Sunday November 13, 2011No. 19 Florida Volleyball Fights Back in Fayetteville, Rallies to Win in Five
The No. 19 Florida volleyball team completed an epic comeback, rallying from two sets down to defeat SEC West leader Arkansas, 3-2 (18-25, 30-32, 25-21, 26-24, 15-9), on Sunday afternoon. The comeback marked the first time since September 6, 2008 (W, 3-2 vs. Long Beach State) that Florida rallied from an 0-2 deficit to defeat an opponent.
The Gators were led by sophomore middle blocker Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) who, coming off a history-making performance on the road at LSU on Friday evening, wrote a new record in the Florida history book with a career-high 19 kills and a match-high five blocks for 21.5 points, the most for a Gator middle blocker since moving to 25 point sets and a new career best. Mann finished the weekend with 37 total kills, hitting .589 overall.
Senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) also had 19 kills on the afternoon to go along with 10 digs for her eighth double-double of the season. The Colorado native added two aces and two blocks against the Razorbacks, registering a team-high 22.5 points total. Senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) posted a double-double of her own, recording 15 kills and 32 assists to go along with seven digs and three blocks.
The Gator back court was paced by redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.), who registered 12 digs on the afternoon, and freshman defensive specialist Holly Pole (Ocala, Fla.), who posted a career-high nine digs in the match. Senior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) came in big off the bench for the Gators, hitting .500 and serving a match-high three aces.
The setters were key cogs in the Gator comeback, as sophomore setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) continually made smart distribution decisions and ended up with a career-high 36 assists, narrowly missing a double-double with nine digs. In all, Florida’s setters combined for 70 dishes, a season high.
The teams kept it tight in the beginning, knotting the score five times throughout the start of the set. The Razorbacks began to pull away behind strings of unforced Gator errors, with Arkansas setter Raymariely Santos spreading the ball around to all of the Razorbacks’ weapons. Arkansas hit a whopping .467 and held the Gators to a .133 hitting clip, as five Razorbacks registered at least two kills in the opening stanza. Arkansas served aggressively throughout the match and though they didn’t register any aces in the first set, the flat-footed serve of Kasey Heckelman kept Florida unable to run its offense, as the Razorbacks took the first set, 25-18.
Arkansas opened the set on a 2-0 run but a Jaeckel kill out of system put Florida on the board. The teams continued to battle and Florida rallied behind Jaeckel’s serve, taking as much as a 7-5 lead. Heckelman’s serve proved to be dangerous once again, as Arkansas scored four straight to take an 11-8 lead and force a Gator timeout. The Razorbacks continued to swing away any time the Gators pulled within their advantage, with Norton registering 11 kills in the second stanza alone. The float serves of Anderson and Brown allowed Florida to make a move, pushing the Gators on an 8-1 run to take a 20-16 lead. Mann posted four kills and two blocks in the run, as the Orange and Blue looked to be closing the set. Norton and Stipanovich put the Razorbacks on their backs and carried them throughout the rest of the set, as the Arkansas duo combined for eight kills and three blocks in the final points of the set. The Gators and Razorbacks posted nine ties and four lead changes late in the second stanza, but errors plagued Florida late and Arkansas used back-to-back kills to take the set, 32-30.
Florida jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third behind back-to-back kills from Jaeckel. The teams traded points until kills from Jaeckel and Mann forced Arkansas to call timeout at 12-9. The Gators kept a comfortable lead throughout the third stanza, only allowing the Razorbacks within one point once, and maintaining a considerable distance throughout the third set. Jaeckel proved to be the hot hand for Florida, posting seven kills and hitting .429 in the set. Arkansas began to creep back, pulling within three points and forcing a Gator timeout. Brown went to her mainstay and Mann put the set away, 25-21.
The fourth set was a battle from start to finish, with neither team taking more than three-point lead. Murphy proved to be the difference maker in the fourth stanza, hitting a perfect 1.000 with five kills on five swings. Anderson had back-to-back kills and then utilized her serve to catch the Razorbacks on their heels, rattling off four straight points to put Florida ahead, 19-17. Arkansas inched back to knot the set repeatedly but Murphy had back-to-back kills to stifle match point for Arkansas. Norton hit the ball wide to set up Florida with set point. Murphy found Anderson with a quick set out of the middle and the Gators forced a fifth and decisive set, 26-24.
The fifth set was an offensive showcase for the Gators, as the most efficient hitting team in the nation registered an impressive .526 with 10 kills and no errors on 19 attacks. Norton started the scoring off for the Razorbacks and Jaeckel answered with a kill of her own. Brown found Mann to put Florida ahead, 3-2. Two straight kills by Murphy gave the Gators a 5-4 advantage and put Florida out front for good. A kill at 8-6 by Jaeckel began a 3-0 Florida run behind the serve of Anderson, including an ace by the Bakersfield native after the changeover. Mann notched a kill and a Santos ball handling error put Florida at match point. The Gators looked to their three-time All-American to end the match, as Murphy slammed the final kill through the Arkansas block as Florida took the fifth and final set, 15-9.
The Gators return home to Gainesville for a final three-match homestand, as Florida hosts Georgia and Auburn next weekend. The Gators face the Bulldogs on Friday evening at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Florida, before playing host to the Tigers at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Sunday’s Senior Day festivities will honor the five Gator seniors: Cassandra Anderson, Stephanie Ferrell, Elissa Hausmann, Kristy Jaeckel and Kelly Murphy. First serve is set for 1:30 p.m. and the match will air live on Sun Sports.