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Friday September 17, 2010Gators Win 20th Consecutive SEC Opener

Lexington, Ky.

Junior Florida right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.)  recorded a match-high 17 kills on .520 hitting with 23 assists to direct the No. 3 Gators to their 20th consecutive victory in a Southeastern Conference opener, defeating No. 22 Kentucky, 3-1 (18-25, 25-19, 25-13, 25-20) on Friday evening in Memorial Coliseum.  

 

Florida (7-1, 1-0 SEC) is now 20-0 in league openers under the direction of head coach Mary Wise and improves to 23-4 all-time in SEC openers. With the win, the Gators defeated their fifth top-25 opponent of the 2010 season and improve to 5-1 this year against ranked foes.

 

The Gators’ pin hitters combined for 45 of the team’s 54 kills in the match to lead Florida’s offensive attack, which hit .229 for the match and an impressive .500 in the third set. Kentucky was held to a .116 hitting efficiency, while Florida recorded double-figure blocks (10) for the sixth time this season.

 

“The difference in tonight’s match was the play of our right side,” Wise said. “On a night when our offense was struggling a bit, our defense was good enough to lead us to the win, especially the 10 blocks and holding Kentucky to .116 hitting.”

 

Murphy also added five digs and four blocks to complement her 17 kills and 23 assists for a match-high 20.0 points.

 

Junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) added 10 kills and just missed a double-double with nine digs, also serving three aces. Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) added nine kills and 13 digs. Sophomore right-side Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) tied her career high with nine kills on .421 hitting, matching her offensive output vs. Iowa State on Aug. 28.

 

Junior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) recorded a season-high-tying six blocks to go with four kills. Senior defensive specialist Erin Fleming (Orlando, Fla.) charted nine digs, while freshman setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) dished out 19 assists.

 

The two teams battled evenly to begin the first set until a kill and an ace by Jaeckel on successive plays highlighted a 5-0 run by the Gators that put them ahead 8-5. The Wildcats rallied to knot the score at 8-8 on a let-serve ace by Kentucky’s Ann Armes. The squads then began trading points until Kentucky broke an 11-11 tie with 4-1 run to put the Cats ahead 15-12 on an attack error by Anderson that forced Wise to burn a timeout. Kentucky kept adding to its advantage to go up 17-13.

 

With Florida trailing 17-13, the Gators rallied behind the strong serving of Murphy and Jaeckel to cut within one, 18-17, on a Jaeckel ace. From there, the Wildcats closed out the first set on a 7-1 run to take a 25-18 first-set victory. The Gators hit ,just .070 in the opening frame, while Kentucky hit at a .303 clip.

 

The Gators and Wildcats fought through several early ties to begin the second set before Florida broke a 3-3 tie with three consecutive points to go up 6-3 on a service ace by Rivers. The Gators kept adding to their advantage after a Murphy kill and a block by senior middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) and Wiggs on consecutive plays to take a 9-5 edge heading into a Kentucky timeout.  The two squads began trading points until the Wildcats, down 14-8, ran off three points in a row capped off by an Armes service ace to bring them within three, 14-11.

 

Out of a Gator timeout, the Wildcats recorded back-to-back attack errors to extend Florida’s edge to five, 16-11. The squads then traded points before Kentucky scored two in a row to cut within three, 20-17. Rivers, Anderson and Murphy charted consecutive kills to push the Gators’ edge out to six, 23-17. With Florida in front 23-18, Rivers had a kill to bring UF to set point at 24-18. After the Wildcats staved off one attempt at set point, Jaeckel drilled a kill on the outside to give the Gators a 25-19 second-set victory. Florida limited Kentucky to a .097 attack percentage in the second set.

 

Florida broke to an early 5-2 advantage to begin the third set behind the strong serving of Brown. The Gators kept rolling to a 7-3 lead before the teams began trading points. With Florida up 9-6, the Gators ran off three points in a row, including back-to-back attack errors by Whitney Billings to extend their advantage to six, 12-6. Kentucky employed a 4-1 run to whittle its lead down to three, 13-10, before a kill by Wiggs on the right side ended the Gators’ scoring drought. Florida kept on pace to a 20-10 lead behind an impressive service run by Brown. The Gators had no trouble in closing out 25-13 third-set win. Florida hit an impressive .500, while limiting Kentucky to a -.065 hitting efficiency.

 

The Gators raced to a 3-1 advantage to begin the fourth set and kept rolling to a 7-2 advantage thanks to a solid service run by Fleming. The two squads traded points before Kentucky, trailing 12-6, ran off four consecutive points to cut within two, 12-10, and force Wise to burn a timeout. Out of the break, Murphy registered a kill to stop her team’s scoring drought, but the Wildcats kept rolling to knot the score at 13-all, capped off by a Blaire Hiler service ace. A Bledsoe kill and an attack error by Billings allowed Florida to regain the lead at 15-13. Jaeckel then followed with an ace to widen the Gators’ margin to three, 16-13, heading into a UK timeout. The teams again began exchanging points before the Gators used a block by Anderson and Murphy on the right side to go up by six, 21-15. Florida sided out to claim a 25-20 win on a UK service error that ended the match.

 

Kentucky (6-5, 0-1 SEC) was led by Armes’ career-high 16 kills on .312 hitting with nine digs and three service aces.

 

Florida returns to action on Sunday when it travels to Knoxville, Tenn., to take on No. 18 Tennessee. Opening serve in Thompson-Boling Arena is slated for 2 p.m. ET and the match will be carried live on CSS with Justin Cazana and Maria Taylor, and on ROCK 104 (103.7 FM in Gainesville) with Tom Collett.

 

For all of the latest information on Florida volleyball, log on to www.GatorZone.com/volleyball or, for up-to-the-minute updates, follow the team’s Twitter account @GatorZoneVB.

 

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