Saturday September 8, 2012No. 15 Florida Volleyball Named Active Ankle Challenge Champions
The No. 15 University of Florida volleyball team (6-2, 0-0 SEC) battled back from a first-set defeat to beat Georgia Tech (7-2, 0-0 ACC), 3-1 (22-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-22), claiming their second straight Active Ankle Challenge title on Saturday evening.
The Gators were led once again by freshman Živa Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia), who was named the MVP of the tournament after notching career highs in kills (23), aces (3) and points (27.0) against Georgia Tech. On the weekend, Recek hit .417 with 49 kills to go along with five service aces for 57.0 points, all team highs. This is the third all-tournament team honor for Recek, who was named to both the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational and the Nike Big Four Classic All-Tournament Teams.
“Where we are fortunate is that Živa plays nothing like an 18-year-old freshman and she really played well again tonight when we needed her,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said.
Also honored on the All-Tournament Team for Florida was Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.), who tallied 12 kills against the Yellow Jackets along with five blocks on the evening. For the tournament, Wiggs hit .455 with 31 kills and stuffed eight blocks.
The Orange and Blue were nearly neck-and-neck with Georgia Tech in every aspect of the match except for one: blocking. The Gators had their largest blocking total of the season, stuffing 11.0 total blocks, including 20 block assists to Georgia Tech’s six total blocks. Along with Wiggs, both Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) and Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) put up incredible blocking numbers, as Mann had a match-high six blocks along with 11 kills and Smith added five blocks and six kills with just one attacking error.
“The difference in the match after the first set was our blocking,” Wise said. “Blocking can come in streaks and I think Chloe and Betsy did a really great job anchoring our defense.”
Junior setter Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.) narrowly missed a double-double with 47 assists and eight digs, setting the Gators to a .308 hitting clip with nearly every Florida hitter operating above a .330 hitting efficiency. Freshman outside hitter Berkley Whaley (St. Petersburg, Fla.) contributed six kills on the evening to go along with two blocks.
Florida led early in the first set, 3-1, but Georgia Tech went on a 4-0 run behind the serve of Monique Mead to take an 8-4 lead and force a Gator timeout. The Orange and Blue kept it close, inching within two down 9-7 with an overpass kill by Mann. A Recek kill kept Florida within two but Georgia Tech’s hitters continued to tool the Gator block to pull ahead, 13-9. The Orange and Blue began to chip away at the Yellow Jackets’ lead, using a Brauneis-Mann stuff block to pull within one, 16-15, and force a Georgia Tech timeout.
A Quinn Evans kill and back-to-back Florida miscues burned a second Gator timeout with UF down 19-15. Florida inched back within four, 22-18, behind a Pole ace and a Smith overpass kill put the Gators within a trey, 23-20. A Wiggs kill down the line forced the Yellow Jackets to use their second timeout of the set, as the Gators moved within two, down 23-21. Wiggs had a big swing from the middle to save a set point at 24-22 but a Mead kill gave Georgia Tech the first set, 25-22.
“We really responded after the first set,” Wise said. “Monique Mead is a special talent and I’ve been watching her for a long time.”
The second set was tight out of the gate, but a Recek ace gave the Gators a slight edge, 4-3. Two Whaley kills put Florida up, 9-7, and UF kept the edge early in the set, using a quick set from Brauneis to Mann to pull ahead, 10-8. A Smith-Whaley roof forced Georgia Tech to burn a timeout as Florida extended its lead to three, 13-10.
Out of the timeout, Recek served up her second ace of the match, 14-10, and as the Gators continued to roll, Mann put up a solo stuff to give Florida a six-point advantage, 17-11. Back-to-back Wiggs kills gave the Gators a 20-13 lead and two straight points off a Mann-Whaley block and a Brauneis service ace put Florida ahead, 22-13. The Gators set up set point off a huge rally and Recek topped off the set with a kill, 25-15.
The Gators and the Yellow Jackets kept things close early in the third set before Florida went on a 4-0 run behind the serve of Brauneis, 9-5. Kills by Recek and Wiggs extended the Florida lead to five, 11-6. A Smith-Wiggs stuff block kept the momentum in the Gators’ favor at 12-8. Three consecutive Mead kills tied the set at 12-12 and back-to-back service aces by Bailey Hunter tipped the score in Georgia Tech’s favor, 14-12.
The Gators didn’t let down and continued to push back, tying the set at 18-18 with a slam by Mann in the middle. Florida took back the lead with a Whaley kill through the seam of the block, 19-18, and a Mann-Wiggs stuff block forced Georgia Tech to burn a timeout, 20-18. Back-to-back Mann kills continued the Gator lead, 22-20. Big blocks by Smith-Wiggs and Recek-Smith gave the Gators the two-set lead, 25-21. Florida hit a whopping .519 in the third stanza, its highest hitting efficiency of the night.
The fourth set was a blocking showcase for the Gators, putting up two stuffs in the opening points to go ahead, 6-3. An impressive defensive play by Unroe caught the Yellow Jackets off guard, allowing Brauneis to dump over on two for the kill, 8-5. The Gators won a big rally, ended by a Recek bump-set to Whaley, 11-6. Georgia Tech came storming back, chipping away at the Florida lead and closing within one, 13-12. Back-to-back kills from Recek out of the Gator timeout, 15-12, and three more slams by Recek continued the Gators’ momentum, 19-14. Georgia Tech took a timeout of their own after a Yellow Jacket hitting error put Florida at the double-decade mark, 20-14. The Ramblin’ Wreck forced a Gator timeout as they went on a 4-1 run to close the gap at 21-18. The teams continued to battle and GT pulled within two, 23-21. A Wiggs kill set up match point, 24-21, and Recek’s career-best 23rd kill of the night came on match point, as Florida took the set, 25-22.
The Gators went from hitting .150 in the first set to finishing at a .308 hitting clip against the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech started out strong, hitting .393 at the outset, but as Florida’s blocking heated up, the Ramblin’ Wreck’s offense cooled off and Georgia Tech’s hitting percentage decreased with each set.
Florida begins Southeastern Conference play on the road next weekend, as they travel to Arkansas and No. 19 Kentucky for their first true away weekend of the year. The Gators face the Razorbacks at 8 p.m. on Friday, September 14 at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville, before traveling to Lexington to take on the No. 19 Wildcats at 1 p.m. Both matches can be heard live on ESPN 850/900 in Gainesville or online at GatorZone.com.
“I think every match is going to be a grind,” Wise commented. “Going on the road on Friday night, that’s a team that truly returns everybody and this is their year. We snuck out last year with a win and then we have to travel to Lexington. That’s not going to be an easy road trip, not in terms of talent or miles (traveled).”
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ACTIVE ANKLE CHALLENGE ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
MVP: Živa Recek, Florida
Tangerine Wiggs, Florida
Monique Mead, Georgia Tech
Bailey Hunter, Georgia Tech
Sammie Strausbaugh, Jacksonville
Blair Claypoole, Louisiana