Saturday December 6, 2008Volleyball Faces Colorado State in NCAA Second Round
The No. 11/10 University of Florida volleyball team looks to advance to the NCAA regionals for the 17th time in the last 18 years when the Gators play host to No. 22 Colorado State in the NCAA Second Round on Saturday. 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 GatorZone.com and GatorVision Online (free of charge) with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore.
The Gators (26-3) are coming off a first-round sweep of Florida A&M on Friday night. Florida recorded its highest team hitting percentage (.451) in an NCAA Tournament match in school history, led by freshman middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.), who charted 10 kills on 11 swings with no errors for a .909 hitting efficiency.
Florida will be looking to avenge a 3-0 loss to Colorado State suffered on Sept. 13 in Fort Collins, Colo. Should the Gators win, they would advance to the NCAA regional semifinal to be contested at Moby Arena next weekend against the winner of the Long Beach State-Stanford match that is being contested today in Palo Alto, Calif.
“The good news is we’re playing Colorado State. The bad news is we’re playing Colorado State,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “This is a team that obviously had its way with us the first time. Being in the NCAA Tournament before, we took the same approach and we prepared for Florida A&M with one eye on Colorado State and one eye on Florida International. No matter who won that match, it was the same turnaround. What the players will see on video are some of the things we’ve already worked on instead of waiting until Saturday.”
The Gators are led by freshman right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.), the 2008 Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year, who averages a squad-best 3.27 kills per set and ranks second in the SEC with a .361 hitting efficiency. Redshirt freshman outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) follows with 2.98 kills per set, while freshman outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) adds 2.30 kills per set.
Junior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) heads the team’s back-row efforts, averaging 4.63 digs per set, while Anderson is averaging 1.02 blocks per set on the year.
The all-time series between the Gators and Rams is tied 2-2, including a 1-2 mark under Wise’s direction. The last time the two teams played in Gainesville was an NCAA regional semifinal match in 2003 that the Gators won 3-0.
Colorado State, which snapped a three-match losing streak with its win against Florida International in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, enters Saturday’s match with a 23-6 overall record. The Rams are making their 14th consecutive and 20th overall trip to the NCAA Tournament and Colorado State’s run of 14 consecutive postseason appearances is the longest consecutive streak of any sport in school history.
The Rams are a senior-laden team with veterans Mekana Barnes, Ashley Fornstrom and Jamie Strauss leading the way. In Friday’s win against the Golden Panthers, Barnes and Strauss combined for 33 kills, nine digs and 37.5 points, while Fornstrom dished out a match-high 52 assists.
On the season, Barnes averages a squad-best 3.35 kills per set on .335 hitting and a team-high 1.46 blocks per set, while Strauss follows with 3.05 kills per set and 1.72 digs per set. Junior libero Katelin Batten leads the defensive effort with 3.74 digs per set.
Complete results and a recap of Saturday’s match will be available at www.GatorZone.com.
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