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Friday December 7, 2007No. 7 VB Falls To No. 3 Texas In Regional Semifinal

Gainesville, FL

Despite a combined 27 kills from seniors Amber McCray (Longview, Texas) and Kisya Killingsworth (Deltona, Fla.) in Friday’s regional semifinal, the seventh-ranked University of Florida volleyball team dropped a 3-1 (27-30, 31-29, 16-30, 15-30) decision to No. 3 Texas in front of 4,619 fans at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.


McCray led the Gators (29-3, 19-1 Southeastern Conference) with 15 kills, and Killingsworth posted a dozen in addition to eight total blocks. Freshman opposite hitter Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) was the third UF player in double figures on Friday, notching 10 on a career-high 35 swings.


“It was a tall order against a team with a legitimate shot to win the national title,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “It wasn’t a lack of effort on our part. Texas just has the ability to wear people down. There aren’t stats for heart, competitiveness or commitment, but this team, and especially our seniors, are high on each of those.”


Sophomore libero/defensive specialist Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) finished the night with a match-high 17 digs to post a total of 66 during the NCAA Championship, which ties for the fourth-highest tournament total in school history.


Led by Killingsworth’s eight, which tie for the program’s ninth-highest in an NCAA Championship match, UF posted 11.0 team blocks against the Longhorns. McCray had four, and senior setter Angie McGinnis (Fraser, Mich.), who dished out 46 assists on the night, and junior middle blocker Kelsey Bowers (Gainesville, Fla.) each had three on the night.


A pair of early blocks and a kill by Bowers helped UF stay even through the first 10 points of the match, but saw the Longhorns rip off three-consecutive points to grab an 8-5 lead. After Florida got a point back on a kill by freshman outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.), UT won back-to-back rallies to force the Gators’ into a timeout with the score 10-6. UF came flying out of the break, scoring the first three points to narrow the gap to 10-9, but Texas was able to build its lead back to three, 15-12, at the midway point of the game. An attack error and a net violation on consecutive rallies by Texas tied the score at 16-16, and the teams sided out for six points before UT was able to build a 22-19 edge and prompt another Florida timeout. Three-straight kills by Rivers, Killingsworth and McGinnis forced a Texas timeout with the score even at 26-26, but the ‘Horns rattled off four of the next five points to take the opener, 30-27. Rivers had a team-high five kills in the frame, while Killingsworth led the defensive charge with three block assists.


UF opened game two at break-neck pace, using kills by McGinnis and McCray to open up a 4-0 lead and force the ‘Horns to use an early timeout. The advantage grew to 6-1 after a kill by freshman opposite hitter Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) ended a spirited rally, and the Gators reached double-digits with a 10-4 lead after another Bledsoe kill. Killingsworth tapped home a kill to stop a miniature Texas run and keep the lead at 13-9, but UT captured the next three points to reduce the margin to a point and induce a Florida timeout. The Longhorns took the first two points after the break to build a 14-13 lead, but McCray responded with a kill to quickly tie the game back up. Texas worked its way to a two-point lead at 17-15, but UF got back-to-back kills from Rivers and McGinnis to knot the count at 18-18. UT again jumped out in from by a pair, 20-18, but a kill by McCray was followed by a Killingsworth ace to level the score at 22-22. The Orange and Blue asked for timeout after two-straight points gave Texas a 25-23 cushion, but a Bowers kill and a Texas attack error squared the game at 25-25. The ‘Horns reeled off three-straight points to take a 28-25 lead, but a service error and a block assist by Killingsworth and McGinnis brought the Gators roaring back, forcing a UT timeout with a 28-27 score on the board. Killingsworth slammed a ball straight down on the attack line on the first rally after the break to tie the game, and after Texas gained a point when UF was called for a net violation, she ripped back-to-back kills to put Florida up by a tally of 30-29. A back-and-forth rally ensued on game point, and Killingsworth was again in the middle of the fray, teaming with Rivers for block assist that ended the game in dramatic fashion, squaring the match with a 31-29 game-two win for Florida. McCray led all players with seven kills in the stanza, and Cusack registered nine digs to help hold Texas to a .190 hitting percentage.


Texas opened up a 7-2 lead in the early stages of game three before UF used its first timeout of the frame. Bledsoe picked up a pair of kills after the pause, but the Longhorns’ lead grew to 13-5 after a Florida net violation. The Gators got back within six, 15-9, on a UT attack error, but Texas came back with five-straight points to claim a 20-9 advantage and force UF’s second timeout. McCray added a pair of late kills for the Gators, but they wouldn’t get closer than 10 as Texas took game three by a score of 30-16.


Texas ran out to a 12-5 lead in game four, but UF came fighting back to within five at 13-8 behind a kill and a block by Bowers. The Longhorns’ lead grew to 21-10 before Florida used its final timeout of the frame, but the Gators ripped off three of the first four points after the break, powered by a block solo from Killingsworth, to induce a Longhorns’ timeout with the count at 22-13. Florida’s seniors battled until the end, with McCray and Killingsworth adding late kills, but UT captured seven of the last nine to wrap up the match with a 30-15 win in game four.


Southern California 3, St. John’s 2

Fifth-seeded USC survived a scare in the night’s first semifinal, seeing its 2-0 lead diminish before capturing a five-game win over St. John’s, the tournament’s No. 13 seed. Senior opposite hitter Asia Kaczor led the Trojans with 25 kills, and senior outside hitter Diane Copenhagen chipped in with 18 for the Trojans, who got a career-high 71 assists from sophomore setter Taylor Carico.


The Red Storm were led by senior middle blocker Hui Ping Huang, whose 29 kills on the night were just one shy of tying the Gainesville Regional record. Senior outside hitter Dana DeMayo piled up a career-high 29 digs, which also fell one shy of the record for an NCAA Gainesville Regional match.


USC won the blocking battle by a 15.0-8.0 margin, while also out-hitting the Red Storm, .270-.208.


Texas and USC will meet at 4 p.m. on Saturday to vie for a trip to Sacramento for the national semifinals.


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