run and defend so when it gets warmer, playing outside on slower courts will help us.”

Olivia Janowicz, Alexandra Cercone and Sofie Oyen, who make up the Gator senior trio, are currently ranked 8th, 22nd and 38th in the nation, respectively. Their doubles matchups are all also ranked in the top 50.

“Personally, I feel like I’m playing my best tennis that I have been. It’s nice. That way I can kind of feel like I can be in a leadership position,” said senior Alexandra Cercone (below).

With 6 more matches to play in the regular season, Florida tennis has some time to prepare before heading to the SEC tournament in Columbia, Missouri in April. 

No. 3 ranked Georgia, who already took down the Gators once this season, will present a challenge for the Gators in the tournament. Florida currently has 5 wins and two losses in the SEC regular season but has a chance to fight for a better result in the post-season.

Janowicz has contributed to 3-straight SEC tournament championships and hopes to see one more in her last season as a Gator.

“The things I remember the most are just the team experiences. Winning together as a collective is so much more important to me than winning just as an individual,” said Janowicz.

The Florida Gators will face Arkansas and LSU at home this weekend as they look to improve upon their current 13-4 season.

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Marissa King still contributing to gymnastics as student coach

By on April 22nd, 2014

Former University of Florida gymnast Marissa King has a brand new role with the team this year. She is a student coach.

King, a dual-major in Geography and Telecommunications, is finishing up her degree and graduates in August 2014. However, she is no longer eligible to compete after being on the team from 2010 to 2013.

While competing for UF, King helped the Gators to a national championship in 2013, SEC championships in 2013, 2012 and 2010, is an 11-time All-American and was the 2011 NCAA vault champion, according to Gatorzone.com.

She said she has no doubt that the 2014 team can achieve the same kind of success because of the potential and the amount of talent they have. Her goal as a coach is to help them accomplish those goals.

“Knowing that I’m still helping towards that but in a different way is really cool too,” King said.

She describes this year as a nice transition for her. She has been doing gymnastics her entire life, and is now finished with her competitive career. She was told that this may be a difficult time for her, but she has been taking it fine. King says this is because there was no better way her career could have ended and because she still gets to be involved with the team.

“It’s nice to step back and see, and it’s nice to have a different role being on the sidelines and being that cheerer, that motivator,” she said. “Helping in different ways than actually being a competitor is different, but it’s nice. I enjoy it, and I’m very happy to still be here seeing the girls go through season and compete.”

King said her role as a coach is to help out wherever she is needed. She is an extra voice of encouragement in the gym. She is there to help if anyone needs mats or boards and to watch gymnasts’ routines to help put them in a competition setting.

“The team is kind of small this year. It’s good to have another body, another voice in the gym cheering through practices,” she said.

She said she’s more relaxed before meets this year because she’s not as nervous as when she had to compete, but she still feels the same excitement for the girls this year. This is especially when they’re getting “pumped up” in the locker room and when they run out in front of the fans.

King said her most difficult moment was at the first home meet when the team was doing their introduction. It was hard for her to not be a part of it because she loved it and loved performing in front of the home crowd.

“Now I enjoy it. I have fun with it,” she said. “I still share that excitement with them and I still get that buzz.”

King said she does not plan on coaching as a career. She says it’s an option, but doesn’t see it for herself in the long run. Her current aspiration is to perform for Cirque de Soleil. She is still training and staying in shape to prepare for that.

“That will be kind of like gymnastics but performing and entertainment and acrobatics,” she said.

King has also been working with GatorVision, which records video of all UF athletic events, to gain experience in the telecommunications field. She has a behind-the-scenes role with them doing production and film editing. She said she is enjoying that and would not rule out a future working with GatorVision.

She said she knows she wants a career in the media but does not have any concrete plans. She loves to travel and wants to visit places across the US such as: New York City, Las Vegas, California and the Grand Canyon.

She’s excited to kick off her travels with her first-ever Caribbean cruise with her family right after her graduation this summer.

King said that it’s scary graduating and not knowing what the future holds, but she’s learned it’s important to do what she loves and intends to do just that.

“I’m ready to start a new chapter and to see what more life has to offer me,” she said.

