Friday October 2, 2009No. 5 Gators Fall in Five to No. 15 Kentucky
Sophomore Florida right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) turned in her ninth career triple-double, tying her career high with 20 kills on .424 hitting with 27 assists and 14 digs, but the No. 5 Gators dropped a five-set (25-9, 19-25, 25-23, 20-25, 11-15) match to No. 15 Kentucky on Friday evening in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The loss marked the first home regular-season Southeastern Conference defeat for the Gators (10-2, 4-1 SEC) since falling to Tennessee on Nov. 14, 2004. Florida ended its streak of 21 consecutive home victories and dropped its first regular-season home match in nearly five years.
“I thought Kentucky played really well tonight, especially on the defensive end,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “We hit 19 balls out of bounds and if you hit that many balls out of bounds, I don’t think a team deserves to win. We knew that kills would be hard to come by tonight. The key for us is what happens on Sunday and how fast this team can mature.”
Murphy was one of three Gators to reach double-figure kills, marking the eighth time this season that three or more Florida players have charted 10 or more kills apiece. Sophomore outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) and sophomore outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) each turned in 12 kills, while Jaeckel recorded her fifth double-double of the year with 11 digs.
“I thought Kelly [Murphy] was outstanding tonight, not only in point production, but she had few errors,” Wise said.
Senior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) came up with a team-high 15 digs to increase her career digs total to 1,823 scoops. Sophomore middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) led the team in blocks for the 11th time in 12 matches with five rejections, including tying her career high with three solo blocks.
Junior setter Brynja Rodgers (Iowa City, Iowa) charted her fourth double-double fo the year with a Florida career best 25 assists and 10 digs.
In the match, Florida hit .215 – its lowest efficiency in a league contest this season – but posted more kills (63-55), and digs (67-59) than the Wildcats. Kentucky won the blocking battle 10-9.
Florida opened the first set on a 5-1 tear thanks to strong serving by Murphy. The Gators kept rolling to a 10-4 lead after an ace by Rodgers and a UK attack error that forced an early timeout. Kentucky began whittling its way back into the match to cut within four, 11-7, after a kill by Becky Pavan. Florida then ran off six consecutive points behind five service points from Cusack to take a 17-7 advantage. The Gators closed the set on an 8-2 run to take a 25-9 first-set victory that was capped off by an Erin Fleming (Orlando, Fla.) ace.
The two teams battled evenly to begin the second set before Kentucky took a 11-7 advantage after a UK block and an attack error by Jaeckel. The Wildcats used the serving of Lauren Rapp to extend their lead out to 16-8 and force the Gators to use their final timeout of the set. The Gators cut as close as four, 17-13, after a Jaeckel kill and a Sarah Rumely attack error. Kentucky reached set point at 24-17 and won the second set 25-19.
Florida and Kentucky were tied several times to open the third frame before the Wildcats broke a 9-9 tie with a Murphy attack error and a block of their own to go up 11-9. The Gators hung tough and tied the score at 13-all after back-to-back kills by junior outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.). From there, Kentucky ran off three consecutive kills to go up 16-13 and force UF to take a timeout. The teams were tied four more times before Florida used a kill by Ward and a block solo by Anderson to take a 23-21 lead. The two teams traded points and a kill by senior middle blocker Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis , Ind.) closed out the 25-23 third-set victory for the Gators.
A number of early ties also characterized the fourth set before Kentucky went in front 14-12 on a kill by Sarah Mendoza and an attack error by Ward. After two more ties, Kentucky took a 17-15 lead on a Rivers attack error. The Wildcats kept adding to their lead to go ahead 20-17 heading into a timeout. Florida hung tough, but Kentucky closed out a 25-20 fourth-set win, capped off by three consecutive kills.
The Gators took a 4-1 lead in the deciding set thanks to back-to-back kills by Jaeckel and Anderson. Kentucky rallied to tie the score at 4-all and after being tied six more times, the Wildcats used a 5-1 run to break a 10-10 gridlock and claim a 15-11 fifth-set win.
Kentucky (14-1, 4-0 SEC) was led by Mendoza, who turned in her third career 20-plus kill match with a squad-best 20 kills to complement eight digs and two blocks for a match-high 21.0 points.
Florida returns to action on Sunday when it plays host to Tennessee in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Opening serve is set for 1:30 p.m. ET and the match will be carried live on GatorVision Online and ROCK 104 FM with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore.
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The University of Florida is home to the 2009 NCAA Volleyball Regional. For ticket information, log on to www.GatorZone.com/tickets.
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