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Sunday September 25, 2011Despite Stellar Defensive Efforts, No. 6 Gators Fall in Five to Lady Volunteers

Gainesville, Fla.

Despite an outstanding blocking performance, highlighted by a combined 15 stuffs by juniors Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) and Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.), the No. 6 Gators (9-3, 2-1 SEC) fell in five sets to Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee (11-2, 4-0 SEC) on Sunday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.


Florida outhit the Lady Volunteers, .295-.239, behind stellar hitting from its upperclassmen. Smith had a career-high nine kills for a match-high .438 hitting clip, and seniors Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.), Stephanie Ferrell (Los Angeles, Calif.), Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) and Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) combined for a .310 hitting efficiency, providing 75% of the Gator offense against the Lady Vols.


“I thought Tennessee played very well,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “As a matter of fact, they were the better team from the first point of the first set all the way through the match. But this is Women’s Volleyball 2011; this is what top 25 teams look like battling. A lot of credit to Tennessee for coming in here. The game plan was solid, and their young players played with a ton of poise.”


The Gators were impressive defensively throughout the match, as Florida finished with 14.0 total team blocks and saw four players register at least four blocks. In the back court, four Gators contributed double-digit dig totals, led by redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) with 18 digs against the Lady Vols. Jaeckel and Murphy notched 14 apiece while freshman defensive specialist Madison Monserez (Orlando, Fla.) had a career-high 11 digs in her first collegiate start in the O’Dome.


The momentum of the match was confirmed early in the first frame as the Lady Vols and Gators rallied for each point. The Gators took the first lead 2-1, but a Tennessee kill started a 3-0 run for the Vols pulling them ahead of the Orange and Blue, 4-2. Tennessee did not lose the lead, and the Gators were forced into a timeout after a UT 5-0 run that widened their lead to 9-4. Tennessee continued to look strong, jumping ahead 24-17. A Jaeckel blast through the Tennessee defense sparked the Gators on a 4-0 run, reducing the Vols lead to 24-21, but the Gators came up short, dropping the first set, 25-21. 


Tennessee carried its momentum into the second set, taking an initial 3-0 lead. A Tennessee service ace cost Florida their first timeout of the set at 8-3, but Jaeckel found the seam of a Vols block and sparked a 3-0 run, shrinking the Tennessee lead to three, 9-6. A Brown set to Murphy was the momentum changer of the frame, driving the Orange and Blue on a 7-0 run to take a 15-13 lead. The Vols were unable to regain the lead, and a Monserez service ace forced Tennessee into a timeout at 20-16.  The Gators had all the fans on their feet after a Jaeckel attack made it set-point, and Jaeckel’s service ace gave the Gators the 25-20 win.


Both teams were ready to battle coming out of intermission, rallying point-for-point. The Gators took a 3-1 lead, but the Vols fought back and tied the score at 3. The set was tied another six times until a Tennessee service error began a 3-0 run for the Gators, pulling them ahead of the Vols, 14-11. The Vols took advantage of a Florida service error and pulled ahead of the Orange and Blue, 15-14. The battle was in Tennessee’s favor as the Vols forced the Orange and Blue into a timeout at 22-19. The Vols continued to find the gaps in the Florida defense and won 25-21, going into the fourth set with a 2-1 advantage.


The Gators and Vols were prepared for the close fight entering the fourth stanza. A Smith-Murphy block gave the Gators their first two-point lead of the set, 5-3, but the Vols were not far behind and tied the set at 6. Neither team could take more than a two-point advantage over the other until a Murphy service ace pulled the Gators ahead, 20-17, swaying the momentum in Florida's favor. The Orange and Blue kept it going, and Smith attacked a Vols overpass to secure the win, 25-19, tying the match at 2-2 going into the final frame.


The final set was the same as the rest: a nail biter to the very end. The effort to play every ball was seen on both ends as each team made plays that kept the fans in awe. Once again, neither team could gain more than two points over the other until Murphy’s blast down the line gave the Gators an 11-8 advantage. The Vols battled their way back, and a service ace pulled Tennessee ahead, 12-11, costing Florida a timeout. The Vols got to match-point, up 14-11, but Murphy found the seam of a Vols block and sparked a 3-0 run to tie the set at 14. The two teams battled to 16 apiece before Tennessee closed out the marathon with an 18-16 victory.


