Tuesday September 1, 2009No. 5 Volleyball Topples FSU in Epic Five-Set Thriller
VIDEO: Post-Match Player Interviews
Junior transfer setter Brynja Rodgers (Iowa City, Iowa), playing in her first-ever Florida-Florida State rivalry match, served an ace on match point to lead the No. 5 Gators to a thrilling five-set (25-19, 23-25, 25-20, 22-25, 17-15) victory against the Seminoles on Monday night in front of 3,763 raucous fans in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The Gators (3-0) captured their 18th consecutive victory against the Seminoles (3-1) and improve to 32-16 all-time vs. FSU, including a 25-2 mark under the direction of head coach Mary Wise.
“The MVP of tonight’s match was the crowd,” Wise said. “Now our goal is to bring our execution to the level this crowd was at tonight. I don’t know if we win this one in Tallahassee and I don’t know if we would win it on a neutral court, but we won it tonight and there are 3,700 fans that were a big part of that. This is one of those special matches that our fans will remember for a long time because of the atmosphere.
“No matter what happened in that final set, we’re a better team from having played this match,” Wise continued. “We can refer back to this match when we play a team that runs the middle as well as Florida State and has tough servers and a great libero.”
Sophomore outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) led the way for the Gators offensively, charting a season-high 17 kills on .359 hitting with 10 digs for her third career double-double.
Junior right-side/middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) turned in one of her finest offensive matches in a Florida uniform, charting a career-high 15 kills on .500 hitting with one block solo for 16.0 points.
“We felt like we had the match-up for Lauren,” Wise said. “We called her number a lot to get the ball to her and she made some great plays.”
Sophomore outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) tied her career high with 15 kills and posted a career-high 13 digs for her second consecutive double-double. Ward has eclipsed her personal best in digs in each of the team’s last two matches. She also registered a season-high four blocks, including two block solos.
Rodgers charted a double-double with a season-high 23 assists and 11 digs. She also served a match-high three aces, including the clincher.
“I didn’t really know much about this rivalry before we watched film this week,” Rodgers said. “I’ve really realized what a big-time rivalry it is.”
Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) dished out a season-high 34 assists, one shy of her career high. She also tallied eight kills and eight digs for 7.0 points. Senior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) headed the squad’s defensive effort with a season-high 19 digs.
Florida and FSU battled closely to begin the first set before a kill by sophomore middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) sparked a 4-0 UF run that included three service points by Murphy. With the Gators leading 10-8, Bledsoe recorded back-to-back kills and Ward served an ace to extend Florida’s advantage to 13-8.
The Seminoles inched their way back into the match at 19-17, before a kill by Ward stopped the Gators’ scoring drought. Consecutive kills by Bledsoe and Jaeckel put UF ahead 23-18 forcing an FSU timeout. Jaeckel had two kills in the final three plays of the first set, including an angle shot at set point, to help the Gators notch the 25-19 victory.
The two teams were locked in a tie for much of the early part of the second set before Florida State broke a 12-12 tie with a kill by Jordana Price and a block by Brianna Barry and Rachael Morgan. After two more ties, a kill by Barry and an attack error from Ward put the Seminoles ahead 19-16 heading into a Florida timeout. The Gators hung tough, tying the score at 21-all. After two more ties, Jaeckel committed an attack error and FSU recorded a kill to take the 25-23 win.
Florida raced to an 8-2 advantage in the third set thanks to four service points from Anderson that highlighted a 5-0 run by the Gators. With Florida ahead 12-10, the Gators scored three in a row to go up 15-10 on a Bledsoe kill off the overpass. Leading 18-14, Murphy had three kills in four plays from all over the court to extend Florida’s lead to 22-14 and the Gators rolled to the 25-20 third-set victory.
FSU jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the fourth set and kept building on that to take a 17-12 advantage after a block by Barry and Morgan. Florida rallied to cut within three, 21-18, after a Ward kill. FSU reached set point at 24-20, but the Gators staved off two attempts at the game with kills by Jaeckel and senior middle blocker Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.). A Barry kill gave FSU the 25-22 win in the fourth set.
