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Friday October 3, 2008Bledsoe, Murphy Lead No. 10 Gators to Hard-Fought Win at Alabama

Tuscaloosa, AL

Freshman Florida right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) charted the second triple-double of her career and her second in three matches Friday, and sophomore right-side/middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) registered a career-high 14 kills as the No. 10/10 Gators claimed a hard-fought 3-1 (25-23, 18-25, 25-19, 25-21) win against Alabama in The CAVE.


Murphy, the reigning Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week, finished with 14 kills, a career-high 35 assists and a career-high 15 digs for her second career triple-double. Bledsoe’s career-high 14 kills came on .571 hitting for 14.5 points for the Gators (11-1, 5-0 Southeastern Conference).


“What this team is learning is that when we play on the road, we are going to get everybody’s best shot,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “Alabama gave great effort tonight and they made very few unforced errors. They played so hard. I thought we just made key plays at the right time, ignited by the play of senior Kelsey Bowers. To win on the road, it often takes somebody different to step up and, tonight, it was Lauren Bledsoe that stepped up for us.”


Redshirt freshman outside hitter/right-side Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) just missed notching her third consecutive double-double, finishing with 14 kills and eight digs for a team-high 15.0 points. Freshman outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) recorded her 10th match this season with seven or more kills, charting eight kills and eight digs. Senior middle blocker Kelsey Bowers (Gainesville, Fla.) led the team’s blocking effort with three blocks to complement six kills and four digs.


Junior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.), who ranks sixth on the school’s all-time career digs list, finished with 20 digs and five assists. She increased her career digs total to 1,313 and now needs just seven more digs to tie former All-American Aury Cruz for fifth place all-time. The Gators tallied a season-high 70 digs in the match and are averaging 67.5 digs per match over the last two matches.


Freshman setter Cindy Bathelt (Colorado Springs, Colo.) charted 18 assists and six digs, while junior Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) finished with six kills on .455 hitting with two blocks.


Florida opened up to a 3-1 advantage in the first set after back-to-back kills by Bledsoe and Jaeckel. The Crimson Tide capitalized on two Gator attack errors and a kill of their own to go up 4-3 before a put-down by Bledsoe stopped the Alabama scoring streak. From there, the Tide ran off five consecutive points to take an 8-4 advantage before Jaeckel registered a kill to stop the drought. That put-down started a 4-0 rally by the Gators that allowed them to knot the score at 8-all after back-to-back kills by Murphy on the angle. Following two more ties, Ward posted a block solo on the outside to allow Florida to reclaim the lead at 12-11. With the score knotted at 12-12, Bowers registered a kill and then teamed with Jaeckel for a powerful block in the middle to give the Gators a 14-12 advantage.



The two teams then traded points until Alabama pulled ahead 19-18 and forced Wise to burn a timeout. A ball handling error by Florida extended the Tide’s lead to 20-18 before a Bowers kill on the slide brought the Gators to within one, 20-19. With Alabama ahead 21-19, Mary Catherine Aune, the league’s leader in service aces, served an ace to put the Crimson Tide in front 22-19 and force another Florida timeout. Out of the break, Bledsoe notched a kill on the right side and Alabama committed an attack error to bring the Gators to within one, 22-21, and force UA coach Judy Green to use a timeout of her own. A tip attack at the net by Jaeckel out of the break fell for a kill to knot the score at 22-all and Bledsoe recorded a kill off the block on the next play to allow Florida to re-claim the lead at 23-22. Brooks Webster posted a put-down off the block for the Tide on the next play, but Jaeckel responded with a kill of her own to bring the Gators to set point at 24-23. An attack error by the Tide’s Lauren Martin gave Florida the set, 25-23. The Gators hit .326 in the opening frame, as compared to Alabama’s .150.


The two teams battled evenly to begin the second set before back-to-back attack errors by Jaeckel and Murphy allowed the Crimson Tide to go ahead 8-6. That began a 5-0 run for Alabama, which put it ahead 11-6 and forced a Florida timeout. Out of the break, the Gators ran off two consecutive points, the last a kill by Ward on the outside to cut within three, 11-8. Alabama kept rolling to take a 15-8 lead after a 4-0 run by the Crimson Tide. A put-down by Johnson in the middle stopped UA’s scoring streak, but the Tide scored two more to go extend its advantage to 17-9.


Out of the break, Jaeckel and Bowers charted back-to-back kills to bring the Gators within six, 17-11. Alabama then scored three of the set’s next four points to take a 20-12 lead. With Florida trailing 21-12, Bledsoe and Jaeckel each recorded a put-down to cut within seven at 21-14. With the Crimson Tide at set point at 24-15, Murphy notched a kill and Alabama committed back-to-back attack errors to bring Florida to within six points, 24-18, before a kill on the right side by Calli Johnson closed out the 25-18 second-set victory.


The Tide raced out to a 4-0 lead in the third set behind the serving of Aune, before Florida capitalized on three Alabama errors and a kill by Jaeckel to tie the score at 4-4. Bowers followed with an ace to give the Gators their first lead of the set at 5-4 before Bledsoe notched a kill off the block on the next play. The Crimson Tide ran off two consecutive points to knot the score at 6-6. After three more ties, Alabama went up 10-8 on an illegal contact call against the Gators. A kill by Murphy off the block brought Florida within one, 11-10. The two teams began trading points before an illegal contact call against Johnson put Alabama ahead 15-12.


Out of a timeout, the Gators got back-to-back kills by Bledsoe and Murphy to spark a 5-1 run for Florida that put it back in front 17-16. After another tie at 17-all, the Crimson Tide committed a service error, and Bowers and Murphy posted a powerful block on the right side to put Florida ahead 19-17 headed into a UA timeout. With the Gators in front 19-18, Alabama committed a service error and Bowers and Ward teamed for a block on the outside to extend UF’s advantage to 21-18. Two consecutive kills from Ward on the outside put the Gators up by five, 23-18, before a Bledsoe put-down on the right side brought Florida to set point at 24-18. A kill on the angle by Bledsoe gave UF a 25-19 victory in the third set.


Florida raced out to a 6-2 advantage in the fourth set before Alabama rallied with a 2-0 run of its own to cut within two, 6-4. Back-to-back kills by Murphy on the right side ended the Crimson Tide scoring streak and extended the Gators’ lead to 8-4. With Florida ahead 9-6 following a Ward kill, Alabama scored two consecutive points before a put-down by Murphy in the middle ended the Gators’ scoring drought. The Tide, however, scored four of the next five points to go up 12-10 heading into a Florida timeout. Bowers and Bledsoe notched back-to-back kills out of the break to knot the score at 12-12.


After two more ties, the Crimson Tide went ahead 16-14 before a resounding kill by Murphy stopped that scoring spree. Trailing 18-17, Ward notched a kill to tie the score at 18-all, but a Murphy attack error gave Alabama the lead back at 19-18. Following three more kills, Murphy drilled a put-down on the angle to give the Gators a 22-21 advantage heading into an Alabama timeout. A kill by Jaeckel on the outside and a service ace by Bathelt brought Florida to match point at 24-21. An Alabama attack went wide on the final play of the match to give UF a 25-21 victory.  


Alabama (8-5, 1-3 SEC) was led by Webster’s team-high 14 kills and match-high 23 digs.


Florida returns to action on Sunday when it travels to Starkville, Miss., to take on Mississippi State. Opening serve is set for 2:30 p.m. EDT and the match will be carried live on WRUF AM-850.


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