Thursday December 4, 2008Volleyball Faces FAMU Friday in NCAA First Round
The No. 11/10 University of Florida volleyball team opens play in its 18th consecutive NCAA Tournament on Friday when the Gators play host to Florida A&M in the tournament’s first round. Opening serve in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is slated for 7:30 p.m. EST and the match will be carried live on WRUF-AM 850 with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore. The match also will be shown free of charge on GatorVision Online.
Florida International and No. 22 Colorado State meet at 5 p.m. EST in the O’Connell Center to open the day before the Gators (25-3, 18-2 Southeastern Conference) square off with Florida A&M at 7:30 p.m. The winners play at 7:30 p.m. EST Saturday evening with the regional match-ups slated for next week in Ft. Collins, Colo.
Ticket packages for both days may be purchased in advance through the Gator Ticket Office for $10 for adults, $6 for students and senior citizens and $4 for children 12 and under. Single-session tickets also may be purchased beginning the day of the match for $7 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens and $4 for children 12 and under.
“Although we didn’t play FAMU earlier this season when they were in Gainesville, it’s a team that we are very familiar with just because we run into each other often, especially throughout the history of the NCAA Tournament,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “This is not the deepest team we’ve played coming out of FAMU, but they are still typical of their teams in the past in that they’re very experienced and have a lot of international players with a ton of game.
“As we know, they do not have their setter with them, so they run a little bit higher offense. It’s a slower tempo, higher-set offense than what we’re used to. That’s different and something that we’re going to have to prepare for. We think the other match will be very entertaining with one of the best blocking teams in the country playing one of the more high-potent offenses in the country. Potentially, there will be three great matches here in Gainesville.”
Florida is led by freshman right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.), the 2008 SEC Freshman of the Year, who ranks sixth in the SEC in kills per set with 3.29 and second in the league in hitting efficiency with a .360 clip. She also leads the team in total points (386.0) and is second in assists per set (5.58/set) and digs per set (1.89/set). Redshirt freshman outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) is 10th in the league with 3.04 kills per set, while freshman outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) follows with 2.34 kills per set.
Junior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.), the school’s all-time career digs leader, on Saturday became the first player in school history to eclipse the 1,600-dig mark for her career. She currently ranks second in the SEC in digs per set with 4.69 and is third in service aces with 0.39.
Florida A&M captured its eighth consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title this season with a 3-2 win against Maryland Eastern Shore in the league tournament championship game. The Rattlers enter Friday’s match with a 14-12 overall record, including a 7-1 mark in MEAC play.
FAMU features one of the smallest rosters (by number of players) in NCAA Division I volleyball with just eight players on the squad. Despite the lack of depth, the Rattlers have been the MEAC’s most successful team for nearly a decade behind head coach Tony Trifonov, an eight-time MEAC Outstanding Coach of the Year recipient.
The 2008 edition is led by sophomore outside hitter Jovana Blazeski, a 6-foot-2 player from Belgrade, Serbia, who averages a squad-best 3.81 kills per set and 3.01 digs per set. Senior middle blocker Samara Ferraz, a 6-foot-1 athlete from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was named the 2008 MEAC Outstanding Performer. She averages 3.72 kills per set on a squad-best .332 hitting with a team-high 0.45 blocks per set.
The Gators are 47-18 (.723) all-time in NCAA Championship action, including a 46-17 (.730) mark under Wise’s direction. Florida has advanced to regional action in 16 of Wise’s previous 17 seasons and has reached the national semifinal on seven occasions during that span.
Complete results and a recap of Friday’s match will be available at www.GatorZone.com.
2008 NCAA FIRST AND SECOND ROUNDS (GAINESVILLE, FLA.)
Friday, December 5, 2008
5 p.m. – Florida International vs. Colorado State (GVO)
7:30 p.m. – Florida A&M vs. Florida (GVO/WRUF-AM)
Saturday, December 6, 2008
7:30 p.m. – Second-Round Match (GVO)
END OF REPORT