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Sunday September 20, 2009No. 5/6 Volleyball Sweeps Past Arkansas

Fayetteville, AR

Sophomore Florida outside hitters Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) and Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) accounted for a combined 26 kills and 13 digs to lead the No. 5/6 Gators past Arkansas 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 26-24)   on Sunday in Barnhill Arena.

 

The Gators (8-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) excelled thanks to their steady serving and passing that saw Florida record six service aces in the match, and a toughness that allowed the team to rally for a 26-24 victory in the third set.

 

“We know that 3-0 wins on the road are going to be hard to come by in this league,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “To get one on the very first SEC weekend and a weekend that ends a three-match road swing says a lot about the toughness of this team. I’d like to think that we’re better from this experience. We won the match with our serving and passing.”

 

Ward had a match-high 14 kills on .448 hitting with five digs, while Jaeckel registered 12 kills on .333 hitting with eight digs. Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) added eight kills on .312 hitting with 17 assists and nine digs.

 

Junior setter Brynja Rodgers (Iowa City, Iowa) added a match-high 20 assists to complement three service aces. Sophomore middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) and senior middle blocker Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) each charted a squad-best three blocks.

 

Senior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) charted a match-high 18 digs, as she has recorded double-figure digs in each of the team’s nine matches this season. She increased her career digs total to 1,783 and ranks No. 3 on the SEC’s all-time career digs list.

 

Florida raced out to a 7-2 advantage in the first set before the two teams began trading points. With the Gators leading 10-7, Florida ran off four consecutive points, thanks to a pair of service aces by Rodgers that put UF ahead 14-7 and forced an Arkansas timeout. The Gators pushed their lead out to 16-8 after two resounding blocks. With UF leading 17-11, the Gators used a 4-0 run, thanks to a great service run by Murphy, to go ahead 21-11 on a put-down by junior right-side Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.). Florida closed out the 25-16 opening-set victory on a Rivers kill.

 

The Gators jumped to a 5-0 lead to open the second set, forcing Razorbacks head coach Robert Pulliza to burn an early timeout. Out of the break, the teams traded points until back-to-back errors by the Gators cut Arkansas’ deficit to two, 6-4. Florida then used five consecutive points to extend its advantage to seven, 11-4. Anderson had two kills and Ward one in succession to give UF a 15-5 lead. Arkansas then ran off three consecutive points to cut within seven, 15-8. The teams traded points with Florida going up 20-13 after a put-down by Murphy. Another Murphy kill and a block by Anderson and junior outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) Rivers extended Florida’s lead to 23-16 and the Gators won the set 25-19 on a Ward put-down.

 

Arkansas opened to a 5-2 advantage in the third set before a Ward kill stopped UF’s scoring deficit. The two teams then began trading points until Arkansas extended its lead to 8-4 and forced Wise to use a timeout. The Gators ran off three consecutive points, including back-to-back kills by Ward to cut within one, 10-9. Arkansas built its lead back up to 13-10.

 

With the Razorbacks ahead 15-11, Ward registered a kill and junior defensive specialist Erin Fleming (Orlando, Fla.) sparked a 6-2 run by the Gators that knotted the score at 17-all, forcing an Arkansas timeout. Back-to-back attack errors by the Razorbacks put UF ahead 19-17. A service error from Rivers and a kill by UA’s Kristin Seaton again knotted the score; this time at 19-all. The Razorbacks then ran off three consecutive points to go ahead 22-19. Florida cut within one at 23-22, using a 3-1 run. A block by Jaeckel and Ward tied the score at 23-all. After Florida staved off an attempt at match point, it closed out the set with a 26-24 victory.

 

Arkansas (7-6, 1-1 SEC) was led by seven kills each from Jasmine Norton and Janeliss Torres, as part of a balanced offensive attack.

 

Florida returns to action on Friday when it returns home for the first time in nearly a month. The Gators will face Mississippi State at 7 p.m. ET in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and the match will be carried live on ROCK 104 with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore.

 

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.

 

END OF REPORT

 

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