By Mike Vietti
If one had asked a player on the 1995 Texas team before the season started to name one thing they were sick of the answer likely would have been the same for everyone: losing to Florida.
The Gators had ended the Longhorns’ seasons in the NCAA Tournament in 1991 (regional semifinal), 1992 (regional final), 1993 (regional final) and in 1994 (second round).
The word “revenge” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
“I was really sick of losing to Florida,” said Carrie Busch-Dodd, the starting setter on the 1995 Texas team and a current AVP Tour player. “
So, imagine how Texas felt when the team found out it was headed to Gainesville yet again with a possible matchup with Florida in the regional final. Along with the sixth-ranked Longhorns (25-6), Illinois (24-8), No. 4 Florida (34-1) and No. 17 Texas A&M (23-6) were in the Gainesville Regional.
Texas opened with the regional with a 15-13, 15-12, 15-3 victory over the Illini as the Longhorns out-hit Illinois .286-.115. Demetria Sance led all players with 16 kills on .483 hitting with Texas picking up an impressive 15.0 blocks to just 6.0 for Illinois.
“We did block a lot of balls, but that was something we took a lot of pride in,” Busch-Dodd said. “Mick Haley and our assistant coaches really had our team prepared for the match.”
Florida had a relatively easy time with Texas A&M in a three-game sweep 15-4, 15-13, 15-4 before a crowd of 2,248 fans. Aycan Gokberk led the Florida offense with 18 kills on .469 hitting as the Gators out-hit the Aggies .311-.114.
The semifinal victories set up the fifth consecutive meeting between the Gators and the Longhorns in the NCAA Tournament. Needless to say, Texas was pretty hungry to turn the tide on Florida’s success the previous four years.
“The losing to Florida started my freshman year and I was on a mission to beat them my senior year,” Busch-Dodd said. “In my mind, there definitely was a rivalry between the two teams.”
The match looked like it might be a repeat of the previous four meetings with the Gators taking the opening game 15-9.
“I remember talking with the team about how we were fine,” Busch-Dodd said. “We never really got anxious and that was one of the problems in the past against Florida. We would get down and try to quicken the pace of the game. Things would get a bit out of control and we couldn’t get back into our tempo of the game.”
Texas remained calm and rebounded by taking the next two games 15-7 and 15-8 to set up a heated game four.
The Gators managed to get out in front 7-6 before the teams sided out 10 consecutive points. Florida then built a 9-7 lead before Meg Fitzgerald gave the Gators a chance to win in five as she registered five straight points off her serve with UF winning the game 15-10.
The fifth game was excruciating for fans as the frame featured 11 ties. With the game knotted at 12-12, the Longhorns tallied a point on a kill from Angie Breitenfield followed by a Gator attack error to set up match point at 14-12.
Florida fended off one when Ashley Mullis collected a kill to make it 14-13.
“I’ll never forget what happened,” Busch-Dodd said. “What sticks out was Florida’s middle blocker Aycan Gokberk moved out of the corner of my eye toward our outside hitter. I saw the hole and just tipped it over short on the 10-foot line – something I didn’t do at all the entire match. It might have caught Florida off guard.”
It likely did because her tip fell to the floor and the Longhorns ended Florida’s stranglehold in the series on that very point in silencing the 3,109 fans in the O’Connell Center.
“I immediately ran to Angie and picked her up with a bear hug,” Busch-Dodd said. “I wasn’t a big fan of playing at Florida. Hearing ‘Gator Bait’ yelled after every play made my blood boil. But I guess that was what made me determined to stop the streak of Florida beating UT.”
Sance again led the Longhorns with 24 kills on .279 hitting, while Breitenfield added 20 kills on .292 hitting with 20 digs. Busch-Dodd recorded 60 assists, 18 digs and seven kills in setting the Longhorns to a hitting percentage of .263.
Gokberk paced Florida and led all players with 27 kills on .267 hitting, while adding 20 digs and nine blocks. Mullis chimed in with 25 kills and 13 digs.
The Longhorns advanced to the Final Four in Amherst, Mass., where Texas beat Stanford 15-13, 0-15, 15-17, 15-6, 15-12 to move onto the championship match before falling to Nebraska 15-11, 2-15, 7-15, 14-16.
1995 Gainesville Regional
No. 6 Texas def. Illinois 15-13, 15-12, 15-3
No. 4 Florida def. No. 17 Texas A&M 15-4, 15-13, 15-4
No. 6 Texas def. No. 4 Florida 9-15, 15-7, 15-8, 10-15, 15-13
Gainesville Regional All-Tournament Team
Demetria Sance – Texas (MVP)
Angie Breitenfield – Texas
Carrie Busch - Texas
Missy Aggertt – Florida
Aycan Gokberk – Florida
Ashley Mullis – Florida