Sunday November 29, 2009Volleyball Begins NCAA Quest Thursday vs. College of Charleston
For the 19th consecutive season and the 20th time in program history, the No. 15/15 University of Florida volleyball team is among the NCAA Tournament field of 64, earning a bid to volleyball’s version of the “Big Dance” announced Sunday afternoon.
The Gators, who received the No. 16 overall seed, begin their title quest on Thursday in Gainesville, playing host to the College of Charleston at 7:30 p.m. ET in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Florida International and Miami will square off in the first match of the day on Thursday at 5 p.m. ET. The second-round contest will be played Friday at 7 p.m. ET.
The complete bracket can be viewed here.
“This year had to be as difficult as it has ever been for the NCAA selection committee with all of the parity in women’s college volleyball,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “There weren’t the clear-cut undefeated teams of the past. Besides the seeding, they also have to take into account geographic locations.”
This marks the 18th time in the last 19 years that the Gators (23-5, 16-4 Southeastern Conference) have played host to opening-round contests. The four participating teams are vying for a berth in the Gainesville Regional, which will take place Dec. 11-12 at the O’Connell Center.
“Once you get to the NCAA Tournament, records, rankings and conference titles become a non-factor,” Wise said. “Everybody has the same record and it all starts here on Thursday night.”
Florida is in the midst of its 19th consecutive 20-win season and has defeated two top-25 teams in the past week, beating No. 10 Kentucky and No. 25 Notre Dame. The Gators lead the SEC in hitting percentage with a .288 clip and rank second in the league in kills per set (14.56) and assists per set (13.31). Additionally, Florida leads the conference in service aces (1.35).
Sophomore outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) leads the way offensively for the Gators, ranking eighth in the SEC with 3.25 kills per set. Sophomore outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) follows with 3.07 kills per set, which ranks 10th in the SEC.
Sophomore setter/right-side Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) leads the nation with nine triple-doubles so far this season and ranks third in the SEC this year with a .346 clip. She also is tied for ninth in the SEC with 6.78 assists per set.
Senior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.), the school’s all-time career digs leader, ranks second in the SEC with 4.63 digs per set. She has 2,092 career scoops and needs 35 more to become the SEC’s all-time career digs leader.
Sophomore middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) is second in the SEC with 1.25 blocks per set.
The top 16 teams were seeded nationally and placed within four regions. The teams tabbed as the top four seeds were No. 1 Penn State; No. 2 Texas; No. 3 Florida State; and No. 4 Stanford.
The College of Charleston (18-12) is coming off of its sixth Southern Conference Tournament title in the past eight years, having defeated top-seeded Furman in the championship game to earn the SoCon’s automatic NCAA bid. The Cougars have made five previous NCAA appearances and have an all-time record of 1-5 in the tournament, including a first-round loss to Florida in 2007.
Junior setter Cole Dawley is a first-team All-SoCon selection, leading the team in assists per set (9.77) and hitting percentage (.337) and ranking second in digs per set (2.64). She has tallied two triple-doubles this season. Sophomore middle blocker Elyse Chubb also was a first-team all-conference pick, ranking second on the team with a .311 hitting percentage and 2.12 kills per set. She also averages 0.97 blocks per set.
The Gators are 49-19 (.721) all-time in NCAA Championship action, including a 48-18 (.727) mark under Wise’s direction. Florida has advanced to NCAA regional action in 17 of Wise’s previous 18 seasons and has reached the national semifinal on seven occasions during that span.
In the 28-year history of the championship, 10 schools have been crowned champion, nine of which are in this year’s bracket, including two-time defending champion Penn State.
Additional past winners making the field are Stanford (1992, 94, 96, 97, 2001, 04), Hawaii (1982, 83, 87), Long Beach State (1989, 93, 98), UCLA (1984, 90, 91), Nebraska (1995, 2000, and 06), Southern California (1981, 2002, 03), Penn State (1999, 2007), Texas (1988) and Washington (2005).
Four SEC teams made the 2009 field, including 15th-seeded LSU, Kentucky and Tennessee. All four SEC teams are serving as hosts of first and second round action in 2009.
FLORIDA’S NCAA TOURNAMENT NOTES
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