Special year for Florida


Florida's Lauren Embree returns a shot to Stanford's Mallory Burdette during the finals of the NCAA Tennis Championships in Stanford, Calif., on May 24, 2011. Embree won the match 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (6) to clinch Florida's title 4-3. (The Associated Press)

Published: Friday, July 8, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 8, 2011 at 12:01 a.m.

It was wild and crazy, successful and sometimes disappointing. It was one of the best school years for the University of Florida's athletic programs. Despite a down year on the football field, Florida won the inaugural Capital One Cup on the men's side and finished fourth in the Directors' Cup. It was a year of so many special moments.




Here are the 10 best as compiled by Sun sports columnist Pat Dooley:

1. The comeback

Down 4-0 in the final set with a national title on the line in Stanford's backyard, Lauren Embree rallied to win the NCAA women's tennis championship for the Gators.

2. The bomb

Florida was so close to Omaha before Nick Vickerson's walk-off homer and a Mississippi State rally in game three put the Gators on the brink of the season being over. But Preston Tucker's three-run homer sent the Gators on a magical run.

3. The pick

Penn State was driving for the winning score to ruin Urban Meyer's last game as Florida coach. But Ahmad Black baited the quarterback into throwing a crossing route, picked it off and ran 80 yards for a touchdown and the perfect ending for his career.

4. The shot

Florida was in a nip-and-tuck battle with UCLA with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line when Erving Walker took over the game. The play that will always stand out came when he drove on 325-pound Josh Smith, ran into the huge center and threw up a circus shot that went in.

5. The sweep

Florida's softball team was in a familiar place — Oklahoma City for the Women's College World Series. But the Gators had the daunting task of having to beat Alabama twice to advance to the finals. No problem. UF scored 11 runs in the first inning and swept the Tide by a combined 25-4.

6. The kick

Florida's football season was not going well when the Gators faced rival Georgia in Jacksonville. But in overtime, Chas Henry's winning field goal made the Gator Nation feel all warm and fuzzy again.

7. The Jimmer

The hype was deafening when Florida played BYU and star Jimmer Fredette in the Sweet 16. The Gators not only beat the Cougars, they beat up Fredette with physical play and advanced to the Elite Eight with an overtime win.

8. The storm

It's not that often that you're playing baseball and you hear tornado sirens while you're chasing a fly ball. It happened in Omaha as a powerful front with 69 mph winds moved through as Florida was facing Vanderbilt. the two teams came back to finish the game the following morning with UF prevailing behind reliever Steven Rodriguez.

9. The gym

It certainly is not the easiest place to play and especially when the other team is really good and there is so much on the line. But Florida went to Memorial Gym on Senior Night and took care of Vanderbilt to win the outright SEC title in men's basketball.

10. The rally

It was going to be a really bad loss. Florida's volleyball team had one loss all year but here they were in the fifth set of the NCAA second-round game against rival Florida State down 12-7 just points away from being eliminated. The Gators rallied to win and the O-Dome was electric.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. You can listen to The Pat Dooley Show weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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