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Thursday August 30, 2012No. 18/20 Florida Faces Volleyball Giants in Third Annual Nike Big Four Classic

University Park, Pa.

The No. 18/20 University of Florida volleyball team (3-0, 0-0 SEC) descends upon State College, Pa. to compete in the third annual Nike Big Four Classic, which pits No. 2 Texas and No. 9 Stanford against the Orange and Blue.


The Gators face the Longhorns at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Rec Hall on the campus of No. 4 Penn State, before facing the Cardinal at 4 p.m. Saturday. Both matches can be heard live with longtime play-by-play announcer Tom Collett. Live stats can be found on


This is the first year of the tournament in which the opponents have both been pre-determined. Florida is 2-2 in the Nike Big Four Classic, having defeated Texas in five-set thrillers in both 2010 and 2011. In 2011, Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) hit .456 with 31 kills against the Longhorns and the Cardinal, while Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) led the way with 12 blocks on the weekend in Palo Alto, Calif. The Gators were the runners-up in 2011, defeating Texas in five before rallying down from 0-2 in the championship match to Stanford to fall in five.


Junior middle blocker Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.), a preseason All-SEC selection and the MVP of the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational, leads the SEC in kills (4.67/set) and is tops on the team in hitting percentage (.452). Florida leads the SEC in kills (14.67/set), hitting percentage (.368) and service aces (2.78/set). Redshirt freshman Simone Antwi (Fairfax Station, Va.) leads the conference in service aces (1.00/set). The Gators are coming off a 3-0 start to the season with three straight sweeps of FIU, Florida A&M and Florida Gulf Coast.


The Texas Longhorns (4-0, 0-0 Big 12) are led by the hard-hitting trio of Haley Eckerman, Sha’Dare McNeal and Bailey Webster, who combined to provide over two-thirds of the Longhorns’ offense on the weekend. Texas runs a 6-2, as setters Hannah Allison and Nicole Dalton quarterback the offense. Dalton pulls double duty, as she stays in for all six rotations and serves as one of the two opposite hitters in the 6-2. Texas is also coming off three straight sweeps on the weekend, opening their season by defeating SEC West opponent LSU, before sweeping Cal Poly and San Diego. Wednesday evening, they won their first Big 12 match of the season by sweeping West Virginia, 3-0.


The Stanford Cardinal (2-1, 0-0 Pac 12), played a tough schedule to open 2012, sweeping St. Mary’s and Albany before falling in four to No. 8 Hawaii on the Rainbow Wahine’s home court, the Stan Sherriff Center. The Cardinal have a Sunshine State product leading the way in 2012, as Gatorade National Player of the Year Jordan Burgess hit .500 with 30 kills on the weekend. Stanford returns two AVCA honorable mention All-Americans in outside hitter Rachel Williams and middle blocker Carly Wopat, while senior setter Karissa Cook will start for her fourth consecutive season.


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