Florida took a 3-1 lead in the deciding set after a kill by Ward. The Seminoles hung tough and tied the score several times before breaking an 8-all gridlock with two consecutive points to go up 10-8 heading into a Florida timeout. The two teams continued to trade points, but FSU reached match point at 14-13 thanks to a kill by Mira Djuric.
Jaeckel knotted the score at 14-all with a kill and the Seminoles’ Price committed an attack error to bring the Gators to set point at 15-14. After an attack error by Johnson knotted the score at 15, Bledsoe ripped a kill down the line to set up Rodgers’ heroics. The junior’s serve went for an ace to clinch the match with a 17-15 fifth-set victory.
“This was a great win for our team,” Ward said. “We came together in the end and pulled off a big-time victory against a rival. This is a great experience for our team and we will be a better team because of it.”
FSU was led by Price’s team-high 12 kills, while junior libero Jenna Romanelli posted a match-high 20 digs.
The Gators improve to 109-20 all-time vs. opponents from within the Sunshine State, including a 61-2 mark under Wise.
Florida returns to action this weekend when it travels to Stockton, Calif., to take part in the 31st Annual Community Bankers Classic on Friday and Saturday hosted by the University of the Pacific. The Gators first meet No. 11 Stanford at 8 p.m. ET Friday before facing either host Pacific or San Jose State on Saturday.
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 Head Coach Mary Wise
“The MVP of tonight’s match was the crowd. Now our goal is to bring our execution to the level this crowd was at tonight. I don’t know if we win this one in Tallahassee and I don’t know if we would win it on a neutral court, but we won it tonight and there are 3,700 fans that were a big part of that. This is one of those special matches that our fans will remember for a long time because of the atmosphere.”
On what she told her team following the match …
“We briefly discussed this after the match - no matter what happened in that final set, we’re a better team from having played this match. We can refer back to this match when we play a team that runs the middle as well as Florida State and has tough servers and a great libero.”
On if Florida State provided a tougher test than she expected …
“We saw it on film. No surprises coming in. Two senior middles, Djuric is a senior, their setter is a senior, and their younger players just happen to be international players with a ton of experience. We won’t play many teams with more experience than Florida State. With all due respect, that is a team that we could easily see again in December.”
On Cusack’s leadership abilities and how the team’s serving helped in the win …
“Her [Cusack] ability to stick her nose in there and calm us is great. She has such a calming ability. We ended up with 10 aces, which tells me we are moving to be a really good serving team. Elyse Cusack, Colleen Ward, Kristy Jaeckel neutralized a lot of Florida State’s serves tonight.”
On the play of junior right-side Lauren Bledsoe …
“We felt like we had the match up for Lauren; we called her number a lot to get the ball to her and she made some great plays.”
#17 Lauren Bledsoe, Jr., RS
On what Coach Mary Wise said to the team following the match …
“Mary said right after the final point ‘we are going to be a better team for this.’ It is a very good experience for this team and should pay off as the year goes on.”
On the Florida/FSU rivalry …
“I’m a California girl, so I didn’t grow up much with the rivalry. I always heard about Florida- Florida State growing up and it really is an intense rivalry.”
#16 Colleen Ward, Jr., OH
On what the O’Connell Center crowd meant to the team …
“I really want to thank the crowd for their effort tonight. They really made a difference in that fifth set. They truly were a difference maker.”
On Florida’s five-set victory against Florida State …
“This was a great win for our team. We came together in the end when it mattered and pulled off a big-time victory against a rival. This is a great experience for our team and we will be a better team because of it.”
#2 Brynja Rodgers, Jr., S
On her knowledge of the Florida/FSU rivalry …
“I didn’t really know much about this rivalry before we watched film this week. I’ve really realized what a big-time rivalry it is.”
END OF REPORT