Wednesday October 20, 2010No. 1 Gators Sweep Tennessee in Primetime Showdown
Florida junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) recorded a team-high 12 kills on .346 hitting to lead the No. 1 Gators to a 3-0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-20) win against No. 21 Tennessee in a primetime showdown on Wednesday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The Gators (17-1, 10-0 Southeastern Conference) conclude the first half of the SEC race with a 10-0 record and improve their record against top-25 opponents to 9-1 this season. Florida, which has played one of the toughest schedules in the nation this season and is rated No. 1 in the latest NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), has posted nine wins against ranked opponents through its first 18 matches this campaign.
“I think tonight really lived up to it’s billing in terms of a really competitive match,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “Our fans got to see one of the premier players not only in the league, but also in the country. Nikki Fowler is a terrific talent and obviously gave us fits as she has for her entire career. When a player is that good and she starts from freshman year, by their senior year they are just so difficult to defend. Things kind of went our way tonight, especially at the end of the first and second set. In the third set, Tennessee was up but the consecutive blocks by Tangerine Wiggs really were the difference-maker and from that point on we got the separation.”
The Gators hit .318 on the match, marking the eighth time this season that Florida has hit better than .300 in a single match, while Tennessee hit .219 on the evening.
Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) charted nine kills and seven digs, while junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) added a match-high 15 digs, seven kills, 17 assists and a match-high two service aces for 9.5 total points.
“We knew that they were a fast offensive team, so our defense communication especially was going to be huge,” Murphy said. “We tried to touch as many balls as we could and get everything up and back to the other side of the net.”
Junior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) registered seven kills on a squad-best .455 hitting efficiency, while sophomore right-side Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) recorded six kills on 17 swings with no errors for a .353 hitting efficiency with four blocks. It marked Wiggs’ fourth errorless match of the season. Senior middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) added five kills and four blocks.
Freshman setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) dished out a match-high 19 assists.
The two teams battled evenly to open the first set until, tied at two all, the Gators broke out with three consecutive points thanks to a Jaeckel kill and a pair of Lady Vol ball-handling errors to take an early 5-2 lead. Tennessee battled back by firing off a 3-0 run of its own behind kills from Carly Sahagian and Leslie Cikra, to knot the score at six. A Tennessee service error and a Bledsoe ace quickly gave the Gators a two-point lead at 8-6.
The teams traded points until, at 14-12, a Jaeckel kill and a Murphy service ace stretched the Gators’ lead to four at 16-12. Tennessee kept fighting, running off three consecutive points, highlighted by a pair of Fowler kills and a block from Cikra and Harrison, to cut the Florida lead to one at 17-16. Despite the late push, the Lady Vols couldn’t overtake the Gators’ lead. Ahead 19-21, Murphy and Jaeckel knocked down two consecutive kills to widen the Florida advantage to four at 23-19. From there, the Gators easily closed out the first set 25-20 on a final Murphy kill.
The Lady Vols jumped out to a fast 3-1 lead behind kills from Nikki Fowler and Leah Hinkey to open the second set. The Gators fought back, using a Bledsoe kill and a block from Wiggs and Bledsoe to knot the score at five all. The teams battled evenly until, tied at 10, a Wiggs kill gave the Gators a one-point advantage, but a Fowler kill quickly locked the score again at 11-11.
The teams continued to trade points until, again tied at 17, Florida broke out with a 3-0 run, highlighted by a pair of Anderson kills and another from Murphy, to take a 20-17 lead. Tennessee then fired off three consecutive points of their own behind kills from Cikra and Fowler to once again tie the score at 21. The Gators came back with a Jaeckel kill and a Murphy ace to bring the score to 23-21. Battling until the very last point, Florida wrapped up the second set at 25-23 on a fierce Murphy kill.
To open the third set, Tennessee again raced to a 4-2 lead behind kills from Sahagian and Fowler. A Jaeckel kill cut the Lady Vols’ lead to one at 5-4, but Tennessee immediately responded, running off three consecutive points thanks to two blocks and a Hinkey kill to take a commanding 8-4 lead early in the third set. The Gators battled back, firing off five straight points, highlighted by three kills and a block from Bledsoe and Wiggs to re-take the lead at 9-8.
