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Sophomore libero Elyse Cusack racked up a career-high four aces on Friday night.

Friday August 24, 2007No. 7 VB Sweeps Illinois State To Take Season Opener

Normal, IL

Sophomore libero Elyse Cusack racked up a career-high four aces on Friday night.

Senior outside hitter Marcie Hampton (Gainesville, Fla.) recorded her 28th-career double-double and sophomore libero/defensive specialist Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) fired a career-best four service aces to power the No. 7 University of Florida volleyball team to a 3-0 (30-19, 30-24, 30-27) over Illinois State on Friday night.

 

Florida (1-0) won its season opener for the 13th time in 17 tries under head coach Mary Wise, and the 16th time in school history. The Gators out-hit ISU, .333-.188, and won the block battle, 6-4. UF also benefited from seven service aces on the evening, led by Cusack’s four.

 

“This was typical of a first match because there were a lot of spurts,” Wise said. “We benefited from some unforced errors in the first game, but the final two were more closely contested. I really like Illinois State’s team, and this was a great challenge early in the season.”

 

Hampton posted a match-high 15 kills and added 11 digs to earn her 28th collegiate double-double, while Cusack led all players with 19 digs. Senior setter Angie McGinnis (Fraser, Mich.) handed out 33 assists and chipped in with nine digs and five kills. Senior middle blocker Kisya Killingsworth (Deltona, Fla.) tallied seven kills and four block assists in the match, and senior opposite hitter Amber McCray (Longview, Texas) contributed half a dozen kills to the Gator effort.

 

UF got off to a quick start in game one, as Cusack tied her career-high match total with three-consecutive service aces to spark a match-opening 6-0 run. After Illinois State drew within five points at 8-3, the Gators ripped off a 9-3 run that featured a pair of kills from both Hampton and McCray. UF’s lead didn’t dwindle lower than seven for the rest of the game, as Hampton added a block solo and the last of her three game-one kills to help Florida close out the frame, 30-19.

 

Illinois State drew first blood in game two, but freshman opposite hitter Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) helped the Gators bounce back by serving four-straight points, collecting her first-career ace along the way. The game was a see-saw affair thereafter, with a block by Killingsworth and McCray pushing the Gators out in front by two points at 11-9. A kill by junior middle blocker Kelsey Bowers (Gainesville, Fla.) made the Gators the first team to 15 in the stanza, pushing the score to 15-12, before Hampton’s eighth kill gave UF a 17-13 lead. ISU stormed back, however, with a 3-0 run to cut the Gators’ lead to one. The teams traded points until the scoreboard read 22-21 in Florida’s favor, but McCray and McGinnis responded with a kill and a block solo, respectively, to increase the lead to 24-21. Illinois State cut the lead to two once again, but a Redbirds’ service error and a McGinnis kill padded the Gators’ lead to 27-23 before Cusack’s career-high fourth ace and another kill by Hampton forced game point. After an ISU kill, Bledose won a joust on the left side of the court to close out the game, 30-24.

 

The Redbirds jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third game before a Killingsworth kill got Florida on the board. Back-to-back aces and three kills by Hampton brought the Gators back even at 9-9 before Killingsworth drove one home to give UF its first lead of the game at 10-9. After the Gators took a 13-9 lead, ISU scored three-straight points to get within one before consecutive kills by McCray and freshman outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) increased the advantage to 15-12. A 6-2 Redbird run gave them a 19-18 lead, but redshirt freshman outside hitter Janine Williams (Gainesville, Fla.) scored a kill to tie the match. With the match level at 22-22, Hampton recorded her 15th kill of the night to give UF a 23-22 lead, and an Illinois State attack error gave UF a two-point cushion on the next play. The next three points went to ISU, giving them a 25-24 lead and energizing a student-dominated crowd. Killingsworth sandwiched a pair of kills around an ISU score to level the score at 26-26, and McCray responded with a kill of her own after UF had fallen behind again, making the score 27-27. The Orange and Blue took a 28-27 lead courtesy of a Redbird attack error at the end of a long rally. Another ISU error forced match point, and an attack that fell wide capped the match for the Gators.

 

 The Gators will be in action again on Sunday evening when they visit Notre Dame for the first time since 1997. UF and the Fighting Irish will square off at 7 p.m. EST on Sun Sports. The match can also be heard on WRUF-AM 850.

 

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