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Friday September 5, 2008Four Players Hit .500 or Better in 3-0 Win Against Jacksonville

Gainesville, FL

No. 8/9 Florida recorded its highest team hitting percentage (.521) since Sept. 28, 2003, and the Gators continued their Sunshine State success Friday with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-14) win against Jacksonville on the opening day of the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Florida (3-0), which was facing the Dolphins (2-2) for the first time since the 2005 season, improved to 106-20 (.840) all-time against in- state foes and 58-2 (.966) in the Mary Wise era. The Gators are a perfect 14-0 all-time vs. Jacksonville and have not dropped a match to an in-state rival since the 1994 campaign.

Four Florida players hit .500 or better in the match and the Gators out- hit the Dolphins .521-.137. A balanced offensive display ensured that five Florida players registered eight or more kills in the match.

Junior middle blocker Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) and freshman right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) each recorded a match-high nine kills. Johnson’s nine put-downs came on a career-best (min. 10 att.) .818 hitting with two blocks. Murphy hit a career-best .727 with 13 assists and three digs.

“We did have a match-up advantage tonight and that’s why the game plan was designed to get Kristina Johnson some swings,” Wise said. “She took advantage of them. When Elyse Cusack is anchoring our serve-receive, our setters have lots of choices. What I love about it is, there was such good distribution tonight.”

Freshman setter Cindy Bathelt (Colorado Springs, Colo.) dished out a career-high and a match-high 23 assists to complement a career-best two service aces. Junior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.), the Southeastern Conference’s leader in service aces, recorded three aces in the match and came up with a match-high 15 digs. Cusack has served at least three aces in each of the team’s first three matches this season.

Redshirt freshman outside hitter/right-side Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.), the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, finished with eight kills on .312 hitting with four digs, while sophomore outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) posted a season-high eight kills on a career-best (min. 10 att.) .571 hitting percentage. Freshman Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) also hit better than .500 with eight kills on a .583 efficiency.

Jacksonville opened to a 3-1 advantage to start the first set before the Gators scored three consecutive points, capped off by a Cusack ace and a kill by Ward that just found the spot to put the UF ahead 4-3. Florida extended its edge to 9-6 after a kill by Rivers off the block on the outside. With the Gators up 12-8, Jaeckel served an ace and Murphy followed with a kill to put Florida in front 14-8. The Dolphins then ran off two consecutive points to come within four, 14-10, but a Jacksonville service error ended its scoring streak. Ahead 16-11, sophomore Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.), Rivers and Jaeckel each registered consecutive kills to give Florida an 18-11 advantage. Back-to-back kills by Murphy put the Gators up 24-17 and Florida won the set, 25-18, on a kill by Jaeckel that sailed off the hands of a Jacksonville player and into the press-row table. UF hit a match-best .556 in the opening frame.

The Gators raced out to a 7-2 advantage in the second set after consecutive kills from Jaeckel, Murphy and Bledsoe, and an ace by Cusack. The Dolphins worked their way back into the set, using a 5-2 run to cut within two, 9-7. Bledsoe and Rivers came up with a resounding block on the next play to stop Jacksonville’s scoring streak. The Dolphins hung tough in that set before the Gators, leading 13-12, scored three consecutive points, capped off by a Cusack ace, to give Florida a 16-12 advantage. Up 16-13, Ward registered back-to-back kills to put the Gators in front 18-13 before Rivers followed with a put-down of her own to make it 19-13 Florida. Ahead 22-18, the Gators scored the final three points of the second set to take a 25-18 victory. Johnson had the set-winner with a kill to send the Gators into intermission in front by two sets.

Florida opened the third set on a 6-1 tear and kept rolling to a 9-3 advantage after a kill by Ward and back-to-back put-downs from Rivers. The Dolphins scored three consecutive points to cut within four, 10-6, before a Ward kill broke Jacksonville’s scoring spree. A Bathelt ace and a Johnson kill extended UF’s advantage to 15-7 and forced the Dolphins to burn a timeout. A Murphy kill gave the Gators a 19-9 advantage before Florida and Jacksonville began trading points. With UF leading 23-14, Murphy registered a kill and the Dolphins’ Sara Bendorf, the reigning Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Week, had an attack error on the final play of the match to give the Gators a 25-14 third-set win.

Aidan Yeager led the way for the Dolphins with six kills on .333 hitting, while Bendorf also tallied six put-downs.

Florida returns to action Saturday when it plays host to No. 23/17 Long Beach State. Opening serve in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is set for 5 p.m. EDT and the game will be carried live on WRUF-AM 850 with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore. Fans receive free admission to the match by presenting a Florida-Miami football ticket.


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