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Florida Gymnastics Looks to Defend Title

By on April 14th, 2014

          The top-ranked, defending national champion Florida Gator gymnastics team has now embarked on their postseason competition after an impressive regular season. So far this year, multiple University of Florida records have been broken, and UF’s athletes are ranked among the best in the nation. Additionally, in eight out of the ten weeks of the regular season, a Florida gymnast has been named SEC gymnast of the week, and the Gators have been ranked in the nation’s top three teams for the entire season.

The Gators ended their regular season as the No. 1 team in the nation with only one loss to Alabama. They came in second at the SEC Championships in Birmingham, Ala. on March 22 after leading the competition for the first three rounds and coming up just short of Alabama’s 197.875 with a score of 197.70.

According to Gatorzone.com, it was announced March 24 that the Gators will travel to Penn State University for NCAA regional competition in University Park, Penn. on April 5. It is there that the Gators will begin defending their national title and will be competing against No. 12 Oregon State, No. 15 Penn State, No. 23 New Hampshire, No. 29 Kentucky and No. 36 Maryland. The top two teams from the regional meet will advance to the 2014 NCAA Championships in Birmingham April 18-20.

Florida junior All-American Kytra Hunter said she doesn’t typically like to look too far ahead, but she wants her team to be back-to-back national champions.

“Whatever I have to do and whatever I can do, I’m gonna do that for the team,”  she said.

Hunter, who is the No. 7 gymnast in the NCAA, has certainly contributed to the Gators success this year. She is currently in the midst of making UF history. She has collected six perfect scores this season: four on the floor exercise and two on vault. She now has more perfect 10’s than any other Florida gymnast in a season and more than anyone at UF has ever had in their collegiate career. Her total 10.0’s for floor matches the record for perfect 10’s in one event, Susan Hines earned four on the vault in 1996 and 1998. However, Hunter holds the record for the most perfect scores in an event in a single season, as Hines earned three of hers in ‘98 and one in ‘96, according to Gatorzone.

Hunter has said all season that her goal is ten 10’s. She still has regionals, and likely nationals, to achieve her goal. Although it may seem that Hunter has perfected her craft, she still knows she cannot become complacent and must still work to improve.

“I’m a really humble person,” she said. “I know that no matter what the scores are, there’s always room for improvement so that’s what I try to do every day.”

Hunter is not the only one breaking school records this season. Sophomore All-American Bridget Sloan matched the highest all-around total in UF history at Missouri on March 14. The record score of 39.825 was set only the week before by Florida senior All-American Alaina Johnson. It is also the highest all-around total in the country for the 2014 season, according to Gatorzone.com.

As of the SEC Championships, Sloan has won nine consecutive all-around titles, approaching the UF record of 11 by Melissa Miller in 1988. She has also accumulated 27 event titles so far in 2014 and has been SEC Gymnast of the Week six times.

According to the national GymInfo rankings, she is the No. 1-ranked gymnast in the nation and did not receive a score less than 9.90 in more than half of the regular season meets.

Sloan’s success has carried over into the postseason. At the SEC Championship in Birmingham, she took the all-around title and matched her six-time collegiate best on vault of 9.95, according to Gatorzone.com.

Those consistent high scores will certainly help her team reach their goals in the regional and national meets, and Sloan said she has been looking forward to competing in the upcoming competitions.

“Postseason is so incredible,” she said. “It was a blast last year and I have very high expectations for this year.”

The Gators have significant depth in talent in their roster. Senior All-American Mackenzie Caquatto has scored above 9.90 on the balance beam and the uneven bars in the last four meets of the regular season. She is ranked 2nd nationally on beam and 6th on bars, according to the national GymInfo rankings.

Senior All-American Alaina Johnson has been gaining momentum over the course of the season. On her senior night, March 7, at the Gators’ home meet against West Virginia, she broke UF record for the all-time highest all-around score with a 39.825. She now shares the record with teammate Bridget Sloan, and it is the highest score of 2014 in the country.

Johnson is currently tied with LSU’s Sarie Morrison as the 9th-ranked gymnast in the country.

Junior Rachel Spicer is another contributing factor of the Gators’ success. She competes on the vault, balance beam and floor exercise and has broken her collegiate-best record scores in all three events in 2014.

Spicer said she excited for postseason and has been working hard in the gym at practice to prepare.

“Practice hasn’t really changed, as in the assignments and things like that,” she said. “I would say it’s more focused on details like being sharp and showing off dance on floor and definitely the landings on vault and bars is very important.”

