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Friday August 28, 2009Volleyball Claims Sixth Consecutive Season Opener

Gainesville, FL

Sophomore Florida outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) tallied a match-high 12 kills on a stellar .647 hitting clip Friday to help lead the No. 8/9 Gators to their sixth consecutive season-opening victory, a 3-0 (25-16, 25-23, 25-19) win against UNLV in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

 

The Gators (1-0) have now won six consecutive season-opening matches and improve to 18-8 all-time in lid-lifting matches. Florida is 15-4 under head coach Mary Wise in season openers.

 

"I was really pleased with how hard we worked on serving, having an aggressive mentality and not giving up a lot of points in a row,” Wise said. “In terms of this win, we knew we had to score. In the games of 19 and 23 points, we had to score, which meant UNLV wasn’t committing errors. We saw a lot of good signs from our team tonight. It’s all about trying to become a great team come December.”

 

Jaeckel’s 12 kills came on 17 swings for a .647 hitting percentage - the second-best hitting efficiency of her career. She also charted a service ace in the match.

 

“To have 12 kills on 17 swings sure is not bad,” Wise said. “The beauty of her being a redshirt is that this is her third year in the making and you can see how strong and physical she is. She’s going to be able to score points from all over the court.”

 

Jaeckel was one of three Florida players to register double-digit kills as sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) notched her 22nd career double-double with 12 kills on .261 hitting with 16 assists for a team-high 13.5 points. Sophomore outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) charted 10 kills on .421 hitting and two blocks.

 

Senior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) led the team’s defensive effort with 11 digs, which moves her within 14 digs of breaking into the Southeastern Conference’s all-time top-five for career digs. She now has 1,645 career scoops, just one match into her senior campaign.

 

Junior transfer setter Brynja Rodgers (Iowa City, Iowa/NMSU) dished out a match-high 21 assists in her Florida debut, demonstrating relentless effort and impressive versatility in her sets.

 

“I saw her throwing the ball back from the deep corner, crashing the floor and setting behind herself and I thought that the Gator fans are only getting a glimpse of what we will see over the next few years from Brynja,” Wise said. “I had a few ‘wow’ moments myself. She’s only been here three weeks and I thought she had a great coming-out party.”

 

Sophomore middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) tallied four blocks in the match, picking up where she left off last season at the net.

 

Florida spent the early part of the first set shaking off the opening-night rust, but used a lengthy service run by Jaeckel to spark a 5-0 Florida run and put the Gators ahead 19-13 in the opening set. After UNLV ran off a pair of points, Johnson and Murphy registered back-to-back kills to put Florida in front 20-15. The Gators scored five of the next six points, thanks to three errors by the Rebels to take a 25-16 opening-set victory. Murphy had four kills in the opening set to lead the way for the Gators.

 

UNLV took an early 7-3 advantage to begin the second set before Murphy charted a kill and followed with a service ace to stop the Rebels’ scoring spree. The two teams continued to battle closely before two consecutive kills by Murphy and a Jaeckel ace tied the score at 14-all heading into a UNLV timeout. Out of the break, the Gators scored four of the next five points to move ahead 18-15.

 

That run included two kills by Ward and a Cusack ace. With Florida ahead 21-19, Jaeckel posted a kill on two of the next three plays to put the Gators up 23-20. UNLV began inching back into the match at 24-23 on a ball-handling error by Rodgers, but a Jaeckel put-down closed out the 25-23 victory.

 

The two squads battled closely to start the third set before back-to-back kills by Jaeckel and junior Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) put Florida in front 10-7. The Gators kept rolling to a 16-12 lead after two consecutive UNLV attack errors. A kill by Murphy brought Florida to match point at 24-19 and the Gators capped off the match with a block by Anderson and Ward to clinch the victory 25-19.

 

UNLV (0-1) was led by seven kills apiece from Cursty Jackson and Samantha Noland.

 

The Gators improve to 3-0 all-time vs. UNLV and 14-6 all-time vs. members in the current alignment of the Mountain West Conference.

 

Florida returns to action on Saturday when it plays host to Colorado at 7 p.m. ET in the final match of the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational. The match will be carried live on Sun Sports with Larry Vettel and Missy Whittemore, and on WRUF-AM 850 with Tom Collett.

 

For all of the latest information on Florida Volleyball, please log on to www.GatorZone.com/volleyball. Follow the Gators on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GatorZoneVB and Coach Mary Wise on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GatorMary.

 

The University of Florida is home to the 2009 NCAA Volleyball Regional. For ticket information, log on to www.GatorZone.com/tickets.

 

FLORIDA VOLLEYBALL POST-MATCH QUOTES

 

Head Coach Mary Wise

 

"I was really pleased with how hard we worked on serving, having an aggressive mentality and not giving up a lot of points in a row. In terms of this win, we knew we had to score. In the games of 19 and 23 points, we had to score, which meant UNLV wasn’t committing errors. We saw a lot of good signs from our team tonight. It’s all about trying to become a great team come December.”

 

On junior transfer setter Brynja Rodgers …

“I saw her throwing the ball back from the deep corner, crashing the floor and setting behind herself and I thought that the Gator fans are only getting a glimpse of what we will see over the next few years from Brynja. I had a few ‘wow’ moments myself. She’s only been here three weeks and I thought she had a great coming-out party.”

 

On sophomore Kristy Jaeckel’s 12 kills on .647 hitting performance…

“To have 12 kills on 17 swings sure is not bad,” Wise said. “The beauty of her being a redshirt is that this is her third year in the making and you can see how strong and physical she is. She’s going to be able to score points from all over the court.”

 

#7 Elyse Cusack, SR, L

 

On how it felt to play the season opener …

“It feels so good - we have been playing against each other for weeks. Now, we finally got to play against someone else. I think we played well and I’m glad to have the season underway. We got the first win under our belt, but right now our focus is Colorado. We will focus on our game plan and come ready to play tomorrow.”

 

 

#6 Kristy Jaeckel, SO, OH

 

On the team’s season-opening match vs. UNLV …

“We were really excited. I thought that we came out with a lot of energy and we showed a lot of fight in those games. We saw some things tonight that we need to get better at. I think our whole team did a really nice job at setting the ball for each other and getting a lot of one-on-one looks.”

 

On whether the team was nervous entering the match …

“We came out with a little bit of nerves for the first couple of points. After scoring a few points I thought that we were able to get into a nice rhythm.”

 

END OF REPORT

 

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