“So now we’re all chasing Tennessee,” Wise said. “That’s a huge win for them. It’s hard to win this league if you don’t win at home, but there are a lot of matches left.”    


Florida will now look ahead towards its first full SEC weekend as the Gators travel to Auburn to take on the Tigers on Friday night 8 p.m. at Auburn Arena. Florida has the unique distinction of being a part of the first-ever volleyball match played in the Tigers’ new state of the art arena. The Gators will then face the Georgia Bulldogs on Sunday in Athens. Opening serve is set for 1:30 p.m. Both matches will be called live by Cory Stephens, with Friday’s match on Sportsradio 850 and Sunday’s contest featured on Country 103.7 The Gator.


Match Stat Leaders

-          Kills: Kristy Jaeckel (16)

-          Attacks: Kelly Murphy (35)

-          Hitting Percentage: Betsy Smith (.438)

-          Assists: Chanel Brown (29)

-          Aces: Four Gators (1)

-          Digs: Taylor Unroe (18)

-          Block Solo: Tangerine Wiggs/Kristy Jaeckel (1)

-          Block Assists: Betsy Smith (8)

-          Total Blocks: Betsy Smith (8)


Double Trouble

-          Kelly Murphy was the first Gator of the match to earn a double-double, notching her 67th career double-double in the fourth set with 21 assists and 14 digs

-          Kristy Jaeckel joined Murphy a few points later, recording her 21st career double-double with 16 kills and 14 digs

-          In the fifth set, Murphy made it a triple-double, the UF-record 26th of her career, adding 10 kills

-          This marks the second time this season that the pair has achieved this feat, as Murphy had a triple-double and Jaeckel a double-double at Stanford, also a 5-set loss


Individual Bests

-          Betsy Smith smashed a career-high nine kills, tying her career best in blocks with eight

-          Madison Monserez registered double-digit digs for the first time, with a career-best 11 in the match

-          Stephanie Ferrell set a new Florida career high with 14 kills, hitting .400 in the match

-          Chanel Brown set a season-best 29 assists, one shy of the team’s 2011 best


Gators in the Record Books

-          Kristy Jaeckel’s 16 kills in this evening’s match move her past Benavia Jenkins ’03 and into 14th with 1,069 career kills

-          Cassandra Anderson’s seven blocks this evening move her ahead of Martha Ryans ’88 and into sole possession of 10th place with 379 total career blocks

-          Kelly Murphy’s ace this evening gives her 110 in her career, moving her into a tie for 13th all-time with Lauren Moscovic ’04

-          Additionally, Murphy’s 13 points move her past Ashley Mullis (1993-95) and into 12th all-time with 1,345.5 career points


Gators on the Block

-          Tonight’s 24 team block assists is the most for the Gators all season

-          Tangerine Wiggs stuffed a season-best seven total blocks

-          Betsy Smith led the team with eight block assists, tying her career high and the team’s season high, which she set vs. Texas (9/9)

-          Smith’s eight BA is tied for second best in the SEC this season (as of 9/23)

-          Five Gators had a multi-block match, with two UF players stuffing at least seven


Spreading Around the Digs

-          Four Gators had double digit digs tonight: Taylor Unroe (18), Kelly Murphy (14), Kristy Jaeckel (14) and Madison Monserez (11)

-          Of those four, two had double-doubles, one of whom had a triple-double


Worth Noting

-          This is the second time this season (Texas) that the Gators have split the first two sets with their opponents

-          It is the first time that the Gators have lost the first set and won the second set

-          After opening the season with six straight 3-set victories, the Gators went to a fifth set tonight for the fourth time in their last six matches

-          Tonight’s loss ends the Gators’ 24-match SEC winning streak

-          Despite the loss, UF out-hit the Vols .295 to .239, and the .295 clip is Florida’s best efficiency in a 3-set match this season


Record Updates

-          The Gators are now 797-172 (.822) all-time

-          Mary Wise is 722-135 (.842) in her career and 641-72 (.899) at Florida

-          The Orange and Blue are 334-35 (.905) in SEC play, including 308-13 (.960) under Coach Wise

-          The Gators are now 42-10 (.808) all-time against the Vols and 38-5 (.884) under Coach Wise

-          UF is 390-56 (.874) at home

-          Florida is 633-70 (.900) while ranked and 691-90 (.885) vs. unranked opponents

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