Friday September 7, 2012No. 15 Gators Earn Fourth Sweep of 2012 in 3-0 Victory over Jacksonville
The No. 15 Gators (4-2, 0-0 SEC) were virtually unstoppable in the O’Connell Center on Friday night, sweeping the Jacksonville Dolphins, 3-0 (25-18, 25-11, 25-11), to open the Active Ankle Challenge.
Freshman setter Dana Backlund (Wildomar, Calif.) dished out 33 assists to set the Gators to their highest hitting percentage (.468) since October 2, 2011 (at Georgia, .469). She added four kills on six attempts for a .500 hitting clip to go along with three blocks.
“Today was a great opportunity and experience for Dana Backlund,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “She may be called at any point in time and as the match went on, she got better and better and found rhythm with her hitters. Also gave Gabby Mallette another good opportunity by playing in that (outside hitter) role and by her numbers, it’s clear she responded.”
Florida’s freshman outside hitters, ˇiva Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia) and Gabby Mallette (Orange Park, Fla.), were both errorless on Friday night, hitting .619 (13 kills) and .700 (seven kills), respectively. Senior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) responded after a phenomenal hitting weekend at the Nike Big Four Classic, tallying nine kills for a .438 hitting clip.
“I always think our hitting percentage is a reflection of our passing; our passers are often the unsung heroes,” Wiggs said. “They do so much work and come in early to make sure they get great balls up for us. Honestly, as a hitter I think I have the easy job. I just finish off the work. It’s really a reflection of how hard our setters work to get us good, hittable balls. A lot of the praise needs to go to the passers and the setters.”
The Gators’ defense was stellar on Friday evening, as sophomores Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.), Madison Monserez (Orlando, Fla.) and Holly Pole (Ocala, Fla.) combined for 29 digs and Unroe led the way with 12 against the Dolphins. At the net, it was all senior Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.), who stuffed five blocks on the night to go along with five kills.
“(We) played great in the backcourt tonight and (they) inspired their teammates with good plays,” Wise said. “I’m perhaps most pleased with our blocking numbers and that was Betsy Smith, who plays with great energy and it’s clear why we love having her on the court.”
Florida jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first set behind the sizzling jump serve of Unroe, who tallied an ace during her serving run. The Gators led the entire set, using smart swings off the block throughout the set to pull away. Backlund notched her first solo stuff of the season to force Jacksonville into a timeout at 14-11. Pole served up an ace of her own at 21-15 to make the Dolphins burn their second timeout of the set. The Gators continued to be scrappy on defense, using a scramble play by Pole, Backlund and Recek to pull ahead 22-15.
The Gators started the second set strong, including winning the longest rally of the match with two perfect digs apiece by Pole and Unroe to force the Dolphins to take a timeout at 9-3. Freshman middle blocker Simone Antwi (Fairfax Station, Va.) nailed a Jacksonville overpass to go ahead 14-8 and the Dolphins burned their second timeout after a Monserez ace put the Gators ahead, 18-9. A Recek kill extended the Florida lead to 19-10 and the Orange and Blue took their largest lead of the set off a Mallette kill and an ensuing Jacksonville hitting error at 24-10. A JU service error gave Florida the second set, 25-11.
Behind serving runs from Antwi and Recek, Florida jumped out to an 11-4 lead, forcing a Jacksonville timeout. Wiggs smashed one on an X play to the middle to put the Gators ahead, 14-6. Smith and Wiggs teamed up for a stuff block to go ahead 16-7. The Gators extended their lead to 18-10 off a dumped kill by Backlund, as the Dolphins used their final timeout of the match. Three Gator stuff blocks in four points continued the Gators’ surge, 22-10. Mallette slammed one by the block to set up match point for Florida, 24-10. A Mallette solo stuff ended the set and the match, 25-11.
The Active Ankle Challenge continues Saturday, as Florida faces Louisiana at 12 p.m. and Georgia Tech at 7:30 p.m. Both matches will air live on GatorVision and can be heard on GatorZone.com.
For all of the latest information on Florida volleyball, please log on to www.gatorzone.com/volleyball or, for up-to-the-minute updates, follow Florida volleyball on Twitter at @GatorZoneVB or www.twitter.com/GatorZoneVB and Coach Mary Wise on Twitter at @GatorMary or www.twitter.com/GatorMary. You can also find the Gators on Facebook.
· The win over Jacksonville is Florida’s 16th in a row over the Dolphins, keeping them undefeated in the series history. It is also the ninth straight win over JU for head coach Mary Wise.
· Friday’s win is the Gators’ 130th all-time against an in-state school. The Orange and Blue haven’t lost to a team from the Sunshine State since 1994.
· The Gator defense held Jacksonville to only seven scored points in the second set of Friday’s contest; four of their 11 second-set points came from Florida errors. It ties for the lowest total for a Florida opponent in a set this season.
· Dana Backlund had 33 assists in the match, a season-high for the freshman.
· Freshman Ziva Recek scored 13 kills on the night. That’s her fifth straight match with double-digits in the kill column.
· Recek also hit an errorless .619 (13-0-21) on the night. The first time she’s done so this season. The .619 hitting percentage is also a season-high.
· Florida stuffed nine blocks in the match against the Dolphins, a season-high.
· Gabby Mallette and Dana Backlund both had solo blocks in the contest, marking the seventh and eighth time that the Gators have had a player record one solo block in a match.