Sunday September 27, 2009Hot-Hitting Volleyball Gators Down Alabama, 3-0
Sophomore Florida outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) charted a match-high 14 kills on .667 hitting and sophomore outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) added 12 kills on .550 hitting Sunday to lead the No. 5/5 Florida volleyball team to a 3-0 (25-16, 25-11, 25-14) victory against Alabama in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The Gators (10-1, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) recorded a season-best .418 hitting percentage in the match and out-blocked their opponent for the first time this season with an 8.0-1.0 edge. Florida out-dug Alabama 40-27 and held a 42-24 advantage in kills.
“The Gators played well in a lot of different aspects today,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “Heading into today’s match, we felt if we could win the serving and passing battles, we could win the match. Our team took care of business in a big way. Both of our seniors were instrumental in leading our play today.”
Ward’s 14 kills came on 21 swings with no errors for a career-best .667 hitting efficiency. That bested her previous-best mark of .636 against Auburn on Oct. 17, 2008. Ward also added six digs and four blocks in the match for a match-high 16.0 total points. The sophomore has posted double-digit kills in 10 of the team’s 11 matches this season and has led the Gators offensively on six occasions.
Jaeckel recorded 12 kills on a .500 hitting efficiency – her third match this season hitting better than .400 – to complement six digs for 12.5 total points.
“It’s a step for us in the right direction and a very good win for this team,” Jaeckel said. “We’ve been working really hard on our consistency and we can build off of this win in the future.”
Senior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) finished the match with a squad-best nine digs to increase her career total to 1,808. Impressively, she becomes the first player in school history to reach 1,800 digs in her collegiate career. Cusack also served two aces in the match.
Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) charted seven kills on .429 hitting with a match-high 22 assists, four digs and two blocks. Senior middle blocker Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) added five kills and three blocks for 7.0 total points.
Sophomore middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) posted a match-high five blocks to mark the seventh time this season she has recorded four or more rejections in a single match. It was the 10th time in 11 matches this season that she has either led or tied for the team lead in blocks.
Thirteen different Gators saw action in Florida’s lineup on Sunday.
Cusack served two aces early in the first set to excite the crowd of 2,003 and allow the Gators to reach a 7-5 lead after a long rally including great digs by Jaeckel and Cusack and ending with a kill by Ward. With the Gators in front 8-6, Florida scored three in a row to force Alabama to burn an early timeout. The two teams then traded points before the Gators, leading 12-9 went on a 4-0 run to extend their advantage to 16-9. A Ward kill and a Crimson Tide attack error put Florida ahead 19-10. The Gators closed out the 25-16 victory with a Jaeckel kill.
Florida raced out to a 6-1 advantage in the second set, powered by strong serving runs from Jaeckel and Cusack. Alabama quickly burned a timeout and registered a kill out of the break, but the Gators then used a 5-0 run to extend their lead to 11-2 after a service run by Murphy that included two aces. Alabama cut within nine, 14-5, following a put-down by Leigh Moyer and the teams traded points from there until back-to-back kills by Jaeckel and Murphy sparked a 4-0 run by Florida that widened its lead to 11, 19-7. The Gators rolled to the 25-11 second-set win.
The Gators scored the first two points of the third set before Alabama rallied to eventually knot the score at 7-7 thanks to several Florida errors. UF then used a 9-1 run to go up 16-8 on a kill by Murphy. Cusack served five consecutive points during that span. Back-to-back kill by Jaeckel brought the score to 23-12 before kills by Johnson and Ward allowed the Gators to finish with a 25-14 third-set victory.
Alabama (5-9, 3-1 SEC) was led by seven kills each from Ashley Frazier and Alyssa Meuth. Libero Kelsey Anderson added 10 digs. Florida held the Crimson Tide to a .021 hitting percentage, the Gators’ best hitting percentage defense of the season.
Florida returns to action on Friday when it hosts No. 17 Kentucky in a top-25 showdown at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Opening serve is set for 7 p.m. ET 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.
Florida Head Coach Mary Wise
“The Gators played well in a lot of different aspects today. Heading into today’s match, we felt if we could win the serving and passing battles, we could win the match. Our team took care of business in a big way. We understand that the team we meet in Tuscaloosa will be very different. Having said that, our team took care of business in a big way today. Both of our seniors were instrumental in leading our play today.”
On Florida out-blocking Alabama 8-1 on Sunday …
“We’ve said all along that blocking will come and it comes in spurts. We’re touching balls and we discussed that block assists and digs are effort plays. We knew it would come and probably at no time too soon with what we have coming in the next few weeks.”
On 13 Florida players seeing action in Sunday’s match …
“We look at players who are the future of this program, such as Betsy Smith, and the more reps she can get will help us. When we talk about the future, it may not be next year, it may come next week or two weeks from now. It’s taken Betsy a little while to come back from her ankle sprain, but she can come in and help us.”
#6 Kristy Jaeckel, Jr., OH
On Florida out-blocking Alabama 8.0-1.0 on Sunday …
“It feels great because we have worked hard lately on blocking. I think it was just a matter of time before our blocking game started clicking. We’ve been putting in time on defense and now we are blocking some balls and making some plays.”
On Florida’s 3-0 win against Alabama …
“It’s a step for us in the right direction and a very good win for this team. We’ve been working really hard on our consistency and we can build off of this win in the future.”
#21 Cassandra Anderson, So., MB
On the team’s four-match homestand after a three-week road swing …
“It’s always good to be back because we have some great fans and it is tough being on the road for three straight weekends. To finally be able to come back home where we are comfortable is great.”
#27 Erin Fleming, Jr., DS
On playing in all three sets of Florida’s 3-0 win against Alabama on Sunday …
“This win was good for us. Coach just called my name [to enter the match] and I just unzipped my jacket and went in. I feel very comfortable with my teammates, so it’s just a matter of going out there, having fun and playing volleyball.”
END OF REPORT