Sunday October 4, 2009No. 5 Volleyball Sweeps Tennessee To Conclude Homestand
Junior Florida right-side Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) and sophomore outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) each recorded 10 kills and hit better than .450 to help lead the No. 5/5 Gators to a 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-21) victory against Tennessee on Sunday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The Gators (11-2, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) hit .299 in the match and out-blocked the Lady Vols 7.0-5.0. Those numbers came against a Tennessee team that entered the match ranked first in the SEC in blocks per set (2.73) and second in digs per set (15.98).
“For us, coming off of the loss on Friday, I thought our players had the necessary attention to detail and we never hit a lull in our execution,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “We hit .299 against one of the best digging and blocking teams in the league and I think that’s a statement of how well we played. Tennessee is a legitimate top-25 team. We know we still have to go play them in Knoxville and things will be very different.”
Bledsoe finished with 10 kills on .500 hitting for 10.5 points to mark her best offensive performance in a league match this season. Jaeckel had 10 kills on .474 hitting with a season-high-tying three blocks and a match-high nine digs for 11.5 points.
Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) added eight kills to complement a match-high 22 assists and five digs. Sophomore outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) also contributed eight kills.
“It was really important for us, as a team, to respond after the Kentucky loss,” Bledsoe said. “We know that we have to take advantage of every opportunity that we have. We have to take advantage of every single point.”
Sophomore middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) recorded a career-high three service aces, serving for the Gators to begin each set on Sunday. Anderson was especially impressive in the second set when she helped Florida to an early 7-0 lead after six consecutive service points.
“There aren’t a lot of middle blockers in the country who serve,” Wise said. “The luxury of having her serve first was having the chance to run points off our middle blocker, which is highly unusual. We were trying to create the match-ups we wanted. Having Cassandra serve first could be a pretty good offensive weapon right out of the gate.”
The two teams battled evenly to begin the first set before Tennessee opened out to a 10-7 lead after back-to-back kills by Nikki Fowler and Kylie Marshall. With Florida trailing 13-10, the Gators used consecutive kills by Murphy to pull within one, 13-12. Florida knotted the score at 14-all and after two more ties, two kills in a row by Jaeckel gave the Gators an 18-16 lead heading into a Lady Vol timeout. Florida widened its advantage to 20-17 following a service ace by junior setter Brynja Rodgers (Iowa City, Iowa). The two teams traded points before a ball-handling error by UT’s Farren Powe gave Florida the 25-20 first-set win.
Behind the strong serving of Anderson, the Gators opened the second set on a 7-0 tear and rolled to an 11-1 edge after a block by Jaeckel and Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis , Ind.) and a Murphy kill. The Lady Vols then ran off five consecutive points to cut within five, 11-6, and force Wise to burn a timeout. Back-to-back kills by Anderson and Bledsoe allowed the Gators to stretch their lead to 15-9. Tennessee hung tough, coming within four on several occasions, before taking a 20-14 advantage on a Bledsoe kill. Florida reached set point at 24-18 on an attack error by Fowler before closing out the set with a 25-19 win after a UT service error.
The Gators and Lady Vols fought closely to begin the third set before Florida took a 12-10 advantage after a Fowler service error. Tennessee rallied to tie it up at 12-12 and, after two more ties, the Gators pulled ahead 16-14 following a kill and a block solo by Ward in consecutive plays. Following four more ties, a Jaeckel kill and a block by Jaeckel and Johnson gave Florida a 22-20 lead. The Gators scored three of the next four points to secure a 25-21 third-set victory.
Tennessee (10-5, 3-2 SEC) was led by Fowler’s nine kills and eight digs.
Florida returns to action on Wednesday when it travels to Columbia, S.C., to take on South Carolina. Opening serve in the Volleyball Competition Facility is slated for 7 p.m. ET and the match will be carried live on ESPNU with Beth Mowins and Phil Bush and WRUF-AM 850 with Tom Collett.
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.
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