Thursday December 2, 2010Top-Seeded Florida Volleyball Opens NCAA Play on Friday
The top-seeded and No. 1-ranked University of Florida volleyball team opens play in the 2010 NCAA Tournament on Friday, when it plays host to South Carolina State. Opening serve in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET and the match will be carried live on WRUF Sports Radio 850 with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore. Live video of the match will be available through NCAA.com.
Florida (27-1, 20-0 Southeastern Conference) the 2010 SEC Champion, is coming off one of its finest regular seasons in program history. The Gators, who have held the No. 1 ranking in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll for a school-record eight consecutive weeks, on Friday became the first team in league history to post a 20-0 SEC record as the conference instituted a 20-match double-round robin format prior to the start of the 2006 season. It marked the 12th perfect SEC season in program history and the Gators’ first since 2003.
Florida State and Georgia Southern will square off in the first match of the day at 5 p.m. ET Friday. The second-round contest will be played Saturday at 7:30 p.m. This marks the 19th time in the last 20 years that the Gators have played host to opening-round contests. The four participating teams are vying for a berth in the Austin, Texas, regional, which will take place Dec. 10-11 at Gregory Gymnasium.
“Our team understands that we are 0-0 because that is what everybody is in the NCAA Tournament,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “We’re happy that we have a chance once again to play in the O’Connell Center and we hope that we will have great crowds all weekend. This is one more chance for our fans to see this team at home.”
Florida, which has been rated No. 1 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) for the entire season, has extended its nation-leading streak of consecutive 25-win seasons to 20. The Gators, who have played perhaps the nation’s toughest schedule, boast a record of 10-1 against top-25 opponents this year.
Florida is led offensively by 2010 SEC Player of the Year Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.), who is the only player to rank among the SEC’s top-10 individually (all matches combined) in hitting percentage, service aces per set and kills per set simultaneously. Murphy leads the SEC with 0.39 service aces per set, while ranking fourth in hitting efficiency with a .370 clip and ninth in kills per set with 3.05.
Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) and junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.), both All-SEC selections, follow with 2.58 and 2.49 kills per set, respectively. Rivers is second on the team with 2.26 digs per set and ranks third in the SEC with 0.31 service aces per set, while Jaeckel is 10th in the league with 0.26 aces per set.
Senior libero Erin Fleming (Orlando, Fla.) ranks eighth in the SEC with 3.59 digs per set, while freshman setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) dishes out a squad-best 5.63 assists per set.
Three Gators average better than 0.95 blocks per set, led by junior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.), who leads the SEC with 1.24 blocks per set. Senior middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) is fifth in the SEC with 1.09 blocks per set and also ranks third in the league with a .395 hitting efficiency. Sophomore right-side Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) chips in 0.97 blocks per set.
South Carolina State, which won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, is making the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. The Lady Bulldogs hold a record of 17-22 overall and finished with a 6-2 tally in MEAC play. South Carolina State captured the MEAC Tournament on Nov. 21 with a four-set win against Delaware State to earn the league’s NCAA automatic bid. After struggling to begin the season, the Lady Bulldogs have won nine of their last 11 matches.
South Carolina State was the MEAC’s leading blocking team (all matches combined), averaging 1.88 blocks per set. The Lady Bulldogs are led offensively by senior outside hitter Jarne Gleaton, who leads the MEAC with 3.46 kills per set and also adds 1.97 digs per set. Sophomore middle blocker Shabree Roberson and freshman middle blocker Desire Waller follow with 2.37 and 2.28 kills per set, respectively.
Junior setter Bria Brimmer leads the MEAC with 9.23 assists per set, while also ranking first on the team and eighth in the MEAC with 0.30 service aces per set. Sophomore libero Melissa Robinson is sixth in the MEAC in digs per set with 3.12, while Roberson is the team’s leading blocker with 0.94 rejections per set.
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FLORIDA’S NCAA TOURNAMENT NOTES
· Florida has earned the program’s first-ever No. 1 seed to the NCAA Tournament.
· The Gators are 51-20 (.718) all-time in the NCAA Championship, including a 50-19 (.725) mark under the direction of head coach Mary Wise.
· Including the 2010 season, UF has made 20 consecutive and 21 overall NCAA Championship appearances (1987, 1991-2010).
· The Gators have advanced to regional action in 18 of Wise’s previous 19 season and have reached the national semifinal seven times in the last 19 years, the last coming in the 2003 season when Florida finished as the NCAA runner-up.
· Florida players have earned 35 NCAA All-Region Team honors, including five MVP selections. Elyse Cusack was named All-Gainesville Region in 2009.
· The Gators will be hosting NCAA First and Second Round action for the 19th time in the last 20 years.