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Amber McCray recorded her fourth 20-kill match of the season

Friday December 1, 2006McCray Guides VB To Sweet 16; UF To Host Regionals Next Week


Amber McCray recorded her fourth 20-kill match of the season

Junior opposite hitter Amber McCray (Longview, Texas) recorded a match high 22 kills as the seventh-ranked and No. 9 seed University of Florida volleyball team advanced to the Regional Semifinal of the NCAA Championship for the 15th time in the last 16 seasons with a 3-1 win against Arizona State (30-17, 30-27, 26-30, 30-23) on Friday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.


Florida (30-2) advances to the Gainesville Regional where the Gators will host No. 8 seed Minnesota on Friday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at the O’Connell Center.


The Gators won their 22nd consecutive match of the season and moved to 33-2 at home in NCAA play under head coach Mary Wise. Florida out-hit Arizona State (16-15) .310-.212, while finishing with more kills (71-63), aces (6-5), digs (89-74) and blocks (15.0-7.0).


“It’s taken great performances in the past to make it out of this round and tonight was no different,” Wise said. “The biggest difference in the match is that we had better serving and passing stats than a great serving team. Block assists and digs are the two best indications of effort and for us to have 89 digs and 15 total blocks is a great indication of our effort.”


The Gators reached the 30-win plateau for the 14th time in school history and the 12th time in 16 seasons under Wise. Florida collected double figures in blocks for the 10th time in its last 12 contests.


Sophomore middle blocker Kelsey Bowers (Gainesville, Fla.) broke three records and tied another during the contest after finishing with a UF NCAA record 10 block assists and tying the Florida NCAA mark with 11 total blocks. She also broke the Gator records for sophomore total blocks (174) and block assists (152) in a season.


Freshman libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) recorded 21 digs to become just the second player in UF history to reach 500 digs in one season and now has 513 – the second-best single season total in Gator history.


Junior setter Angie McGinnis (Fraser, Mich.) nearly had a triple-double with 53 assists, 18 digs and eight kills, while junior outside hitter Marcie Hampton (Gainesville, Fla.) tallied 15 kills and 10 digs with junior Kisya Killingsworth (Deltona, Fla.) adding 13 kills. Senior defensive specialist Rhian Davis (Austin, Texas) added a career-high 22 digs.


Florida used a 6-1 run in the opening stages of the first game to gain control before going on to claim a 30-17 win. It didn’t take long for the Gators to force Arizona State to take its first timeout. After the Sun Devils went in front 3-2, Florida responded with five consecutive points in moving ahead 7-3. Freshman defensive specialist Alli Cecchini (Brentwood, Calif.) provided strong serving in the stretch with Bowers and Hampton each recording a kill as well as combining for a block in the run. ASU remained within four points until the Gators went on a 6-1 run to move in front 16-8 and force the Sun Devils to take their last timeout. Hampton notched a pair of kills in the run to lead UF. Out of the break, Arizona State recorded a kill before the Gators picked up the next three to open up a 19-9 lead. The Sun Devils never came closer than nine the rest of the way before the game ended with an ASU attack error. Florida hit .421 in the game to just .116 for the Sun Devils, while Hampton led all players with eight kills on .368 hitting. Cusack had a game-high six digs.


Florida came back from a late six-point deficit in out-scoring Arizona State 10-1 to claim a 30-27 win in the second game. The Sun Devils gained a bit of separation early on with a 3-0 run that extended ASU’s lead to four at 10-6. Florida responded with three-straight points on a Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) kill followed by a pair of McCray kills to come within a point at 11-10. The teams sided out until Arizona State recorded three consecutive points in building a 15-11 advantage entering the media timeout. The Sun Devils added another before the Gators picked up a pair of points on two kills from Bowers to cut the deficit to 16-13 with ASU taking its first timeout. The teams sided out until the Sun Devils again went up by five at 22-17. The Gators then notched the next three on an Arizona State service error followed by a tandem block from Bowers and McCray and a ball handling error on the Sun Devils in forcing ASU to use its final timeout on top 22-20. Arizona State picked up a block out of the timeout and added a kill on the next point to push its lead back to four at 24-20 with UF then using its last timeout. The Sun Devils went up by six at 26-20 before the Gators began their miraculous run. It began with an ASU service error before Cecchini served four straight points with Bowers and McGinnis stuffing a pair of attacks and Bowers and McGinnis adding a kill each as UF pulled within one at 26-25. Arizona State picked up a kill before Hampton killed a ball from the left side and McGinnis put down a ball on an overpass as UF tied the game at 27-27. ASU committed a ball handling error on the next point as the Gators took their first lead of the game before Killingsworth and Bowers combined on a block to set up game point at 29-27. Killingsworth was able to collect a kill on an off balance shot to end the frame. UF out-hit ASU .268-.227 in the game with McCray tying for game-high honors with five kills. Davis had a game-high seven digs with Cusack adding six and McGinnis chiming in with five. UF had 5.0 blocks in the game with Bowers collecting four assists.


Arizona State built an early advantage before fending off a late Gator rally to win game three 30-26. After Florida raced out to a 4-1 advantage following a block from McCray, Arizona State stormed back with eight of the next nine points to surge in front 9-5. UF responded with the next two on a pair of kills from Bowers, but Arizona State put the next three on the scoreboard to move in front 12-7. The Gators eventually closed the gap to a pair at 15-13 after an ace by Cusack, but Arizona State went on top by as many as eight after a 7-1 run. With the Sun Devils up 26-19, the Gators mounted a run with five of the next six to come within three at 27-24 after a Bowers kill on an overpass. But the teams sided out the rest of the way before the game ended with an ASU kill. Arizona State out-hit UF .298-.228 in the game. McCray tied for game-high honors with eight kills on .412 hitting, with Cusack collecting a team-best six digs.


The Gators fended off a late Arizona State rally and captured the final game 30-23. UF got off to a great start by tallying five of the first six points. Killingsworth started things off with a block before a trio of ASU errors, a McCray kill and a tandem block from Johnson and Hampton put the Gators on top 5-1. Arizona State gradually cut into UF’s lead and came within a point at 11-10. The Gators responded with three straight points on a Johnson kill followed by back-to-back kills by Hampton as Florida went back ahead 14-10. The Sun Devils came within two at 14-12 and 15-13, but the Gators picked up three-straight points with a kill from McGinnis bumping UF’s advantage to five at 18-13 and forcing ASU to call its final timeout. The Sun Devils came as close as three at 24-21, but Florida rattled off four straight points to regain control before the match ended with an ASU service error.


The Gainesville Regional will begin Friday, Dec. 8 with the first regional semifinal contest slated to begin at 4:30 p.m. followed by UF’s contest at 7 p.m. The regional final will be played on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 4 p.m. with the winning team moving on to the 2006 Final Four in Omaha, Neb.


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