Friday December 11, 2009Cusack Sets SEC's Career Digs Record in Loss to No. 1 Penn State
Senior Penn State outside hitter Megan Hodge turned in a match-high 20 kills on .366 hitting and the No. 1 Nittany Lions hit .454 as a team in a 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 25-21) win against No. 14 Florida on Friday evening in the NCAA Regional Semifinals at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Senior Florida (25-6) libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) became the Southeastern Conference’s all-time career digs leader on Friday evening, turning in a match-high 15 digs to increase her career total to 2,138 and allow her to surpass former Arkansas standout Ashley Miller (2,126) for the league’s all-time record.
“I am so proud of the way our team competed tonight,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “Hats off to Penn State and its players and coaches. I think 3,400 people saw some really elite-level volleyball today. This match was a really good starting point for 2010 and where we will begin for next year.”
The match marked the final contest for Cusack and fellow senior Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis , Ind.), who end their careers for the Gators with a 111-15 record (.880) record over the four-year timespan. The duo competed in four NCAA Regional Semifinals and three SEC Championships.
“Both of our seniors will leave different legacies, but very important legacies,” Wise said. “In Elyse, you have a four-year starter who holds our school and conference record for digs. KJ’s legacy can be measured in terms of what she has meant to this team in terms of her leadership skills both on and off the court.”
Penn State (35-0), which extended its NCAA record consecutive winning streak to 99 matches, advances to the NCAA Gainesville Regional Final against Cal. Opening serve for that match is set for 4 p.m. ET Saturday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and the match will be carried live on ESPNU.
Sophomore outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) led the way for the Gators offensively on Friday, turning in a team-high nine kills, while sophomore outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) followed with eight kills.
Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) dished out a team-high 26 assists, while junior right-side Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) added seven kills and a season-high 10 digs.
The two teams battled evenly to begin the first set until three consecutive Penn State kills gave the Nittany Lions a 10-6 advantage. PSU kept adding to its lead to go ahead 15-8 after a 5-2 run and back-to-back kills by Arielle Wilson. The Nittany Lions scored 10 of the final 14 points of the set to take a 25-12 first-frame victory.
Penn State raced to a 7-2 advantage to open the second set and kept adding to its lead to go ahead 15-8 until a put-down by Rivers stopped the scoring streak. Down, 20-12, Florida engineered a 5-2 run to cut within five, 22-17 on an attack error from Wilson. The Nittany Lions then scored three of the last four points to close out a 25-18 second-set win.
After a number of early ties, Florida jumped ahead 7-5 in the third set thanks to a Murphy kill and a service ace by junior middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.). Penn State quickly tied the score at 9-9 and then raced ahead 12-9 after three kills on four plays. The Gators hung tough, cutting within four on several occasions, last at 22-18. The two teams traded points until the Nittany Lions closed out the 25-21 win on a Blair Brown kill.
Florida ends its season with its 18th NCAA Regional Semifinal appearance in the last 19 years and extended the nation’s longest consecutive streak of 25-win seasons to 19.
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