Friday December 2, 2011Gators Rally from First Set Defeat to Earn 3-1 Victory over Missouri in NCAA First Round
Cedar Falls, Iowa
Photo Credit: Justin Scott
The No. 17 Gator volleyball team stormed back from a loss in the opening set to defeat future SEC opponent Missouri, 3-1 (23-25, 25-16, 25-20, 25-16), in NCAA First Round action on Friday evening on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa.
Florida improves to 25-5 on the year, with tonight’s win giving the Gators a nation-leading 21st consecutive 25-win season. UF advances to play the host UNI Panthers, who defeated Niagara in three sets in the second match of the evening. The two teams will face off in the second round of the NCAA Championship on Saturday evening at 8:30 p.m. ET.
“When the draw came out, we thought this would be our hardest first round match in our tenure at Florida and it certainly lived up to that billing,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “Give credit to Missouri, the pace at which they play, how well-coached they are. They are very young. I think I can go back to the SEC and say we will all be better with Missouri coming into our league.”
Florida’s seniors led the way, as First Team All-SEC selections Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) and Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) notched a double-double and a triple-double, respectively. Jaeckel tallied a match-high 19 kills to go along with 14 digs for 21.5 points against the Tigers. Murphy, a Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award finalist and three-time All-American, registered her 28th career triple-double with 10 kills, 28 assists and 12 digs for 13.0 points.
The Gators’ back row play was a highlight of Friday evening, as two career highs were set by a duo of Gator freshmen. Redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) registered a career-high 23 digs against the Tigers, adding three assists and two service aces. Freshman defensive specialist Holly Pole (Ocala, Fla.) reached a new career high in digs in the first set alone, notching 10 scoops in the opening stanza. She recorded 20 digs on the evening as a whole.
The Gator middles came up big down the stretch, as sophomore middle blocker Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) notched 11 kills and three blocks for 12.5 points while junior middle blocker Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) narrowly missed her career high in blocks with seven. Smith added an errorless six kills for 10.0 points, her eighth errorless performance of the season. Junior right-side Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) recorded seven kills and four blocks on the evening and sophomore setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.), along with Murphy, directed the Gator offense with 53 combined assists against Mizzou.
Missouri jumped out to a 6-1 lead, forcing a Florida timeout. The Gators attempted to close the gap, using big swings from Mann and Smith to cut the Tigers’ lead to 13-6. Jaeckel powered one through the block, pulling closer at 15-9. An Unroe ace forced a timeout for Mizzou with the Tigers leading, 15-10. A Jaeckel kill off the Tiger block got the Gators within four, 16-12. Murphy and Smith teamed up for a stuff block on Katie O’Brien and a Jaeckel kill put Florida within two, 17-15. Missouri began to pull away, taking a 20-16 advantage late in the first set. Murphy found the seam of the Missouri block to pull within three, but the Tigers forced a Gator timeout at 22-18 with a tip by Whitney Little. Smith found the open court with a tip over the block and Jaeckel’s overpass kill forced the Tigers into their second timeout with Mizzou leading 23-21. Jaeckel killed one on the right to save a Missouri set point, 24-22. A Smith stuff block saved another set point to pull the Gators within one at 24-23, but a Lisa Henning kill gave the Tigers the first set, 25-23.
The teams traded points to open the second stanza, with Jaeckel and Smith teaming up for a block to give Florida its first lead of the match at 3-2. Murphy used two aces to force a Mizzou timeout at 11-8. Ferrell found the seam in the block to pull ahead, 12-10. Jaeckel nailed one through the Tiger block to force a second Missouri timeout with Florida leading 15-10. Mann and Wiggs teamed up for a stuff block to take its largest lead of the match at 18-10. Missouri went on a 4-0 run to force a Florida timeout at 18-14. Wiggs two swings down the line to put Florida back at a comfortable 20-15 lead. Jaeckel tipped one deep down the line to take a 22-15 advantage. Murph ended a long rally with a slam that nicked the line cross-court, 23-16. Back-to-back Missouri hitting errors gave Florida the second set, 25-16, and evened the match at a set apiece.
The Gators jumped out to a 4-0 lead behind big plays from Jaeckel and Wiggs, forcing a Mizzou timeout. The Tigers began to cut away at the Gator lead, tying the third stanza at 9-9. Mann slammed one from a Murphy quick set, as Florida pulled ahead 11-9. Jaeckel and Smith teamed up for a huge stuff block to end a long rally, 13-11. The Tigers began to fight back and took a 14-13 lead, forcing a Gator timeout. Florida battled back to tie the set at 18-18. Mizzou had a string of hitting errors late to widen the gap as the Tigers took timeout with the Gators leading 21-19. Jaeckel nailed one through the Missouri block and an Unroe ace put Florida ahead, 23-19. A Jaeckel smash down the line set Florida up with set point, 24-19, and a Mizzou hitting error gave the Gators the set, 25-20.
Florida jumped out to a 4-1 lead to force a Mizzou timeout. The Gators continued to roll, taking a 10-2 lead off a Smith overpass kill, as the Tigers to took their second timeout of the stanza early. Jaeckel served up an ace to give Florida a 12-4 advantage. The Orange and Blue continued to widen the gap, leading by as many as 10 at 15-5 and 19-9. Missouri started a mini-run and pulled within six, forcing a Gator timeout with Florida leading 20-14. The Gators closed the set on a 5-2 run as Florida registered three straight kills to take the set and the match, 25-16.
“At this point, we’ve seen the parity in women’s volleyball,” Wise said. “For us to be able to beat Missouri and move on, it’s huge. Especially after dropping the first set, nobody panicked and Kelly and Kristy were outstanding in their play and helping us win that match.”
The Gator defense held its ninth opponent of the season to less than .100 hitting, as the Tigers managed a .071 offensive clip. Missouri entered the 2011 NCAA Championship as the youngest team in the field and finish their season with a 21-13 record as they begin SEC play next year. They were led by right-side hitter Lisa Henning with 16 kills and setter Molly Kreklow with 32 assists and 17 digs.
“With the opportunity to play that caliber of a team with that terrific setter…I think you can put Molly Kreklow with any team in the country and they will be highly competitive immediately as talented as she is,” Wise said. “With Lisa Henning, she obviously had another great match. We worked really hard to try and defend her and yet, she still got 16 kills on us.”
Saturday’s match will be broadcast live with radio on Sportsradio 850 with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore on the call. Live streaming video will be provided free of charge on UNIPanthers.com