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Friday September 11, 2009Outside Hitters Lead No. 4/4 Gators to 3-1 Win Against South Florida

Tampa, FL

AUDIO: Head Coach Mary Wise’s Post-Match Comments

AUDIO: Elyse Cusack and Colleen Ward Post-Match Comments


Florida outside hitters Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) and Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) combined for 29 kills and 21 digs to lead the No. 4/4 Gators to a 3-1 (25-13, 18-25, 25-23, 25-10) win against South Florida in front of a hostile crowd of 3,056 fans in the Sun Dome on the opening night of the Tampa Twice Tournament.


The Gators (6-0) placed three players in double-figure kills for the sixth time this season and posted their fourth consecutive victory in a match that went four or more sets.


“We will look back at this and think that this is one of those matches where our team really grew up,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “In this environment, with as good of a team as USF has this year with all of their seniors and all of their experience, it was a real gut check. I thought our team showed a lot of grit against a very good USF team.”


Florida posted a season-high 11.0 blocks, tying USF in that category. Sophomore middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) posted a match-high seven blocks to mark her fifth match this season with four or more blocks.


“There were so many great effort plays tonight,” Wise said. “Sometimes when you start to block balls, you create two-point swings, and I think we benefitted from that tonight.”


Ward tied her career high with 16 kills and also added eight digs and three blocks for a match-high 17.5 points. She has led the Gators in kills for three consecutive matches. Jaeckel posted her fifth career double-double with 13 kills on .407 hitting with a career-high 13 digs.


Junior right-side Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) reached double-figures in kills for the fourth consecutive match with 11 kills to complement two blocks. Senior middle blocker Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) finished with seven kills on .333 hitting with four blocks.


Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) dished out a match-high 27 assists to go along with eight digs, while junior setter Brynja Rodgers (Iowa City, Iowa) added 18 assists and six digs. Rodgers also had two service aces, including the match-clincher.


Senior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) moved up to No. 4 on the Southeastern Conference’s all-time career digs list, finishing with a match-high 17 digs to increase her career total to 1,730.


Florida raced out to a 5-1 lead in the first set, capped off by a kill from Murphy. The Gators kept rolling to a 9-2 advantage that forced USF head coach Claire Lessinger to burn an early timeout. Ward highlighted that run with a big kill off an overpass that brought the Florida fans to their feet. The Gators kept rolling to a 15-5 advantage after a kill by Jaeckel that forced another timeout by the Bulls.


USF ran off four points in a row to cut within seven, 15-8, before a kill by Anderson on the slide stopped Florida’s scoring drought. USF used a pair of blocks to cap off the 7-1 run and force Wise to use a timeout with the Gators ahead 16-11. After the Bulls trimmed their deficit to four, 17-13, before the Gators closed the set on an 8-0 run to take a 25-13 victory. Johnson was impressive with two kills and a block during that span. The opening set was completed in just 18 minutes.


The two teams battled evenly to begin the second set before a pair of errors by the Gators and an ace by USF’s Alli Arbogast put the Bulls ahead 6-3. Two kills by Bledsoe down the line on the next three points brought Florida within two at 7-5. USF then scored four in a row to extend its advantage to six, 11-5.


With Florida trailing 12-6, the Gators used a 4-1 run to cut within three, 13-10. The two teams began trading points before Florida, down 18-12, scored four in a row, thanks to kills by Jaeckel and Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) to whittle the Bulls’ lead down to two, 18-16. From there, USF went on a 4-0 run to go ahead 21-16. The Bulls rolled to the 25-18 second-set win.  


USF jumped out to an early 9-3 advantage in the third set before Ward registered a kill to spark a 9-1 run by the Gators. The Florida rally was capped off by a pair of blocks, the first a solo one by Anderson and the second one by Anderson and Jaeckel to put UF ahead 12-10. Florida kept rolling to a 15-11 advantage after a resounding block by Anderson and Murphy. With the Gators ahead 19-13 after an ace by Anderson, USF ran off four points in a row to cut within two points, 19-17, leading into a Florida timeout.


With the Gators up 20-17, the Bulls scored three in a row to knot the score at 20-all. After one more tie, Bledsoe drilled a kill down the line and Anderson followed with a resounding block solo. A kill by Jaeckel brought UF to set point up 24-21, but USF staved off two attempts at set point. Another Jaeckel put-down gave the Gators the set 25-23.


Florida raced to a 4-0 lead in the fourth set after a block by Jaeckel and Johnson. USF began working its way back into the match, cutting within three, 6-3. Florida kept rolling to extend its advantage to 11-5 after a kill by Jaeckel and an attack error from the Bulls that caused a USF timeout. With the Gators in front 12-6, Ward ripped a kill on the angle and Jaeckel followed with a put-down to widen UF’s margin to 14-6. After a put-down by Arbogast, Florida reeled off four in a row to take an 18-6 lead and rolled to a 25-10 victory.


USF (5-1) was led by Marcela Gurgel’s match-high 15 kills, while Caitlyn Breen posted six blocks.


Florida returns to action on Saturday when it faces No. 3/3 Washington at the Sun Dome. Opening serve is set for 6 p.m. ET and the match will be carried live on WRUF-AM 850 with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore.


For all of the latest information on Florida Volleyball, please log on to Follow the Gators on Twitter at and Coach Mary Wise on Twitter at


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