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Sunday October 24, 2010No. 1 Gators Battle Past Kentucky

Gainesville, Fla.

Junior Florida right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) charted a double-double with a match-high 12 kills on .526 hitting and 16 assists to help direct the No. 1 Gators to their 13th consecutive victory, a 3-0 (25-21, 28-26, 25-13) decision against Kentucky on Sunday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.


The Gators (18-1, 11-0 Southeastern Conference) hit .346 for the match, marking Florida’s ninth match this season hitting at better than a .300 efficiency. It concluded a highly efficient week for the Gators, who hit .330 combined in their last two matches. UF limited Kentucky to a .207 hitting efficiency, while the Gators out-blocked the Wildcats 6.0-5.0.


Murphy was the only player in the match to reach double-figure kills with her match-high 12. She finished with 14.0 total points in the match and hit better than .500 for the fifth time this season.


“I thought Kentucky came in here, played really loose and played hard,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “There were some good rallies early on. I don’t know that the first two sets were necessarily great volleyball execution and we didn’t see that until the third set. It was kind of like which team was going to make the fewer number of errors, but that’s rally scoring. Unforced errors are magnified because of rally scoring and I have to give credit to Kentucky, up until the third set, they were toe-to-toe with us.”


Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) followed with eight kills on .375 hitting to complement six digs, while senior middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) added six kills on .400 hitting with three blocks.


Florida, which recorded just one block through the first two sets of the match, got into a groove in the third set, charting five blocks in the final frame alone and hitting an impressive .611 in that set.


“In the first two sets, we were missing plays that we should have made,” Rivers said. “Kentucky obviously played really, really well, but there were also things that we thought that we could correct. In the third set, we really tried to think about what we’d worked on the past three days in practice and implement those things.”


Sophomore right-side Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) had five kills on .364 hitting with three blocks, while junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) also chipped in five kills.


Senior libero Erin Fleming (Orlando, Fla.) led the back-row effort with a match-high 12 digs, while freshman setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) dished out a team-high 18 assists and posted a match-high two service aces.


The two teams battled evenly to open the first set until, with Kentucky leading by one at 6-5, the Wildcats knocked down two consecutive kills from Gretchen Giesler and Witney Billings to go ahead 8-5. Behind 10-7, the Gators broke out with a five-point run, highlighted by a resounding Murphy kill, to retake the lead at 12-10. Kentucky ran off two consecutive kills from Becky Pavan and Giesler to knot the score again at 12 all. The teams traded points until, with the score locked 13, Florida went on another 6-0 tear behind kills from Jaeckel, Murphy and Bledsoe to take a commanding 19-13 lead. The Wildcats cut the Florida lead to two at 23-21 thanks to kills from Pavan and Blaire Hiler, but the Gators were able to wrap up the set at 25-21 on a service ace by Brown.


The Gators jumped out to a fast 3-1 lead behind a Rivers service ace to open the second set. Kentucky rallied from one point down at 5-4 to take a two point lead at 7-5 thanks to a Lauren Rapp kill and a pair of Hiler aces. The Gators then battled back to knot the score at seven all on a Jaeckel kill. The teams traded points until, tied at 10, an Ann Armes kill and a Florida error gave the Wildcats a two-point lead at 12-10, but a quick Rivers kill and a Wildcat error leveled the score again at 12 all.


Locked at 13 all, the Gators ran off two straight points behind a Jaeckel kill and another Kentucky error to take a 15-13 lead. Tied again at 18, an Armes block gave the Wildcats a one-point advantage at 19-18, but a Wiggs kill quickly knotted the score at 19 all. The teams remained deadlocked in a tie until a pair of Murphy kills gave Florida a slim two-point lead at 23-21, but the advantage didn’t last long. The Wildcats came back with a kill from Giesler and a Christine Hartmann block to bring the score to 23-23. The two teams fought their way to three more ties until a Wiggs kills at 26 all gave the Gators their fourth set point at 27-26, and Florida put away the hard-fought second set at 28-26.


Florida opened the third set on a 3-0 run behind an Anderson kill and a block from Murphy and Anderson. A pair of Murphy kills helped to stretch the Florida lead to five at 7-2. The Wildcats cut the Florida lead to three at 11-8 on a Gator attack error, but Florida broke out with a 6-0 run, highlighted by a Jaeckel block and a Murphy kill, to widen the advantage to nine points at 18-9. From there, the Gators were dominant, racking up points on two kills from junior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell (Los Angeles, Calif.) and consecutive blocks from Bledsoe and Wiggs to run away with the third set. The Gators closed out the final set and the match at 25-13 on a Bledsoe kill.


Kentucky (11-11, 5-7 SEC) was led by seven kills apiece from Giesler and Rapp, both of whom hit better than .350 in the match.


Florida returns to action on Wednesday when it plays host to South Carolina. Opening serve in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is slated for 7 p.m. ET. The match will be aired live on ESPNU as part of a “Campus Connection” and will also air on WRUF Sports Radio 850 with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore.


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