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Thursday December 9, 2010Postcards From Austin: Thursday's Open Practice

Austin, TX

The No. 1 University of Florida volleyball team put the finishing touches on its preparation for Friday’s NCAA Regional Semifinal match with 16th-seeded Purdue by participating in an open practice at Gregory Gymnasium on the campus of the University of Texas.

Florida (29-1), which has won 24 consecutive matches, acclimated itself to the historic 4,000-seat facility with a 90-minute practice on Thursday afternoon, which was preceded by the NCAA Regional Pre-Tournament Press Conference.

According to Florida head coach Mary Wise, Thursday’s practice served several purposes in preparing her team for its upcoming contest.

“It was a typical practice prior to a match,” Wise said. “We worked not only on us, but also in preparing for Purdue. We fine-tuned some things in our players to get used to the venue and also worked on some things that we hope will help us tomorrow night.”

Purdue is one of six Big Ten teams still active in the NCAA Tournament, including Illinois, which also is at the NCAA Austin Regional. While Wise acknowledges the strength of the Big Ten, she says that Florida’s tough pre-conference schedule coupled with the parity in college volleyball during the 2010 season have prepared the Gators well for Friday night’s match-up.

“What you are talking about is parity,” Wise said. “That’s what we have seen in women’s volleyball from the opening weekend of the season to the end of the regular season.”

The Gators and Boilermakers meet at 6 p.m. ET Friday with the match carried live on Sun Sports and WRUF Sports Radio 850 in Gainesville.

Purdue, which practiced prior to Florida’s session on the court this afternoon, feels that the strength of the Big Ten this season has prepared the Boilermakers for Friday’s match.

“Florida is a great team with outstanding talent,” Purdue head coach Dave Shondell said. “We are used to playing high-caliber teams every night. The key to beating Florida is for our team to go out and play the way we have been playing.”

Wise notes that the key to the match for the Gators is to contend well with Purdue’s physicality and to play great defense.

“We know that we have a huge challenge tomorrow because of their strengths of being a big, physical team in the front row and an elite ball-handling team in the back row,” Wise said. “For us to be successful tomorrow night, we are going to have to play our best match of the year.”

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