Monday September 3, 2012No. 15 Florida Volleyball Sweeps Slovenian Junior National Team in Exhibition
The No. 15 Florida volleyball team participated in a friendly match-up against the Slovenian Junior National Team on Monday, as the Gators swept the SJNT, 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-14) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Freshman ˇiva Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia) led the way against her home country with 10 kills, continuing a phenomenal weekend for the Florida rookie who averaged 5.64 kills against No. 2 Texas and No. 9 Stanford at the Nike Big Four Classic. It was a special day for Recek, who sang along to her national anthem and got the opportunity to see close friends and former teammates.
Junior middle blocker Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) hit an errorless .857 against the SJNT with six kills on seven swings, while freshman Simone Antwi (Fairfax Station, Va.) added four kills and a team-high six blocks.
Florida, who moved up three spots in the AVCA poll to No. 15, put on a blocking showcase on Labor Day, notching 20 block assists on the afternoon for 11 total blocks against Slovenia. The SJNT was forced to hit negative against the Gators, tallying a -.037 offensive output (18-21-82).
Florida head coach Mary Wise used the opportunity to play some of the younger Gators, giving them more game-like experience in the O’Dome.
“The more matches we can play means the more freshmen we can play at the same time,” Wise said. “We can get them that game experience. There’s nothing like playing in the O’Dome. The challenge about Slovenia is that we didn’t know anything about them; there’s no scouting report on this team. We had to make adjustments during the match and our players adjusted and responded.”
The teams traded serve to open the match, with Recek getting an ace against her home country at 5-3. There were four ties in the early going, as Slovenia’s block proved to be a formidable foe. The Gators kept a two-point advantage for much of the set, as Slovenia struggled to get their offense going. A Dajana Lucas attack error forced a timeout by the SJNT at 18-15 and three straight kills by Mann ended the set, 25-20.
The Gators strung together three points to open the second stanza behind the serve of Nikki O’Rourke (Clearwater, Fla.) and Florida began to pull away after back-to-back aces by Unroe put the Gators ahead, 10-5. A triple block by Antwi, Gabby Mallette (Orange Park, Fla.) and Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) extended the Gator lead to six, an advantage they kept into the second Slovenian timeout as a Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.)-Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) stuff gave the Gators an 18-12 edge. A Madison Monserez (Orlando, Fla.) service ace widened the Florida lead to seven at 19-12 and the Gators held their largest lead of the stanza when an Antwi-Wiggs stuff block set up set point, 24-14. A service error by the SJNT gave the Gators the second stanza, 25-18.
The block was huge for Florida to open the third, as Antwi-Recek and Smith-Wiggs both doubled up for stuffs. Slovenia took its first lead of the match off a Gator service error but Florida went on a 6-0 run behind the serve of Monserez. The Orange and Blue put up four stuff blocks in the early part of the third stanza, and three straight service aces by Unroe continued the Gators’ roll, 12-5. The Orange and Blue set their largest lead of the match off a Nika Blagne attack error, 19-8. Slovenia won the longest rally of the match, which lasted well over a minute, to close the gap at 20-12. A smart swing by Mallette put the Gators back out by 10, 23-13. Back-to-back attack errors by the SJNT ended the match, 25-14.
Next up, Florida will prepare to host their final pre-conference tournament of the season in the Active Ankle Challenge. The Gators welcome Georgia Tech, Jacksonville and Louisiana to the O'Dome September 7-8. Florida is in the middle of a six-match stretch in eight days, having played two matches this past weekend before facing the Slovenians.
“We took the pre-conference season as a three weekend learning curve…taking it weekend to weekend and trying to make great strides along the way,” Wise commented. “We’re getting ready to start a tough schedule on the road at Arkansas after our last pre-conference weekend.”
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