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Friday December 10, 2010No. 1 Volleyball Ends Stellar Season

Austin, TX

One of the finest seasons in University of Florida volleyball history came to a close on Friday night in Austin, Texas, as the top-seeded Gators dropped a 3-0 (26-28, 15-25, 19-25) decision to 16th-seeded Purdue in the NCAA Regional Semifinals at Gregory Gymnasium.


The Gators (29-2) put together a remarkable season of firsts that included the program’s 20th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, 19th Southeastern Conference title, but the first in an undefeated 20-match double round-robin format, and a No. 1 ranking for eight consecutive weeks to end the season, along with the team’s first-ever No. 1 seed. The Gators, who on Saturday had their 24-match winning streak snapped, charted 10 wins against a grueling schedule that included 12 ranked opponents over the course of the year.


Purdue (24-10), which hit .327 in the match – the highest against a UF opponent this season, advances to the NCAA Regional Final to face the winner of the Illinois vs. Texas Regional Semifinal, which was not concluded at press time. That match will take place at 9 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU.


The Gators hit .122 in the match and out-blocked the Boilermakers 8.0-7.0, marking the 25th time in 31 matches this season that Florida has won the blocking battle. Purdue turned in a strong back-row effort that featured 61 digs to Florida’s 37.


“I thought the difference in the match was Purdue’s defense,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “It was really unfortunate that we weren’t able to put away set one. It was a major deflation and we never really rebounded, but Purdue never gave us a chance either. The tough thing is, that for all this team accomplished and what a great season it was, it just puts a bad taste in our mouths. At some point we will be able to reflect on what a great season it was.”


Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) finished with a team-high nine kills to complement eight digs for 10.0 total points. The Florida senior class of Rivers, Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) and Erin Fleming (Orlando, Fla.) concluded their collegiate careers with a combined record of 110-15 (.880) with three Southeastern Conference titles and four NCAA regional semifinal appearances.  


“This was really frustrating because this is the most fun I’ve ever had playing volleyball with my team,” Rivers said. “It really puts a sour taste in your mouth to end such a great season with great players, great teammates and great coaches like this.”


Junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) added eight kills with two service aces, five digs and two block solos for a team-high 12.0 total points, while junior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) totaled six kills on .234 hitting with a team-high three blocks.


Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) totaled five kills on .294 hitting with 16 assists, four digs and three service aces.


Fleming charted a team-high 16 digs, while freshman setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) dished out 12 assists.


The two teams battled evenly to open the first set before Florida broke a 5-5 tie with three consecutive points, as the run was capped off by a block from Bledsoe and Murphy that put the Gators ahead 8-5. With Florida in front 9-6 after a Jaeckel kill, Purdue ran off two consecutive points to cut within one, 9-8. A Boilermaker attack error stopped their scoring spree and Jaeckel followed with an ace to extend Florida’s lead back to three at 11-8. With the Gators leading 12-11 after back-to-back Purdue kills, Rivers registered a put-down and followed with a resounding block solo to give her team a 14-11 edge. From there, the Boilermakers ran off three points in a row to knot the score at 14. Rivers notched a kill followed by a Purdue ball-handling error and then Jaeckel charted a block solo to put the Gators in front 17-14 and force the Boilermakers to call a timeout.


The two teams then began trading points until back-to-back Purdue kills allowed the Boilermakers to tie the score at 19-all, forcing Wise to burn a timeout. Out of the break, a block by Bledsoe and Jaeckel, and a kill by Jaeckel gave Florida a 21-19 edge. The Gators kept rolling to a 23-20 advantage after back-to-back kills by Rivers and Jaeckel. A Wiggs block brought Florida to set point at 24-20, before the Boilermakers staved off three consecutive attempts at set point due to Gator errors. Out of a Florida timeout, Purdue’s Ariel Turner charted a kill to tie the score at 24-all. Following two more ties, the Boilermakers got back-to-back kills to win the opening set 28-26.


Purdue stormed out to an early 7-0 advantage to begin the second set before an Anderson kill stopped Florida’s scoring slide. From there, the Boilermakers kept rolling to a 10-1 lead in a run that was capped off by a Cinthya Roberto (Brasilia, Brazil) attack error. Purdue widened its edge to 10, 13-3, before the Gators got two consecutive points thanks to a Boilermaker service error and a Murphy ace on back-to-back plays to cut within eight, 13-5.


The 4-1 run ended with an ace by Jaeckel that brought Florida to as close as seven, 14-7. Purdue kept on its tear, widening its edge to 11, 21-10, before a Jaeckel kill and an Anderson ace brought the Gators back to within nine, 21-12. Florida began to find its rhythm, getting as close as 22-15 after a Rivers kill and a Murphy ace on back-to-back plays. Purdue, however, had no trouble closing out the 25-15 second-set victory.


The Gators and Boilermakers battled closely in the early going of the third set before back-to-back Turner kills sparked a 5-0 Purdue run that put it ahead 7-3. Three consecutive Purdue kills and a Rivers attack error extended the Boilermakers’ lead to seven, 12-5 heading into a Florida timeout. The Gators were never able to find a groove, falling behind 20-12 after a Jaclyn Hart kill. Florida got as close as five points, 24-19, late in the match, but a Tiffany Fisher kill capped off the 25-19 Purdue victory.


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