Thursday December 8, 2011No. 17 Gators Prepare for 20th Regional Semifinal Appearance
The No. 17 Gator volleyball team plays host to the 2011 NCAA Volleyball Gainesville Regional, with regional semifinal matches taking place on Friday evening in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The first match of the evening pits the No. 3 seed Illinois Fighting Illini against Big Ten foe Ohio State Buckeyes. The all-Big Ten battle will begin at 5 p.m. The second matchup features the Florida Gators against another Big Ten opponent, the Michigan Wolverines. The Gators face off against the Wolverines at 7 p.m.
Both matches will be featured exclusively on ESPN3.com with Sam Gore and former Georgia All-SEC hitter Maria Taylor on the call. Florida’s match against Michigan will also be featured on Sportsradio 850 with longtime play-by-play analyst Tom Collett and former Gator All-SEC setter Missy Whittemore calling the action.
The advancing teams in the regional semifinals will face off for an opportunity to play in the national semifinals in San Antonio, Texas. The regional finals will air live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. ET with Gore and Taylor on the call once again.
Florida is coming off two victories in the Cedar Falls sub-regional, as the Gators took down future SEC opponent Missouri in four sets. In the second round, UF upset host and sixth-seeded Northern Iowa in four sets, landing itself back at home for the Gainesville regional.
The Gators are led by seniors Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) and Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.). Jaeckel, a 6-2 outside hitter, has 372 kills on the season (3.41/set – seventh in SEC) to go along with 463.0 points (4.25/set – fourth in SEC) and 48 aces (.44/set – 1st in SEC, 21st in NCAA). She is also second on the team in digs (249, 2.28/set) and third in blocks (67, .58/set), including a team-high 19 block solos. Jaeckel, a CoSIDA First Team Academic All-District® selection and a three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll, was recently named First Team All-SEC and AVCA First Team All-South Region.
Murphy, a 6-2 right-side hitter/setter, leads Florida with 651 assists on the year. She ranks third in the SEC in service aces (38, .35/set) and sixth in hitting percentage (.329). The Illinois native is second on the team in service aces, kills (267, 2.43/set) and points (336.5, 3.06/set), and third in digs (244, 2.22/set). Murphy was recently honored as First Team All-SEC and AVCA First Team All-South Region, along with being a Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award finalist.
Florida leads the nation in hitting percentage, as the Gators (.308) are the only team in the country hitting above .300. The Orange and Blue also lead the SEC in opponent hitting percentage (.157) and service aces (1.62/set), good for 17th in the country.
The Gators have four hitters in the top-10 in the SEC in hitting percentage with the Gator middles Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) and Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) finding themselves in the first and second spots with .504 and .385 hitting clips, respectively. Smith is also ranked in the top-5 in the conference in blocking, averaging 1.00 blocks/set. Junior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) is fifth in the conference with a .331 hitting percentage and Murphy is sixth with a .329 offensive efficiency.
Florida has three Gators in the top-10 in service aces, with Jaeckel leading the way and Murphy in third. Redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.), who had the weekend of her career against Missouri and UNI in the opening rounds of the NCAA Championship, is sixth in the SEC with .27 service aces per set and seventh in digs with 3.70/set.
The Gators are in the midst of their 21st consecutive 20-win season and advanced to their 20th regional semifinal in Florida head coach Mary Wise’s 21-year tenure. This is Florida’s seventh straight regional semifinal appearance but only the second time in program history to enter the NCAA Championship unseeded.
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