Head Coach Rhonda Faehn said her game plan going forward is simple: doing what they’ve been doing all year long, not holding back, competing aggressively and just having fun.

The Gators have demonstrated their ability to be top contenders on the national stage. Even though they are hopeful for another national title, Bridget Sloan knows that no matter what, their work has not been in vain.

“Whatever happens, I just hope that we can look back on this whole year and realize that we came closer together as a team, that we became stronger individuals and stronger gymnasts inside and outside of the gym and just realize that everything happens for a reason,” Sloan said. “Whether things go our way or not, we’ll be able to look back on this season and realize: There were good things that came out of it.”

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UF Men’s Tennis Looks to Closeout Season Strong

By on April 14th, 2014

Mike Alford

After an inconsistent start to the season, the Florida Men’s tennis team is starting find their stroke. The Gators had a very tough schedule to open the season, including non-conference games against three of the top five teams in the nation. They also split their first four SEC matches with wins against South Carolina and Tennessee and losses against 12th ranked Texas A&M and 10thranked Georgia.

The team rebounded with back-to-back sweeps against Auburn and Alabama, and is growing in confidence. Senior Michael Alford says, “We’re going to come out every match and no matter what the rankings are, we’re going to give it our best. We truly believe we can win every match.”

Alford added, “We don’t think that there’s any team that is leaps and bounds better than us. We think we’re in every single match and we see that in the last couple of matches we’ve played. (We) haven’t given in and it’s fun to be playing with a group of guys who have that attitude.”

On a team that features six underclassmen on a ten-man roster, Alford knows the younger players look up to him. “Being one of the only seniors, I do consider myself one of the leaders. Not really as vocal of a leader but I show up to practice every day and just work as hard as I can; so I guess leading by example is the way I try and do things and just give it 100% all the time,” said Alford.

One of those younger players is freshman Elliot Orkin, who was ranked as high as the third best player coming out of high school. Orkin says, “Mike has been a leader to me in many ways. He’s a hard worker and he’s always competing so that’s something I look up to.”

Elliot Orkin

According to Orkin, the goal of this team has been crystal clear since the moment he joined. “Our goal is to win the SEC championship, that’s what coach has been preaching to us since the beginning,” said Orkin, “That remains our goal so we’re going to have to do really well for the rest of the season to achieve that.”

The youth on this Gators team is hardly a disadvantage. Alford says, “We feel like we’re playing some good tennis collectively. Everyone’s playing well. Our goal is to come in every day and get better – and obviously when matches come we want to show up prepared, show up excited and hopefully get the job done.”

Alford and the rest of the Gators will be continuing conference play up until April 16th when they journey on to the SEC tournament in Nashville.

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Bryan Shelton: Always Striving for Greatness

By on April 14th, 2014

As a formerly world-ranked tennis player and collegiate All-American, Gator men’s tennis head coach Bryan Shelton is no stranger to success.

The Hunstville, Alabama native earned an industrial engineering degree from Georgia Tech. If that isn’t impressive enough, Shelton also lettered in tennis for the Yellow Jackets, winning both the ACC Singles Championship as well as the US Amateur Championship in 1985.

During Shelton’s decade-long professional career, he reached an all-time high singles ranking of 55 and doubles ranking of 52 in the world.

“I had some wins over top ten players like Andre Agassi and others, so I had a good professional career,” he said.

When he retired from the professional tour, Shelton began coaching for the United States Tennis Association, where he worked with players like Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish. He said he knew he “wanted to do something different,” and collegiate coaching was the path he chose to take.

“I felt like it was something I could do to impact others, especially others that are between the ages of 19 and 22,” he said.

Shelton began coaching the women’s team at his alma mater in 1999. Under his leadership, the women won multiple conference titles as well as a national title in 2007.

In 2012, Shelton began coaching the Gator men’s tennis team. He says he knew the University of Florida was the right choice for him because of the integrity of the programs.

“To be able to switch over from women’s side to the men’s side is a unique opportunity that most people don’t get; to do it here at the University of Florida where excellence is the norm, I wanted to be part of something like that. And like they say it’s great to be a Florida Gator,” he said.

The men never have an easy season, facing a majority of ranked opponents. He said they have had some success early on, but they have also taken their lumps. His goal is to make sure that every day they are working hard and improving. Shelton’s coaching philosophy is just as much about shaping the players as it is about shaping their game.