Two consecutive kills from Fowler and Jeter gave the Lady Vols a slim lead at 10-9, but the Gators went on another 5-0 tear behind a Rivers kill and a block from Wiggs and Anderson to take a strong four-point lead, bring the score to 14-10. Up 17-13, a Bledsoe kill and a pair of Lady Vol errors stretched the Florida advantage to seven at 20-13. The Lady Vols launched a comeback down 21-14, going on a 4-0 run behind kills from Kayla Jeter and DeeDee Harrison to cut the Gators’ lead to three at 21-18. The teams traded points until Florida closed out the hard fought third set and the match at 25-20 on a final Anderson kill.
Tennessee (15-5, 7-4 SEC) was led by Fowler’s 15 kills on .400 hitting with 10 digs for her 11th double-double of the season.
Florida returns to action on Sunday when it plays host to Kentucky. Opening serve in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is slated for 1:30 p.m. ET and the match will be carried live on WRUF-FM 103.7 with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore.
For all of the latest information on Florida volleyball, please log on to www.GatorZone.com/volleyball. Follow Florida Volleyball on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GatorZoneVB and Coach Mary Wise on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GatorMary.
FLORIDA HEAD COACH MARY WISE
On welcoming a top-25 team …
“I think it lived up to its billing in terms of a really competitive match. And our fans got to see one of the premier players not only in the league, but (also) in the country. Nikki Fowler is a terrific talent and obviously she gave us fits as she has for her entire career. We checked her hours and she swears she’s now finally a senior. When a player is that good and she starts from freshman year, by their senior year they are just so difficult to defend. Things kind of went our way, especially at the end of the first and second set. Third set, Tennessee’s up but the consecutive blocks by Tangerine Wiggs really was the difference-maker and from that point on we got the separation.”
On Tangerine Wiggs …
“What we’ve asked of Tangerine is she doesn’t have to lead us in kills, but she’s got to score points for us blocking. We wouldn’t expect her to get a solo against one of the best players in the country, but she was in on four blocks tonight. That’s four points, and four points was the difference in two of the three sets. She did a really nice job keeping balls in play, in terms of no errors on 17 swings.”
that time out, it was a block and a kill by Kristy and a kill by Kelly that made the difference out there.”
On O’Connell Center atmosphere …
“The O’Connell center has traditionally been kind of a tough place for people the first time here. Obviously it was a no-factor for her. It’s the same thing when our young players go on the road. It’s a learning curve. There’s a reason why ideally - whether its football, basketball, volleyball – ideally you would love not to have to start freshman. They can learn watching. Sometimes it is just trial by fire.”
On team’s 11 service errors …
“We are high-risk, high-reward serving team. And we got three aces against the team who leads the league with the fewest aced serves against them. We can live with 11 errors because we really did serve well today.”
On Tennessee’s game plan …
“Part of their game plan was to try to attack balls to our right back. In set three, a ball that had gone for a kill twice before, she (Kelly Murphy) dug and transitioned for a big-time point. A testament to Kelly’s talent is she doesn’t have to lead us in kills every night. But can she do the other things? She distributed the ball with 17 assists and 15 digs. When you have a setter whose leading you in digs you know they had to work hard that night.”
#12 Kelly Murphy, Jr., RS/S
On Tangerine Wiggs …
“I thought Tangerine played great. She was really consistent on the right side. I thought the thing that really changed the momentum in set three was her blocking. She had those two or three huge stuff blocks and I think that gave us a lot of momentum.”
On communication …
“We really worked a lot on being connected especially in the front row and back row. I think a lot of our success comes from the front row knowing what the back row is doing. I thought our communication tonight was really working well.”
On Tennessee’s defense …
“It’s definitely frustrating especially as a hitter. You think you’re hitting these really great shots and then they keep bringing the ball back. So I thought we did a really good job at being patient and not making too many unforced errors.”
#6 Kristy Jaeckel, Jr., OH
On a balanced offensive attack …
“I think that a really big part of our game plan tonight with our offense was to spread it out. A lot of people tend to can on Murph (Kelly Murphy) and that gives her a little more of a challenge but it also gives open looks for other people as well. We really try to capitalize on that. And sometimes people capitalize on other people and when they do that, that’s fine. We have such a balanced offense that we can just go to someone else to put the ball away.”
On Florida’s serve receive:
“We work on serve receive constantly. We have a completely different serve receive this year with Elyse gone. You have to get that chemistry going and really get the support of movement toward the ball with each other, so we’re always there and have each other’s backs. As the season goes on you can definitely see a progression with that. We’re letting less and less balls drop in the seam and making more confident moves. And with that comes the better offense and the better set options.”