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Saturday September 13, 2008No. 8/9 Volleyball Falls to No. 21 Colorado State

Ft. Collins, CO

No. 21 Colorado State used a strong defensive effort that produced 12.0 team blocks and four players with four or more rejections apiece to defeat the No. 8/9 Florida volleyball team 3-0 (26-24, 25-16, 25-14) on Saturday in front of 4,009 fans at Moby Arena.

Freshman right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) led the way for the Gators (6-1) with eight kills on .545 hitting with 18 assists and two service aces. Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) followed with six kills, while sophomore outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) and redshirt freshman outside hitter/right-side Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) each added five kills.

Junior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) had three service aces in the match to mark the fourth time in seven matches this season that she has notched three or more aces. She also led the back-row effort with eight digs. The Gators recorded a season-high six service aces in the match.

Colorado State (8-1) extended its home-win streak to 19 matches with the victory that was played in front of the 10th-largest home crowd in its program history. The Rams out-blocked the Gators 12.0-2.0 and were led by Katelyn Steffan’s 11 kills on .500 hitting. Tessa Nelson posted a match- high eight blocks.

“This trip was a great experience for us and we will be a better team because of having to play this schedule,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “Colorado State has a great team with very experienced players. Our goal is to be able to play a team of Colorado State's talent and beat a team like that come December.”

Colorado State broke out to a 4-0 lead to begin the first set after a kill by Steffan, who then followed with three service points. Rivers registered a kill to stop the CSU scoring spree and the Gators cut within three at 5-2 on a Kelsey Bowers (Gainesville, Fla.) put-down. The Rams then used a 4-1 run to go ahead by six, 9-3, and force Wise to burn an early timeout. Out of the break, Jaeckel had two kills on the angle in three plays to cut Florida’s deficit to five, 10-5. Back-to-back kills by Colorado State put the Rams back in front by seven, 12-5. With the Gators down 14-7, two CSU errors and an ace by Murphy brought UF back within four at 14-10. Down 16-11, Bowers and Jaeckel posted back-to-back put- downs that whittled Florida’s deficit down to three, 16-13.

The two teams began trading points before CSU went ahead 19-15 heading into a Gator timeout. Out of the break, Rivers notched a kill on the outside and Cusack served an ace down the middle to bring UF within two, 19-17, and force CSU head coach Tom Hilbert to use a timeout of his own. The Gators pulled within one, 19-18, before a Cusack service error allowed the Rams to re-gain a two-point advantage at 20-18. Murphy ripped a kill down the line and followed with a service ace to tie the score at 20-all. After another tie at 21-21, Bledsoe drilled a kill on the right side to give Florida its first lead of the set at 22-21. Another put-down by Bledose, this one an off-speed attack, gave the Gators a 23-21 advantage before a Colorado State kill brought the Rams back within one, 23-22. Bledsoe and Bowers posted a resounding block on the right side to bring the Gators to set point at 24-22. CSU staved off two attempts at set point to knot the score at 24-24. A Steffan kill on the right side brought the Rams to set point at 25-24 before a Bledsoe attack sailed long to give CSU a 26-24 set-one victory.

Colorado State opened to a 4-1 advantage to commence the second set. After a kill by Murphy, the Rams ran off two consecutive points to go ahead 6-2 and force Wise to use a timeout. A Murphy put-down out of the break brought UF within three, 6-3, but CSU ran off five of the next six points to go ahead 11-4. A service error by the Rams stopped their scoring streak at 11-5. With Colorado State ahead 15-6, Murphy had two kills from the right side on three plays to cut Florida’s deficit to eight, 16-8. Bowers and Murphy capped off the 3-1 Florida run with a powerful block on the right side.

With the Gators down 18-10 after a Murphy service error, the Rams committed a service error and freshman outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) notched a kill off the block to allow Florida to cut its deficit to six, 18-12. Down 22-13, Ward posted a kill and then junior middle blocker Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) attacked a CSU overpass for a kill. An attack error by the Rams on the ensuing play capped a 3-0 Florida run and brought UF to within 23-16. Colorado State closed out a 25-16 win in the second set as the Gators hit just .091 in the frame as compared to CSU’s .353 hitting percentage.

The Rams broke to a 7-2 advantage in the third set before an attack error by Mekana Barnes ended the CSU scoring streak, which was aided by four service points from Barnes. With the Gators trailing 9-3, Ward registered a kill on the outside and Bledsoe followed with a put-down of her own three plays later to cut UF’s deficit to six, 11-5. With the Gators down 12-6, Murphy notched a kill and Bledsoe followed with an ace to bring Florida to within four, 12-8. From there, the Rams used a 6-1 run to take a 17-9 advantage into a timeout called by the Gators. Down 21-10, Florida ran off three consecutive points, including a pair of aces by Cusack to cut within eight, 21-13, leading into a CSU break. The Rams finished the match on a 4-1 run to win the third set 25-14.

Florida returns to action Friday when it plays host to Georgia in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. Opening serve in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is slated for 7 p.m. EDT and the match will be carried live on GatorVision Online and WRUF AM 850.

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