Florida redshirt freshman
outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.),
made her first collegiate match a memorable one, notching a double-double with 15
kills and 11 digs to help the Gators win their fifth consecutive season opener
with a 3-1 (25-21, 26-28, 25-16, 25-17) win against UAB on Friday in the
Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Jaeckel also added four
blocks and three service aces to help the Gators (1-0) improve to 17-8 all-time
in season-opening matches, including a 14-4 record under head coach Mary Wise. It marked Florida’s first match playing under the
25-point system that was implemented with a handful of other new rules in the
summer of 2008.
“It’s like a whole
different world being able to contribute to your team’s success,” Jaeckel said.
“It really makes you appreciate all the hard work it takes in the gym to get
out on the court and you really can enjoy it that much more.”
hitter/setter Kelly Murphy (Joliett, Ill.)
added 13 kills, seven digs and 20 assists, while freshman outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.)
added seven kills and four blocks. Sophomore outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.)
chipped in six kills and six digs. Freshman setter Cindy Bathelt (Colorado Springs, Colo.) had a team-high 22 assists, while junior Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.)
led the defensive effort with 19 digs.
“The Gators’ 2008
version is a work in progress,” Wise said. “I hope our fans will understand
that a 3-1 win is still a win. With the combination of our youth and 25-point
sets, 3-0 wins just aren’t going to happen. Tonight’s match was typical of the
Gators’ getting everyone’s best shot. I thought UAB played very well. They are
senior-experienced and internationally experienced.”
Junior middle blocker Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis,
Ind.) showed a strong recovery from an ACL
injury suffered last season in the NCAA Regional Semifinal vs. Texas. Johnson led the
Gators with six blocks, while also adding five kills.
“We started playing
better when we were scoring points with our middles,” Wise said. “It opens
everything up for everybody else. That was a huge load for Kristy Jaeckel and
Callie Rivers in those first two sets, but once we started doing a better job
getting the ball spread around, things opened up for everybody.”
Florida raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first set after
kills by Jaeckel and Rivers. UAB scored three of the next four points to cut within
one, 4-3, before Murphy ripped an emphatic kill on the angle to stop the
Blazers’ scoring streak. That was the first of four consecutive points for the
Gators, who went ahead 8-3 after an attack error by UAB. Sophomore Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.),
playing in her first regular-season match after a full-time move to the right
side this summer, registered a kill off the block to start a 3-0 run for
Florida that was capped off by a kill from Jaeckel. The Gators kept rolling to
a 14-9 advantage after another put-down by Jaeckel.
errors by Jaeckel brought the Blazers back into the set, down by just two,
14-12. A UAB attack error and a kill by Murphy on the angle put Florida back in front
16-12. Consecutive errors by the Gators brought the Blazers within two at 19-17
before Rivers notched a kill off the block on the left side. A put-down by
Jaeckel and an attack error by UAB put Florida
ahead 23-20 and forced Blazers’ coach Kerry Messersmith to burn a timeout. Out of the break, UAB
notched a kill before Jaeckel and Murphy recorded back-to-back kills to give
the Gators a 25-21 first-set victory.
Florida and UAB battled closely to begin the second set
before the Blazers, down 10-9, ran off three consecutive points to go ahead
12-10. A kill by Johnson stopped UAB’s scoring
streak, but the Blazers went up 17-13 after back-to-back errors by the Gators.
A kill by Jaeckel off the block and a block solo by Ward allowed the Gators to
knot the score at 17-all. After two more ties, Cusack served an ace and Johnson
and Ward teamed for a block to put Florida
ahead 21-19. A kill by UAB’s
Casey Dent and a Murphy attack error knotted the score at 21-21 and forced Wise
to use a timeout. After five more ties, a couple of attack errors by UF allowed
the Blazers to claim a 28-26 second-set victory.
Florida broke out to a 6-3 advantage in the third set
after Ward recorded back-to-back kills. UAB scored two consecutive points, but
senior middle blocker Kelsey Bowers (Gainesville, Fla.)
and Jaeckel each notched put-downs to give UF an 8-5 lead. A Jaeckel kill and a
Cusack ace extended Florida’s
advantage to 11-6. The Blazers used a 5-1 run to cut within one, 12-11, before
Johnson and Murphy recorded back-to-back kills to put the Gators up 14-11.
Successive errors by UAB extended the Gators’ lead to 18-14 heading into a UAB
timeout. Out of the break, an emphatic block by Bledsoe and Bowers on the right
side put UF ahead 19-14 and brought the crowd to its
kept rolling and closed out the game on back-to-back service aces by Cusack to
take a 25-16 win.
UAB raced out to a 4-1
advantage in the fourth set before kill by Jaeckel and Ward brought the Gators
within two, 5-3. The Blazers would continue to hold a two-point advantage for
much of the early part of the set before a kill by Murphy and an ace from
Jaeckel tied gave Florida a 10-9 lead. After two ties, A UAB service error and
a Murphy ace put the Gators ahead 13-11. Back-to-back
attack errors by the Blazers gave the Gators a 17-13 lead and Florida kept rolling to a 21-16 advantage
heading into a UAB timeout. UF closed out the match on consecutive attack
errors by the Blazers’ Lilly Domingos to claim a
25-17 fourth-set win.
Florida returns to action Saturday when it plays host to
Pacific on the second day of the Aquafina
Invitational. Opening serve in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is set for 4
p.m. EDT. Live audio and stats will be available at www.GatorZone.com.
END OF REPORT