“I’m really working with the guys to help them develop as people. I really want the program to be one that people look at and say they do things with integrity,” he said.

Overall, Shelton is pleased with what this young team has accomplished so far in the season. The goal for this season is to win the conference championship, and Shelton likes the way the men are working.

“So that’s something we are striving for; we know between now and then there’s going to be some adversity, there are going to be some storms, but we have to weather the storms and embrace them when they come and face the adversity and continue to work and do the things that we know will lead us to success.”

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Baseball’s Ryan Harris Expecting This Season To Be A Good Run

By on April 14th, 2014

Ryan Harris can recall his love for the game and throwing a baseball in the front yard with his father, since age four.

The University of Florida junior expressed that his dad, Scott Harris, got him into baseball and is a big advocate of the game.

“Without a doubt, he’s always been there by my side, always been there to coach me and help me out, take me to all my games, he’s been a big aspect in my life,” said Harris.

The right-handed pitcher was born and raised in Jupiter, Florida and played for Jupiter High School before accepting his offer to play for the University of Florida. Ryan said his decision to become a Gator was fairly easy.

“I chose the University of Florida because of the coaches. The coaches, the program we have here and obviously the education is really great.” Ryan also said Gator Baseball Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan has greatly impacting his baseball abilities.

“Coach has taught me a lot about the game that I wouldn’t have figured out from anybody else. He teaches us the mental aspect of the game and how to be mentally tough, along with the fundamentals. It’s all about mental toughness,” Harris said.

Ryan reminisced about one of his most memorable games at University of Florida so far. “My freshman year against Florida State, I threw three perfect innings against them and they were ranked number one in the country for that week, that was my first collegiate win.”

After Harris’ first regular season with the Gators as a freshman, they advanced to the 2012 College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Although the Gators lost their first two games against South Carolina and Kent State, Harris said the experience was unbelievable and one of his most memorable accomplishments he’s had with the team.

Gator Baseball ended their 2013 season with a record of 29-30 but Harris believes everyone should expect a big turn around this year.

“This season everyone’s back and healthy, the team gels really well and we have a lot of new young freshmen coming in that are going to be good. I think were gonna have a really good team and are gonna give it a good run,” said Harris.

Ryan Harris plans on hopefully pursuing a career in baseball once he graduates from the University of Florida.

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GHS, Adam Souillard: Developing good players on and off of the field

By on April 14th, 2014

For Hurricane head coach Adam Souillard, coaching baseball at Gainesville High School (GHS) is more than just a position. It is an opportunity to share the game he loves with others.

As a Miami native, Souillard’s passion for sports began in his childhood when he would play sports with his mother.  After five years of soccer, he discovered baseball and has been in love ever since.

“She [Souillard’s mother] was always the one outside with me. She would be the one racing me and all that stuff. And I actually played soccer for the first five years I started playing organized sports and then I got into baseball. Once I started doing that, it was kind of a love for it.

After playing baseball in grade school, Souillard discovered the contribution that he wanted to make to the game.

“I knew I wanted to coach it [baseball] very early in my life because it was a great game and it was a lot of fun for me and I wanted to be able to teach others to play this game”

While studying at the University of Florida, Souillard found his first coaching opportunity while volunteering at local high schools to fulfill a requirement for a physical education course. After getting involved with Santa Fe High School Baseball, as a volunteer, he retained a coaching position before getting an offer at GHS.

As an experienced coach, he is well aware of the obstacles that many high school coaches face, not having the luxury of player recruitment. Souillard said that despite the challenging seasons when his team has a limited number of experienced seniors, he welcomes the opportunity to develop new players.

“I love teaching this game. Actually, I like this team a lot that I have for 2014 because I get to do a lot more teaching. I get to see them grow from what they were when they first started.”

Souillard’s focus on player development extends past their physical abilities. He also strives to use his program to instill good character into his team.

“Yea, it’s great to be good baseball players but I want them to be good people and a quality individual. Everyone loves to win. Everyone hates to lose. But at the end of the day the game is going to be there when I’m gone. The game is going to be there when they’re gone. But when they leave here, I hope that they are good people as well as good baseball players.”

Ultimately, Souillard is looking forward to having a long career in baseball. He loves his current position but he is open to other opportunities that may come in the future. 

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