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Friday November 3, 2006Cusack Smashes UF Record For Digs As No. 7 VB Beats No. 11 LSU 3-1

BATON ROUGE, La.

Freshman libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) nearly set an NCAA record and shattered the school record for digs in a match with 46 as the No. 7 University of Florida volleyball team became the first Southeastern Conference team to defeat No. 11 LSU at home in 2006 with a 3-1 (31-29, 30-24, 27-30, 30-24) victory Friday evening before the largest crowd to attend an LSU home match since 1992 (1,684) at the Pete Maravich Center.

 

With the victory, Florida (21-2, 14-1) opened up a two-match lead on the Tigers (20-4, 12-3) with just five contests remaining in SEC play. The win improved Florida coach Mary Wise’s record against ranked SEC teams to 23-6 in her career with the Gators moving to 3-0 against ranked conference foes in 2006. The Tigers held the advantage statistically in every category except hitting percentage as UF out-hit LSU .138-.097. The Gators collected 113 digs in the match as a team, which tied for the third most in school history with the total standing as the most in the rally scoring era for UF.

 

“What we saw out of Elyse Cusack was one of the most special performances we’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Florida coach Mary Wise said. “Neither team got on track offensively and that had a lot to do with serving and blocking. It was like two heavyweights were battering each other out there.”

 

Cusack had broken the Gator record for digs in a match through just the first three games as she already had 36 digs. The old record had stood since Lyra Vance tallied 34 on Nov. 9, 1987 against Florida State. Cusack’s total tied for the sixth-most in NCAA history for a four-game match. The record of 56 was set by UMKC’s Catalina Suarez on Sept. 29, 1989.

 

Junior opposite hitter Amber McCray (Longview, Texas) also fared well for the Gators with 19 kills on .340 hitting. Senior defensive specialist Rhian Davis (Austin, Texas) collected 15 digs for UF with junior outside hitter Marcie Hampton (Gainesville, Fla.) adding 19. Junior setter Angie McGinnis (Fraser, Mich.) collected a double-double with 46 assists and 13 digs,

 

The win ran Florida’s winning streak against SEC Western Division teams to 75 and gave the Gators their 22nd straight victory against LSU. The Tigers had previously swept all six SEC teams that had played in the Maravich Center in 2006 with their only blemish at home a 3-2 loss to No. 3 Penn State in August.

 

Florida stormed back from a late seven-point deficit to claim a 31-29 in the opening game. The Tigers began the match with the first three points before the Gators answered with three of their own to tie the game at 3-3. After a pair of points for each squad, the Tigers tallied four consecutive points to move in front 8-4. The Gators gradually cut into LSU’s lead and came within one at 13-12 after scoring three straight on an LSU service error, a tandem block from freshman middle blocker Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) and McCray and a kill from junior Kisya Killingsworth (Deltona, Fla.). With LSU leading 14-13, the Tigers went on a 6-0 run to jump out in front with a seemingly comfortable 20-13 advantage. With LSU ahead 22-15 Florida battled back with five consecutive points behind the serve of Hampton with sophomore middle blocker Kelsey Bowers (Gainesville, Fla.) recording a pair of kills in the run as the Gators pulled within two at 22-20. After an LSU point, the Gators tallied three more to tie the game at 23-23. LSU went back in front at 24-23 before Killingsworth notched a kill from the right side followed by an LSU attack error to give Florida its first lead of the game at 25-24. LSU responded with the next two points to regain the advantage at 26-25. Killingsworth tied things at 26-26 with a kill before McCray put UF in front again with a kill from the right side at 27-26. LSU tied the game at 27-27 before Johnson recorded a kill on an overpass followed by another McCray kill from the right side to set up a game point at 29-27. The Tigers fought off two game points before committing a pair of attack errors on consecutive points to give the Gators the game. Florida out-hit LSU .164-.148 in the game with Killingsworth pacing the Gators with seven kills, while Cusack had 13 digs in the game for Florida.

