Friday October 28, 2011No. 13 Gator Volleyball's Rally Falls Short in Four at No. 20 Tennessee
The No. 13 Florida volleyball team fell 3-1 (15-25, 25-17, 23-25, 21-25) at No. 20 Tennessee on Friday evening. The Gators drop to 17-4 on the season and 10-2 in conference play. The Lady Vols, playing in front of a home crowd of 2,012, take sole possession of first place in the SEC with a 12-1 conference record and are 19-3 overall. The loss snaps Florida’s eight match, 24 set win streak and the Gators are now tied with their next opponent, the Kentucky Wildcats, for second place in the SEC.
Florida was led by seniors Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) and Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.), who each contributed a double-double on the evening. Jaeckel led Florida with a match-high 15 kills to go along with 13 digs, while Murphy had 28 assists and led all Gators with 14 digs. Junior middle blocker Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) led Florida’s blocking effort with six blocks, while redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) registered a match-high two service aces on the night. Senior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell (Los Angeles, Calif.) had 11 kills against the Lady Vols, while sophomore setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) contributed 17 assists and eight digs.
Friday night was the first time the Gators had been outhit all season, as Tennessee outhit Florida, .175-.160.
Tennessee jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in the first set, forcing a Florida timeout. Florida was never able to find their footing in the first stanza, as the Lady Volunteers never allowed the Gators within more than four. Errors plagued Florida in the first set, as the Gators hit just .032 with eight kills and seven errors to go along with four service errors. Tennessee hit .345 in the first set, only committing two hitting errors to open the match. Jaeckel paced Florida in the first set, posting four kills in the opening frame. Tennessee continued to use their momentum behind the hitting of SEC points leader Kelsey Robinson and middle blocker DeeDee Harrison, who combined for seven kills as the Lady Vols took the opening set, 25-15.
The Gators and the Lady Vols battled in set two, with Tennessee taking a 7-3 lead and forcing a Florida timeout. The Gators used their serving ace Jaeckel to go on a 4-0 run and take the lead at 10-8. Back-to-back service aces by Unroe extended the Gator lead to 13-9. Florida’s setters were able to spread the ball around in the second stanza, as five Gator hitters registered kills in the second set. The Orange and Blue continued the race to 25, forcing another Tennessee timeout at 20-13 after a Jaeckel-Smith stuff block. The Gators used kills from right-side hitters Murphy and Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) to take the second stanza, 25-17.
The third set, a frame that featured 12 ties and seven lead changes, began with a kill down the line for Jaeckel and a Smith-Wiggs stuff block of Robinson. Neither team could shift the momentum their direction and the largest lead in the set was just two points. Florida was the first to call timeout, after a Harrison kill gave the Lady Vols a 14-12 advantage. A Jaeckel kill and Murphy-Smith block evened the score at 14-all. Back-to-back Wiggs kills forced Tennessee to take a timeout, as Florida led at 21-20. Senior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) hit a quick out of the middle to put the Gators ahead, 22-20, and the Lady Vols called their second timeout. Tennessee scored two straight to force a Florida timeout at 22-22 and the Lady Vols’ freshman setter Mary Pollmiller was a part of four of the next five plays to give Tennessee the set, 25-23.
Back row defense was the story of the fourth set, as Murphy posted six digs in the fourth set alone, and the Lady Vols combined for 20 digs in the fourth frame. The Gators jumped out to a 5-2 lead behind Murphy-Wiggs and Jaeckel-Smith stuff blocks. Tennessee began to utilize Tiffany Baker more frequently in the fourth, as she hit .400 in the fourth set, contributing five kills and five digs after her one hitting error of the set against Murphy and Wiggs. Tennessee’s Robinson went on a serving spree, putting the Lady Vols ahead, 14-10. In the middle of Robinson’s run, the Gators called timeout in an attempt to ice Robinson, but the sophomore outside hitter served 24 times on Friday evening, more than any other player on the floor. Florida called another timeout after Lady Vols libero Ellen Mullins served an ace at 16-11. The Gators attempted to make a run, pulling within two courtesy of a block by sophomore middle blocker Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) and Wiggs. Behind the serves of Mullins and Robinson, Tennessee was able to hang on to the lead and close the fourth set and the match, 25-21.
The Gators now prepare to face another ranked opponent in No. 24 Kentucky. Florida’s match against the Wildcats will air live on Sun Sports, courtesy of the Big Blue Network. Dave Baker and Kathy DeBoer will commentate on Sunday, while longtime Gator volleyball radio announcer Tom Collett will call the action on Sportsradio 850. First serve is set for 1:30 p.m. and Gator fans can also follow along on Twitter by following @GatorZoneVB.