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Friday September 23, 2011No. 6 Gators Use Balanced Attack and Stellar Hitting to Overtake Kentucky, 3-1

Gainesville, Fla.

With every starting attacker hitting at least .278 or better, the No. 6 Florida volleyball team used one of the best team offensive performances in recent history to defeat the Kentucky Wildcats, 3-1 (25-12, 25-19, 23-25, 25-18), on Friday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

 

In Set 1, we were very low error,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “We played as well in set 1 as we’ve played all year (and we) benefitted from some of the service errors and hitting errors on Kentucky’s end.”

 

Led by the senior tandem of outside hitters Stephanie Ferrell (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.), Florida hit .417 as a team against the Wildcats, their best hitting efficiency in a four-set match in over a decade. The Gators also hit .560 in the first set, their highest hitting percentage in a set this season. Ferrell had 11 kills, hitting at a .588 clip, while Jaeckel notched a match-high 15 kills. Junior middle blocker Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) had a match-high .750 hitting percentage, registering six kills on eight swings with no errors, while AVCA National Player of the Week Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) hit .529 with nine kills and no errors to go along with 19 assists, five digs and three service aces.

 

“Stephanie Ferrell was terrific,” Wise said. “One of the best matches she’s had. Her passing stats are elite right now. She’s in a real zone for passing and her blocking has improved.”

 

On the defensive end, redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) had 11 digs and three service aces and freshman defensive specialist Madison Monserez (Orlando, Fla.) registered a career-high nine digs against the Wildcats. Senior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) led Florida’s blocking effort with three blocks on the night.

 

The better we control the ball, the more options we give our hitters because the less double blocks they’ll see, the more one-on-one’s they see, the bigger the seams are,” Jaeckel said. “So, we did a good job controlling the ball tonight, starting with Taylor in the back making digs. That really helps out the hitters to make a more confident hit around the block.”

 

The Gators took a 2-0 lead over the Wildcats to start the first frame. Kentucky rallied, but a solo block from Anderson sparked a 4-0 run that included a Monserez service ace, giving the Gators a 7-3 advantage. A Smith bullet through the center of the Kentucky defense forced the Wildcats into a timeout at 10-5. A Jaeckel blast into the UK defense drove the Gators on another 4-0 run with Brown behind the service line to bring the Gators to set point. Smith then finished off the frame with a quick dish from Brown in the middle, giving the Gators a 25-12 first set win.

 

The Wildcats entered the second stanza ready to battle, but Anderson found a gap in the Kentucky defense and gave the Orange and Blue their first two-point lead, 5-3. Kentucky and Florida rallied back-and-forth, until a Wildcat service error drove the Gators on a 6-0 run, giving Florida a 17-12 lead. The Wildcats battled back, forcing the Gators into a timeout at 19-17. Brown set up Jaeckel for a swing through the seam of the block that put the Gators one point away from the set win, and Jaeckel came through for the final point heading into intermission, acing the Wildcats, 25-19.

 

The third set was a nail biter, as the teams traded points out of intermission, with the Gators taking as much as a 10-6 lead. Kentucky battled back to tie the score at 13-13, forcing Florida into a timeout. The Wildcats went on a quick 4-2 run to break away from the Gators at 19-15.  Florida fought back, costing Kentucky a timeout at 24-23. The Gators were unable to return the Wildcats’ Becky Pavan attack forcing a fourth set, 25-23.

 

The Gators took an early 3-0 lead over the Wildcats to start the fourth frame. An Unroe service ace gave the Orange and Blue their first five-point lead of the set, 8-3, but the Wildcats battled back with a 3-0 run to lessen the gap to 8-6. The teams rallied, but a solo block from Ferrell gave the Gators a 16-12 lead, and a service ace by Murphy widened the gap at 19-14. Florida did not lose momentum, and Jaeckel ended the match with a final blast through the seam of the block, 25-18.

 

Florida now prepares for its first match on the national stage as the Gators take on the Tennessee Lady Volunteers on Sunday, broadcasting live from the O’Connell Center on ESPNU. Opening serve is set for just after 5 p.m. EST and Sam Gore and former Georgia Bulldog and three-time All-SEC outside hitter Maria Taylor are on the call, with longtime radio analyst Tom Collett and former Gator All-SEC setter Missy Whittemore broadcasting live on Sportsradio 850.

 

It’s a match on Sunday that everyone will have to bring their A-game,” Wise said. “To have any chance of winning in this league, you have to win the ones at home. And these aren’t going to be easy this weekend. That was proven tonight.”

 

Match Stat Leaders

-          Kills: Kristy Jaeckel (15)

-          Attacks: Kristy Jaeckel (31)

-          Hitting Percentage: Betsy Smith (.750)

-          Assists: Chanel Brown (21)

-          Aces: Kelly Murphy/Taylor Unroe (3)

-          Digs: Taylor Unroe (11)

-          Block Solo: Cassandra Anderson (2)

-          Block Assists: Four Gators (1)

-          Total Blocks: Cassandra Anderson (3)

 

Individual Career Highs

-          Madison Monserez recorded a career-best nine digs in the match, while earning her first career service ace.

-          Taylor Unroe tied her career high with five assists. She first hit that mark on Sept. 5 vs. No. 19 Iowa State.

-          Stephanie Ferrell’s .588 attack percentage is her career best at Florida.

 

Gators in the Record Books

-          Kristy Jaeckel moved up in the record books in three categories tonight:

o    Her 15 kills mover her pas Gudula Staub (1991-92) and into 15th all-time with 1,053 career kills. She is just one kill shy of Benavia Jenkins ’03 in 14th.

o    She launched 31 attacks tonight, increasing her career total to 2,755, passing Ashley Mullis (1993-95) and moving into the top 10 all-time at UF.

o    She logged 17.0 points in the match, moving past Heather Wright ’00 and Jenni Patterson ’89 and into 16th all-time with 1,237.5.

-          Cassandra Anderson stuffed three blocks this evening, moving her into the top 10, tying Martha Ryans ’88 with 372 career total blocks.

 

Career Milestones

-          Kelly Murphy notched her 1,100th kill and her 2,200th assist in tonight’s match.

o    She now has 1,106 career kills and 2,202 career assists

 

Error-Free

-          As a team, the Gators had 53 kills and just 10 errors for a .417 hitting percentage.

-          More importantly, the Orange and Blue served up nine aces while having just five errors.

 

UF vs. Kentucky

-          The Gators earned their 44th win over the Wildcats in program history, as their all-time series record is now 44-9, and they are 42-2 under Coach Wise.

-          Cassandra Anderson, Kristy Jaeckel and Kelly Murphy, who have all faced the Wildcats several times in their careers, each beat their career average hitting percentages vs. Kentucky. Additionally, Anderson and Jaeckel both eclipsed their career averages for kills.

 

Record Update

-          The Gators are now 797-171 (.823) all-time

-          Mary Wise is 722-134 (.843) in her career and 641-71 (.900) at Florida

-          The Orange and Blue are 334-34 (.908) in SEC play, including 308-12 (.963) under Coach Wise

-          UF is 390-55 (.876) at home

-          Florida is 633-69 (.902) while ranked and 691-89 (.886) vs. unranked opponents

 

 

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