Thursday December 9, 2010No. 1 Gators Meet Purdue in NCAA Regional Semifinal
The No. 1 University of Florida volleyball team opens play in its 19th NCAA Regional Semifinal in the last 20 years when the Gators face Big Ten Conference member Purdue on Friday in Austin, Texas. Opening serve in Gregory Gymnasium is slated for 6 p.m. ET. The match will be carried live on Sun Sports with Larry Vettel and Missy Whittemore and on WRUF Sports Radio 850 with Tom Collett.
The Gators (29-1) are riding a 24-match winning streak and are the tournament’s No. 1 seed for the first time in program history. Florida has been ranked No. 1 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Poll for a school-record eight consecutive weeks and has boasted the nation’s top Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) the entire season.
Florida advanced to the NCAA regional semifinals with a 3-0 victory against South Carolina State in the NCAA First Round and a thrilling come-from-behind five-set win against intra-state rival Florida State in the NCAA Second Round. The Gators are making their 21st all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament and hold a 53-20 mark all-time in NCAA play.
“When you play any team that’s coming out of the Big Ten, you’re playing a team that’s battle-tested,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “This Purdue team, in particular, is big and physical in the back row and they are jet-fast and great ball-handlers in the back row. For us to be successful tomorrow night, we are going to have to play our best match of the year.”
Florida is 3-2 all-time in program history against Purdue (23-10), though the two squads have not faced one another since Sept. 2, 1995. The Boilermakers are making their fourth trip to the NCAA Regional Semifinals in the last six years and advanced to this year’s NCAA Round of 16 with wins against Bluegrass State opponents Kentucky and Louisville.
“Purdue plays some hard-nosed defense and they’re a big, physical blocking team, so we’ve really been working on our defensive game,” said junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel. “We’re excited to be in Austin and play some teams we haven’t played before.”
As a team, the Gators rank eighth in the nation in hitting percentage with a .294 clip, while also ranking in the top-20 nationally in blocks per set (10th – 2.84 bps) and are 23rd in the nation in service aces per set with 1.62.
Offensively, Florida is led by junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.), who is the only player who ranks in the Southeastern Conference’s top-10 in hitting percentage, kills per set and service aces per set. Murphy averages 3.07 kills per set on .376 hitting with a league-leading 0.38 aces per set. Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) and Jaeckel follow with 2.52 and 2.51 kills per set, respectively.
Junior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) leads the SEC and ranks 29th in the nation with 1.28 blocks per set, highlighted by a career-high 12 blocks last Saturday vs. Florida State. Senior middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) follows with 1.07 blocks per set, while sophomore right-side Tangerine Wiggs adds 0.98 blocks per set.
Freshman setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) dishes out a squad-best 5.64 assists per set, while senior libero Erin Fleming (Orlando, Fla.) adds 3.56 digs per set.
Purdue is making its 13th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history and its fifth all-time appearance in the NCAA Regional Semifinals. The Boilermakers, like the Gators, are battle-tested, having played 11 teams that made this year’s NCAA field and 10 of their matches this season were against ranked opponents.
Senior setter Jaclyn Hart ranks sixth in the Big Ten Conference with 10.63 assists per set, ranking second all-time in program history with 4,869 career assists. Sophomore outside hitter Ariel Turner leads the Boilermakers offensively, averaging 3.51 kills per set and having posted double-figure kills on 26 occasions during the 2010 campaign. Senior middle blocker Kristen Arthurs leads her team in blocks per set with 1.04 and has been her squad’s leading blocker in 14 matches this season.
Complete results and a recap of Friday’s match will be available at GatorZone.com.
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