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Friday August 24, 2012No. 18/20 Gators Sweep FIU to Start the Season

Gainesville, Fla.

The No. 18/20 University of Florida volleyball team (1-0, 0-0 SEC) used a 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-12) sweep to defeat the FIU Panthers on Friday night at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. The Gators are now 21-8 all-time in lid-lifters and notched their ninth consecutive victory in a season-opening match.

The Gators hit .417 on the night, aided by 15 kills from preseason All-SEC selection Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) and 10 from freshman outside hitter Berkley Whaley (St. Petersburg, Fla.). Both Mann and senior Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) hit .545 against the Panthers, making the team's .417 clip the highest opening night hitting percentage in Florida history.

"Berkley Whaley was nothing short of outstanding tonight," Florida head coach Mary Wise said. "We had a pretty good combination there with Taylor Brauneis to Chloe Mann that was pretty effective tonight as well. We got on a good serving run and that's got to be one of our staples. It may not happen every night but if we put pressure on a team serving, it's just so much easier to play defense behind that."

Junior setter Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.) dished 38 assists on the night, spreading the offense across the pins all evening. Mann tallied 17 points on the evening, while Whaley and Smith added 11 and 8.5, respectively. Sophomore libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) registered 13 digs against the Panthers to lead all players. In her collegiate debut, redshirt freshman Simone Antwi (Lorton, Va.) recorded five kills and two blocks for seven points in her first official match as a Gator.

Besides the Gators' remarkable hitting percentage, another record was broken on Friday, as the crowd of 4,705 marked the largest home opener attendance in Gator history.

"I asked Missy Whittemore, our radio analyst who played in the early 90s, and we both wondered (if it mirrored) the '93 game against Florida State with the student turnout," Wise said. "But nothing was as organized (before last year) and we had never had a student group. I guess there is a shortage on shirts going on (referring to their painted chests) but there wasn't a shortage of enthusiasm. That group of students in the end zone was the best we've ever had and they were huge…them and their other 4,000 friends."

Another impressive feat was the Gators' serve reception game, as Florida did not commit a single reception error on the night. The last time UF passed a perfect serve receive percentage was November 6, 2011 against Ole Miss.

The first set was tight throughout, as the two teams tied 11 times and traded the lead three times during the opening stanza. Mann was on a tear in the first set, slamming eight errorless kills, including five straight to pull away from the Panthers at 23-19. Brauneis teamed up with freshman middle blocker Antwi to close the set on a stuff block, 25-21.

The Gators were down early in the second set, before back-to-back kills by freshman outside hitters Whaley and Živa Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia) pulled the Gators within one, 6-7. Aggressive serving by Unroe continued the Gators' run and three straight FIU attacking errors forced the Panthers to take timeout, 12-9. Behind the tricky jump floats of Whaley and sophomore Holly Pole (Ocala, Fla.), Florida began to roll and took a 19-12 lead off another Mann kill to force FIU's second timeout of the set. Brauneis served out the set, sparked by a service ace at 21-14, to take the second stanza, 25-14.

Pole's serve continued to serve the Gators well, as Florida took an early 6-1 lead in the third set. FIU took both of their timeouts in the third stanza with Pole behind the service line, as their second stoppage came at 15-7. The Gators continued to swing away both at the net and behind the service line, with Whaley and Pole contributing a combined 32 service attempts against the Panthers. The Brauneis-Mann connection proved to be too much for FIU, as the Gators pulled even farther away at 20-9. Freshman Gabby Mallette (Orange Park, Fla.) tallied her first Gator kill to bring Florida to 23-11, and a block by senior Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) and Antwi set the Gators up for match point, taking the set, 25-12.

Florida continues the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational on Saturday as the Gators take on Florida A&M at 12 p.m. ET in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. In the nightcap, Florida will face Florida Gulf Coast for the first meeting in program history. Both matches will be streamed live online on GatorVision and fans can tune into ESPN 850/900 to hear to Tom Collett and former Gator All-SEC selection Missy Whittemore call the action live.

FLORIDA GULF COAST DEF. FLORIDA A&M, 3-1

In the opening match of the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles defeated the Florida A&M Rattlers, 3-1 (25-17, 31-29, 23-25, 25-14), to start the 2012 season. The Eagles were led by Christine Pinder with 16 kills on the day and Olivia Mesner hitting an errorless .562 (9-0-16). Buchholz alum Gigi Meyer tallied a double-double with 25 assists and 10 digs.

Campus USA Credit Union Invitational

Fri., Aug 24

Teams

Result

5:30 p.m.

FGCU (home) vs. FAMU (away)

FGCU 3, FAMU 1

7:30 p.m.

Florida (home) vs. FIU (away)

Florida 3, FIU 0

Sat., Aug. 25

 

 

10:00 a.m.

FIU (home) vs. FGCU (away)

 

12:00 p.m.

Florida (home) vs. FAMU (away)

5:30 p.m.

FAMU (home) vs. FIU (away)

 

7:30 p.m.

Florida (home) vs. FGCU (away)

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