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Saturday September 6, 2008Volleyball Rallies From Two-Set Deficit To Defeat No. 23 LBSU

Gainesville, FL

Perhaps a young Florida volleyball team got a little bit older on Saturday night. Campus USA Credit Union Invitational Most Valuable Player Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) had a career-high 23 kills and seven digs to help the No. 8/9 Gators weather a two-set deficit to pull off a 3-2 (22-25, 18-25, 25-23, 25-16, 15-12) win against No. 23/17 Long Beach State at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

The Gators (4-0), facing their first ranked opponent of the 2008 campaign, notched their first win against Long Beach State (5-1) since the 1997 season and start the year on a four-match win-streak for the fourth time in five years.

“For this team, it’s a learning process and we will take so much from this match,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “This is the first time this season that we’ve been down 0-2. I think the numbers that will jump out are Kristy Jaeckel’s 23 kills on .348 hitting but, as we’ve said all along, our team wins with production out of so many players.

“Whether that’s Elyse Cusack or Callie Rivers - who had her best match so far this season, that’s what it’s going to take for our team to win. I think our setters got better and our middles were great. For Kelsey Bowers, who had maybe about 10 reps in a practice, to come out and battle like she did was incredible and Kristina Johnson was just terrific.”

Jaeckel’s 23 kills came on .348 hitting as she was named the Most Valuable Player of a Florida regular-season tournament for the second consecutive week after earning the same honors at the Aquafina Invitational a week ago. Jaeckel also is the reigning Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week. Jaeckel charted a career-high 25.0 points and has led the team in points in each of its four matches.

“The thing about Kristy is that she had 46 swings and she doesn’t look anywhere close to being fatigued,” Wise said. “Maybe the recipe for her success is redshirting her freshman year and training under Matt DeLancey. She got a lot of one-on-one time last year and then being here in the summer. Kristy is reaping those benefits and so are we.”

Junior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.), who also was named to the All-Tournament Team, anchored the Florida back row with a season-high 20 digs and seven assists. Cusack moved into sole possession of seventh place on the school’s all-time digs list and now has 1,185 career scoops.

Sophomore outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.), also an All-Tournament Team member, notched her eighth career double-double with a season-high 11 kills and a season-high 12 digs. She also tied her career high with four blocks. It marked the second consecutive match that Rivers set a season-high in kills.

Junior middle blocker Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.), who was not able to practice with the team from December until August of this year due to an ACL tear suffered in the Gators’ last match of 2007 vs. Texas, posted a career-high nine blocks and finished the weekend with 11 blocks.

Freshman right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) charted eight kills and a career-high 24 assists to complement four digs and a career-high three blocks. Fellow freshman setter Cindy Bathelt (Colorado Springs, Colo.) dished out 22 assists and came up with seven digs. Senior defensive specialist Christina Diaz (Hollywood, Fla.) recorded a season-high three service aces.

The two teams battled evenly to begin the first set before Florida got consecutive kills from Murphy, Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) and Jaeckel to go ahead 13-10 and force a Long Beach State timeout. Out of the break, the Gators kept rolling to a 17-14 advantage after a Quincy Verdin service error. But a kill by the 49ers and back-to-back attack errors by the Gators put LBSU back in the match in a 17-17 tie. Out of the break, Rivers registered a kill and a ball handling error by Nicole Vargas extended Florida’s lead back to two, 19-17. The Beach kept battling and used a kill by Verdin and two UF errors to go ahead 22-21. From there, the Gators were unable to recover in a 25-22 first-set loss.

Long Beach State raced out to a 15-7 advantage in the second set before a kill by Ward ended the 49ers’ scoring streak. A kill by Bowers brought Florida within eight at 17-9, but the Gators could only get as close as six points (24-18) the rest of the way and fell 25-18 in the second set.

“We weren’t into a very good rhythm passing in the first two sets,” Wise said. “When we don’t pass well, we eliminate all of our offensive strengths and that’s diversity. From set three on, we got into a great rhythm. In sets four and five, we were siding out at a very high rate and hitting over .300 against such a good defensive team as Long Beach State tells you what great rhythm we were in during sets four and five.”

Florida took a 7-2 advantage to begin the third set after three consecutive attack errors by Long Beach State forced the Beach to call a timeout. Three straight points by the 49ers out of the timeout brought them within two, 7-5, but LBSU’s Iris Murray had a service error to end the streak that was followed by a Jaeckel kill. The Beach cut as close as one, 11-10, but Rivers posted two kills on three plays to put Florida in front 13-11. The Beach hung tough, cutting within one again at 22-21 and later tying the score at 23-all. Out of a Florida timeout, Jaeckel posted a kill and Verdin mishandled the ball to give the Gators a 25-23 victory.

The two teams battled closely in the fourth set before Long Beach State went ahead 9-7. Senior Kelsey Bowers (Gainesville, Fla.)posted a kill and Rivers served an ace to knot the score at 9-all. An attack error by The Beach’s Ashley Lee and a kill by Jaeckel gave UF the lead at 11-9 and capped a 4-0 run by the Gators. After a Long Beach State kill, a Jaeckel put-down and an ace by Diaz extended the Gators’ lead to 13-10 and forced the Beach to call a timeout. Murphy and Jaeckel posted back-to- back kills to put Florida ahead 16-12 and the Gators kept rolling to a 21- 16 edge after consecutive kills by sophomore Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) and Jaeckel. Diaz served up five consecutive points to give UF the 25-16 fourth-set win.

Florida took an early 3-1 lead in the deciding set after a Diaz ace, but Long Beach State rallied to tie the score at 3-3. After one more tie, Jaeckel notched a kill and followed with two service points to extend the Gators’ lead to 7-4. A kill by Bowers put UF in front 9-6. The 49ers cut within one at 10-9 after an attack error by Rivers, but she redeemed herself with a kill to put Florida ahead 11-9 and force a timeout by Long Beach State. With the Gators ahead by just one, 13-12, following a service error by Bathelt, Murphy and Johnson recorded consecutive kills to give UF a 15-12 victory.

Florida returns to action Monday when it travels to Tallahassee, Fla., to face Florida State. Opening serve is set for 8 p.m. EDT and the match will be carried live on Sun Sports and WRUF-AM 850 with Tom Collett.

MVP - Kristy Jaeckel, Florida
Elyse Cusack, Florida
Callie Rivers, Florida
Nicole Vargas, Long Beach State
Quincy Verdin, Long Beach State
Aidan Yeager, Jacksonville
Maria Gomez, Florida A&M


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