Sunday November 8, 2009No. 9/11 Volleyball Takes Down Auburn, 3-0
Sophomore Florida outside hitters Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) and Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) combined for 22 kills and 15 digs Sunday and the No. 9/11 Gators hit better than .400 for the second consecutive match in a 3-0 (25-15, 25-18, 25-13) win against Auburn in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The Gators (20-3, 14-2 Southeastern Conference) secured their 19th consecutive 20-plus win season on Sunday. In program history, Florida has recorded 22 total 20-plus win seasons, including every year of head coach Mary Wise’s tenure. Wise is averaging 32.1 wins per season over the course of her UF coaching career.
Florida hit .430 in the match, marking the second consecutive match in which the team has hit better than .400. The Gators recorded their top-two hitting efficiency marks of the year this weekend after a season-best .474 clip on Friday against Georgia. For the weekend, Florida hit a sizzling .451 as a team – its highest in a two-match stretch in 2009.
“In terms of the second half of the SEC season, in the past month, I’ve seen us improve in lots of different areas from blocking to offensive efficiency to serving more aggressively,” Wise said. “Each of those skills were really apparent today with us hitting .430 as a team. I feel like we continue to get better regardless of the opponent and we are putting ourselves in a good position to be playing our best volleyball at the end of the season.”
Florida extended its streak of consecutive sweeps to eight matches, marking the longest such streak since the Gators tallied nine straight 3-0 wins against conference opponents during the 2007 campaign.
“If you look around the country, 3-0 sweeps are fewer and fewer,” Wise said. “They just aren’t happening. The fact that we did it on the road last weekend and at home this weekend, I think we continue to play at a high level at an important time of the year.”
Four Gator players hit better than .400 in the match (min. 5 swings) for the second consecutive contest and Florida committed just 10 attack errors on the entire weekend. The Gators also held the Tigers without a block on Sunday and out-blocked Auburn 7.0-0.0 in the match.
“I think it really speaks to the maturing process of our team,” Wise said. “Today, I can’t remember a single time Kelly didn’t set a ball that wasn’t hittable. The hitters have been making really good choices, especially our sophomore left-sides.”
Ward led the Gators with a match-high 12 kills on .455 hitting with nine digs and two block assists, while Jaeckel followed with 10 kills on .370 hitting to complement six digs and a team-high two service aces.
Junior outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) recorded six kills on 11 swings with no errors for a .545 hitting efficiency, while sophomore middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) tallied three kills on a .600 hitting efficiency to complement a match-high four blocks. It marked the 14th time this season that Anderson has charted four or more rejections in a single match.
“One of our focuses has been eliminating the errors that we were making,” Rivers said. “We have focused on controlling the pass to make a better set and a better hitting decision. It’s not about the streak of sweeps, it’s more about winning and getting better as a team.”
Senior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.), who is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week, came up with a match high 14 digs. Cusack now has 1,980 digs in her collegiate career and needs 57 more to tie former Kentucky standout Jenni Casper for second-place all-time in SEC history.
Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.), directing a 5-1 offense, dished out a match-high 30 assists, marking the third time this season she has eclipsed the 30-assist plateau in a single match. She also charted four kills on eight swings with no errors for a .500 hitting clip.
Auburn jumped out to an early 4-1 lead to begin the second set, but Florida rallied to knot the score at 4-4 after a Rivers kill and a pair of attack errors by the Tigers. After two more ties, the Gators ran off three consecutive points, behind the serving of Jaeckel, to go ahead 9-6 on a service ace. Ahead 12-9, Florida scored four in a row, highlighted by a Murphy ace, to extend its advantage to seven, 16-9. The Gators had no trouble in rolling to a 22-13 advantage after consecutive kills by Jaeckel and Murphy. A kill by Anderson closed out the 25-15 first-set victory.
Auburn came out on inspired in the second set, jumping to an early 8-2 advantage that included two service aces by its Kelly Fidero. With the Gators down by five, 9-4, Florida used a 8-2 run to take a 12-11 advantage. The last four points of the rally included three kills from Ward and a put-down off an overpass by senior middle blocker Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.). After four more ties, a Ward kill followed by a service ace put the Gators in front 17-15. With the score tied at 17-17, Florida used the strong serving of Anderson to run off six consecutive points and take a 23-17 lead. A Jaeckel kill capped off the 25-18 set-two win for the Gators.
The two teams battled evenly to begin the third set before Florida used back-to-back kills by Murphy and Ward and a Jaeckel service ace to jump out to a 10-5 advantage. The Gators kept rolling to a 12-6 lead on a kill by Anderson that forced an Auburn timeout. After the Tigers cut within five, 14-9, the Gators closed out the set on an 11-4 run to win the third set 25-13. A kill by freshman middle blocker Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) ended the match.
Auburn (14-12, 6-9 SEC) was led by Fidero’s team-high nine kills and two aces. Sarah Bullock followed with eight kills and eight digs.
Florida returns to action on Friday when it plays host to No. 19/18 LSU. Opening serve in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is slated for 7 p.m. ET and the match will be carried live on Sun Sports with Larry Vettel and Missy Whittemore and on WRUF-AM 850 with Tom Collett.
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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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