Wednesday December 9, 2009No. 14 Volleyball Entertains No. 1 Penn State Friday
GATOR MATCH-DAY VS. #1 PENN STATE
The No. 14/15 University of Florida volleyball team opens play in its 18th NCAA regional semifinal in the last 19 years on Friday when the Gators host No. 1/1 Penn State. Opening serve in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is slated for 6 p.m. ET and the match will be carried live on GatorVision Online and WRUF-AM 850 with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore.
The Gators (25-5) will face a school ranked No. 1 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Poll for the 14th time in school history. Florida is 2-11 all-time vs. top-ranked teams, but both of those victories have come since 1999, when the Gators recorded their first win against a No. 1 team by downing top-ranked Penn State at the State Farm/NACWAA Classic at Lincoln, Neb.
“This is a huge challenge,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “The core of Penn State is the future of our Olympic team. We are thrilled to still be playing. There are only 16 teams in the country still playing. There is a reason why folks should be coming out – you’re going to see the best of women’s volleyball on Friday.”
Florida is coming off a pair of 3-0 sweeps in the first two rounds of the tournament, played last Thursday and Friday in the O’Connell Center. The Gators hit a sizzling .424 on the weekend, totaling 18 blocks. That team hitting percentage over the first two rounds combined marked the highest hitting efficiency of any team in the NCAA Tournament this season.
Florida defeated the College of Charleston, 3-0, on Thursday and beat FIU, 3-0, on Friday. UF’s .476 hitting efficiency in Thursday’s win against the Cougars marked its highest in an NCAA match in school history.
Senior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) looks to record a notable milestone on Friday, as she is only four digs shy of breaking the Southeastern Conference’s all-time career digs record. Cusack has 2,123 career scoops and looks to surpass former Arkansas standout Ashley Miller, who currently holds the league’s career digs record at 2,126.
Offensively, Florida is led by sophomore outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.), who averages 3.22 kills per set, while sophomore outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) follows with 3.10 kills per set.
Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.), who has recorded nine triple-doubles so far this season, averages a squad-best 6.99 assists per set and ranks second on the team with 2.23 digs per set.
Sophomore middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) is first on the team with 1.27 blocks per set on the season, while ranking tied for fourth in the NCAA Tournament so far with a hitting at a sizzling .600 clip over the course of the weekend.
The Gators and Nittany Lions meet for the ninth time in the history of the two programs with Penn State holding a 5-3 advantage in the all-time series. Florida leads the series 3-2 under the direction of Wise and has won each of the last two meetings between the two teams.
Penn State enters Friday’s NCAA regional semifinal on an NCAA Division I record 98-match winning streak as the two-time defending NCAA Champions. The Nittany Lions, under the direction of 31st-year head coach Russ Rose (who has 997 career victories), boast a 34-0 record, including a 20-0 Big Ten tally, and hold the nation’s No. 1 ranking. Penn State’s road-match winning streak stands at 47.
The Nittany Lions swept Binghamton and Penn this past weekend to advance to their seventh consecutive NCAA regional semifinal. Senior outside hitter Megan Hodge, the 2009 Big Ten Conference Player of the Year, leads the Nittany Lions offensively with 4.70 kills per set. Junior middle blocker Arielle Wilson leads the nation with a .561 hitting efficiency to go with a squad-best 1.58 blocks per set. Senior setter Alisha Glass dishes out a squad-best 11.94 assists per set, while junior libero Alyssa D’Erico records a team-high 3.46 digs per set to complement 52 service aces on the year.
Complete results and a recap of Friday’s match will be available at www.GatorZone.com/volleyball.
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