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Sunday November 2, 2008Rivers, Volleyball Gators Sweep Arkansas

Gainesville, FL

Sophomore outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) turned in a match-high 10 kills and 12.0 points, and the No. 11/9 Gators used a balanced performance to sweep Arkansas, 3-0 (25-15, 25-16, 25-11) on Sunday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.


Florida (19-2, 13-1 Southeastern Conference) hit .416 in the match, its highest hitting efficiency in a conference contest this season, while out-blocking Arkansas 9.0-1.0 and winning the digs battle 37-28.


“In volleyball, we talk about two effort stats, which are stats that are recorded that show great effort,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “One is block assists and the other is digs. This is the second match in a row where we have out-dug and out-blocked our opponent. I thought our team showed a lot of focus today playing a team where blocking was a huge priority. I think we got better blocking this week and we were able to win this match with our depth.”


Junior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.), who prior to the match was presented with a commemorative ball by Wise for breaking the school’s all-time career digs record on Friday night, moved into the SEC’s all-time top 10 list for career digs on Sunday. Her match-high 17 digs vs. Arkansas increased her career total to 1,478 and moved her past Kristy Dobson of Tennessee (1988-91) for ninth place on the league’s all-time list.


Rivers’ 10 kills came on .500 hitting with five digs and two blocks, marking the fourth time this season that she has eclipsed the double-digit kill plateau. Sophomore middle blocker/right-side Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) and freshman outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) each added eight kills, while Bledsoe hit .429.


“I think what is most pleasing is that, while Callie may have had an off-night on Friday, it did not affect today’s performance at all,” Wise said. “She competed hard and was solid for us all across the board in terms of what she did: serving, passing, hitting, blocking, everything.”


Freshman right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) recorded five kills on .333 hitting with a match-high 25 assists and eight digs. Senior middle blocker Kelsey Bowers (Gainesville, Fla.) posted a match high five blocks – her second-most this season – and added four kills on a .429 hitting efficiency.


Freshman setter Cindy Bathelt (Colorado Springs, Colo.) dished out 10 assists in the match, while freshman middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) had four kills on five swings with no errors for an .800 hitting efficiency and two blocks.


Florida opened up to a 4-2 advantage to begin the first set after a Bowers kill and an Arkansas attack error. The two teams began trading points until the Razorbacks, trailing 10-7, ran off three consecutive points to knot the score at 10-10. Murphy and Rivers followed with back-to-back kills, and then Murphy served an ace on the next play to extend the Gators’ lead to three, 13-10. After a put-down by Arkansas’ Hillary McCormick stopped the scoring streak, Rivers registered a kill and the Razorbacks committed an attack error to put Florida up 15-11 and force Arkansas coach Robert Pulliza to burn a timeout.


Out of the break, Rivers served four consecutive service points, including kills from Ward and Cusack, to extend UF’s advantage to eight, 19-11. With the Gators leading 19-12, Bledsoe and Ward notched consecutive put-downs to give Florida a 21-12 advantage. Arkansas then ran off two consecutive points before the Gators answered with two of their own, including a Bledsoe kill, to go up by nine, 23-14. After a Bathelt service error, an Anderson kill and a Razorback attack error gave the Gators a 25-15 first-set victory. Florida hit an impressive .435 in the opening frame, while holding Arkansas to a -.080 efficiency.


The two teams battled evenly to begin the second set before the Gators ran off four consecutive points to break a 7-7 tie and go up 11-7. Ward had two service aces during that stretch. With Florida leading 11-8, the Gators scored four in a row behind Cusack’s strong serving to take a 15-8 advantage into an Arkansas timeout.


Florida kept rolling to a 21-14 lead thanks to back-to-back kills by Ward. The two teams then traded points before a service ace by sophomore defensive specialist Erin Fleming (Orlando, Fla.) brought the Gators to set point ahead 24-16. An attack error by Arkansas’ Christina Lawrence gave Florida a 25-16 second-set win.


The Gators raced to an 11-2 advantage in the third set, as kills by Ward and Bledsoe capped off that scoring rally. Arkansas answered with a 4-1 run of its own to cut within six, 12-6, before a Bledsoe kill stopped the streak. The teams then traded points before the Razorbacks committed back-to-back attack errors to give Florida a 16-9 lead heading into an Arkansas timeout.


A Cusack ace and a Razorback attack error out of the break put the Gators ahead 18-9. With Florida leading 18-10, Murphy and Rivers recorded back-to-back kills to allow the Gators to take a 10-point, 20-10, advantage. After a McCormick kill, the Gators closed out the match on a 5-0 run, capped off by a Bledsoe kill from the right side on the final play of the contest. Florida hit a remarkable .560 in the final set en route to a 25-11 win.


The Razorbacks (6-17, 3-10 SEC) were led by Lawrence’s nine kills and 9.0 points.


Florida returns to action on Sunday when it plays host to Auburn. Opening serve in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is slated for 1:30 p.m. EST and the match will be carried live on GatorVision Online and WRUF-AM 850 with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore.


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