 

Florida blew open what was a close game at the midway point with a 9-0 run to take the second game 30-24. The Tigers again opened strong in the second game by forging out to a 4-1 advantage before the Gators came back to even things up at 6-6 after an LSU attack error. The Tigers then put the next three points in the scoreboard before Florida eventually responded with three straight tallied of their own to take their first lead at 12-11 after an ace from Bowers. LSU responded with three of the next four points to move  back in front 14-13. Florida took control of the game by going on an 9-0 run to go ahead 22-14 behind the serve of Davis. three different Gators recorded kills in the stretch with UF being aided by four Tiger attack errors. The Tigers came as close as five points on three different occasions before the game ended with an LSU attack error. Florida again out-hit the Tigers .213-.105 as Killingsworth paced the Gators with five kills in the game, while Cusack tallied 10 digs.

 

The Tigers used a crucial 8-2 run in the opening stages of the third game and maintained enough of a lead to take game three 30-27. LSU started strong yet again in the third game with the first three points before the Gators rallied with four straight on an LSU service error, a block from Johnson and McCray, a kill from Johnson and an ace from McGinnis to move ahead 4-3. After LSU tied the game at 5-5, Florida scored four more points to surge in front 9-5. LSU answered by scoring eight of the next 10 points to move in front 13-11. LSU went ahead by as many as three at 16-13, which prompted the Gators to call a timeout. It worked as Florida responded with the next three points to tie the game at 16-16. LSU scored the next two points before McCray notched a kill from the right side to bring UF back within one at 18-17. LSU made it 19-17 before a service error from the Tigers and an ace from sophomore defensive specialist Christina Diaz (Hollywood, Fla.) tied the game at 19-19. The Tigers recorded a point before the Gators tied it at 20-20 on an LSU attack error. The Tigers picked up the next two points before a pair of LSU attack errors again tied the game at 22-22 and forced the Tigers to call a timeout. LSU recorded a block on the next point before another Tiger attack error tied things up at 23-23. LSU then notched a kill and went up by four at 27-23 after a trio of Gator attack errors. Florida came within a pair at 28-26 after two straight kills from the right side by McCray, but the Tigers blocked McCray on the next point to go ahead 29-26. The Gators fended off one game-point as McCray tallied another kill, but the Tigers closed out the game with a kill of their own. LSU out-hit the Gators .133-.048 in the game with McCray pacing UF with seven kills with Cusack collecting 13 digs.

 

Florida used a 9-2 run to turn a four-point deficit into a three point lead to close out the match with a 30-24 win.UF again dug itself a hole in to begin the fourth game as the Tigers raced out to a 5-1 advantage. The Gators responded with a 4-1 run to come within a point at 6-5. LSU then went back up by four at 9-5 before the Gators tallied three of four points to close the gap to two at 10-8 after an LSU service error. The Tigers built up their lead back to four at 14-10 before Florida collected three consecutive points to come within one at 14-13. After a Tiger kill, UF came back to tie things up at 15-15 on an LSU attack error and a kill from Bowers on a slide play. After a UF service error, Bowers again collected a kill before another Tiger attack error gave the Gators their first lead of the game at 17-16. Another LSU attack error followed before the Tigers called their first timeout with Florida on top 18-16. Killingsworth stuffed an LSU attack on the next play to extend the Gator advantage to 19-16. The Tigers responded with the next four points to tie the game at 19-19 before McGinnis ended the run with a solo block. McCray picked up a kill before Killingsworth added another to bump the Gator lead back to three at 22-19. After an LSU kill, Killingsworth collected a kill before Johnson and McCray stuffed an LSU attack to put Florida on top 24-20 and force a timeout. LSU scored the next point on a kill, but the Gators answered with four of the next five to surge in front 28-22 after a Hampton kill from the left side. McGinnis recorded a kill to set up match point at 29-23. LSU fought off one match point before things ended with an LSU attack error. The Gators out-hit LSU .146-.000 in the final game with McCray leading all players with six kills on .500 hitting and Cusack pacing all players with 10 digs.

 

Florida ends its four-match road swing by facing Arkansas on Sunday in a 2:30 p.m. (ET) contest. The match will be carried live on WRUF-AM 850 and www.GatorZone.com. The contest can be see via GatorVision Online.

 

 

 

 

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