Friday November 26, 2010No. 1 Gators Cap Perfect SEC Season
The No. 1 University of Florida volleyball team turned in its most balanced performance of the season, led by a team-high nine kills from senior outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.), to cap a perfect Southeastern Conference season with a 3-0 (25-14, 25-16, 25-12) win against South Carolina on Friday evening in the Volleyball Competition Facility.
The Gators (27-1, 20-0 SEC) became the first team in league history to record a perfect 20-0 record in SEC play, as the 20-match double round-robin format was instituted prior to the 2006 season. It marks the 12th perfect conference season in program history and the team’s first since 2003.
“This was a perfect ending to a perfect SEC season,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “To go through a double round-robin schedule undefeated is special, but to end the regular season with one of our most complete performances of the season is also a great way to enter the NCAA Tournament.”
Florida charted 15 total team blocks in the match, marking its second-most of the season next to 17.0 total team blocks at Auburn on Nov. 7, 2010. It marked the Gators’ most blocks in a three-set match since recording 16.5 rejections vs. St. John’s on Nov. 25, 2006. Florida out-blocked South Carolina 15.0-3.0 in the match.
The Gators hit at a sizzling .416 clip in the match, marking the team’s highest hitting efficiency since hitting .418 at Georgia on Nov. 5. Florida has hit better than .400 in four matches during the 2010 campaign. The Gators limited the Gamecocks to just a .081 hitting percentage, marking the eighth time this season that Florida has held its opponent under .100 hitting in a single match.
Rivers’ nine kills came on .368 hitting with six digs and two service aces for 11.5 total points. She was one of five Florida players who tallied five or more kills in Friday’s match. Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) totaled seven kills on 11 swings with no errors for a .636 hitting efficiency with 12 assists and four digs to complement four service aces and a season-high-tying five blocks. It marked Murphy’s third errorless match this season and went down as her eighth match of the season hitting .500 or better.
Junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) registered seven kills on .500 hitting with a match-high10 digs and four blocks, while senior middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) added eight kills on .538 hitting with four blocks for 10.0 total points. Junior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) recorded five kills on .500 hitting with an impressive nine blocks.
Sophomore right-side Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) posted four blocks, while freshman setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) dished out a team-high 17 assists to go with seven digs. Senior libero Erin Fleming (Orlando, Fla.) added seven digs.
The two teams battled evenly to begin the first set before the Gators broke a 5-5 tie with a 3-0 run that was highlighted by a block by Bledsoe and Jaeckel on the outside that gave Florida an early 8-5 advantage. Out of a South Carolina timeout, the Gators used a 4-1 run to go up 12-6, capped off by a kill and a block solo by Jaeckel on back-to-back plays. Florida kept rolling and, two kills by Rivers on three plays put the Gators ahead 18-9. A kill by Anderson and a service ace from Rivers sparked a 3-0 scoring spree that gave Florida a 21-10 advantage.
Trailing 22-11, South Carolina used a kill and an ace by freshman Juliette Thevenin on back-to-back plays to cut within nine, 22-13. A put-down by sophomore middle blocker Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) coupled with a Murphy ace brought the Gators to set point at 24-13. A service error by the Gamecocks closed out the 25-14 victory for Florida. The Gators limited South Carolina to just a .045 hitting efficiency in the opening frame.
The Gamecocks scored the first two points of the second set before Rivers and Jaeckel answered with consecutive kills to knot the score at 2-2. After two more ties, an attack error by Thevenin and a block by Anderson and Murphy on the right side gave the Gators a 7-5 advantage and forced a South Carolina timeout. Out of the break, a block by Anderson and Jaeckel jumpstarted a 5-1 Florida run that was capped off by an Anderson ace that put Florida in front 12-6 and forced South Carolina head coach Ben Somera to burn another timeout.
Out of the break, Murphy had two kills and an ace in a 3-1 run that widened Florida’s margin to seven, 15-7. The two teams then began trading points before the Gators, leading 17-10, scored three in a row, including an Anderson kill to double the score at 20-10. Florida kept rolling to a 23-11 advantage thanks to back-to-back blocks. From there, the Gamecocks ran off five of the next six points to cut within eight, 24-16 on an attack error by junior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell (Los Angeles, Calif.). Ferrell redeemed herself with the set-winning kill to give the Gators the 25-16 second-set victory.
Florida raced out to a 4-1 advantage in the third set, capped off by back-to-back kills by Rivers. After a pair of South Carolina points brought the Gamecocks within one, 4-3, the Gators used three consecutive kills to take a 7-3 advantage heading into a South Carolina timeout. Florida ran off two more in a row after an ace from Rivers and a block by Anderson and Murphy to go up 9-3. The Gamecocks struggled to find their rhythm and an ace from Murphy gave the Gators a 13-5 edge. Florida kept building to a 17-7 advantage and never looked back en route to the deciding 25-12 win.
The NCAA Division I women’s volleyball selection show takes place at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday and will be aired live on ESPNews. As a result of winning the 2010 SEC regular-season title, the Gators have already earned the SEC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, marking the team’s 20th consecutive appearance and 21st appearance overall.
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