Sunday September 16, 2012No. 13 Florida Sweeps No. 24 Kentucky on the Road, 3-0
The No. 13 University of Florida volleyball team (8-2, 2-0 SEC) looked like a team on a mission Sunday, as the Gators swept the No. 24 Kentucky Wildcats (6-5, 0-1 SEC), 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-18), in front of a crowd of 1,898 at Memorial Coliseum.
Florida’s veteran hitters led the way offensively on Sunday, as seniors Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) and Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) each notched 10 kills on the afternoon, hitting .444 and .556, respectively. Junior middle blocker Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) led all players with a match-high 12 kills against the ‘Cats, hitting a match-high .579 to go along with three blocks.
Florida’s freshman hitting duo of Gabby Mallette (Orange Park, Fla.) and Živa Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia) combined for 10 kills and four blocks against Kentucky, while junior setter Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.) dished out 36 assists on Sunday. Brauneis directed the Gators to a .376 hitting percentage, marking the eighth match of 2012 where the Gators hit above .300.
Defense was a major theme for Sunday’s match, as sophomore libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) had one of the best matches of her career, tallying 17 digs (5.67/set) and registering a perfect serve receive percentage for the ninth match this season.
The match marks the 1,000th match played in Florida volleyball history and the Gators hold an 823-177 record all-time since the reinstatement of the program in 1984. Sunday’s sweep is the first 3-0 victory on the road over the Wildcats since November 11, 2007.
The Gators held the Wildcats to a .150 hitting clip, their lowest hitting percentage against Florida since Sep. 17, 2010. UK, leading the SEC in blocks prior to Sunday’s match (2.89/set), tallied just 2.0 blocks on the afternoon while UF stuffed 8.0 blocks.
Florida jumped out to a 6-1 lead, using scrappy defense and great serve receive to score points in transition. Kentucky called timeout after Recek slammed one through the seam of the Wildcat block with Florida ahead, 9-3. The Wildcats jumped out to a 4-0 run after the timeout to pull within two, 10-8. A Recek-Smith stuff block and a smartly-placed tip by Recek put Florida up, 16-12.
A Mallette kill off the block widened the gap to put the Gators ahead, 19-15, forcing a Wildcat timeout. A solo stuff for Mallette continued the Florida momentum as the Orange and Blue pulled away, 21-16. A Recek slam down the line set up set point at 24-21 and Smith re-directed an errant free ball for a kill to take the set, 25-20.
The teams traded points to open the second stanza, with an Unroe ace putting Florida ahead, 4-2. A tip behind the block by Smith forced a Wildcat timeout with the Gators ahead, 10-5. The Orange and Blue kept the five-point advantage throughout the middle of the set, with a kill by Wiggs in transition forcing a Kentucky timeout at 16-10.
A Wiggs kill off the X play furthered the Florida lead, 17-12, and two solo blocks by Recek put Florida within three points of the set at 22-12. A Kentucky hitting error set up set point at 24-13 and a Smith kill off the slide gave the Gators the two-set lead, 25-14.
The third stanza was tight from the outset, but smart setting choices by Brauneis split the Kentucky block early in the third, as Florida began to pull ahead at 9-7. The Wildcats weren’t ready to roll over just yet, and a 3-0 run by UK, including back-to-back blocks, knotted the set at 10-10 and forced a Florida timeout. The sides continued to battle and back-to-back defensive displays by Unroe kept the momentum on the Gators’ side, as Kentucky called timeout, UK down 17-15.
Mallette cut inside the Wildcat block to get the Gators to the double-decade mark at 20-18. Mann killed the overpass to spark a Florida run and force Kentucky to burn its final timeout, with the Gators leading, 21-18. Another Mann overpass slam continued the Gator momentum and the Gainesville native put down a solo stuff to put Brauneis on the service line at 23-18. The junior setter aced the ‘Cats and Mann slammed one home to put away the set and the match, 25-18.
This is the Gators’ first win over a ranked opponent this season and Florida is 106-82 all-time against ranked opponents.
The Gators return to the friendly confines of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center as the Orange and Blue host the Missouri Tigers in their first Southeastern Conference meeting. The Gators and the Tigers met in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season at Northern Iowa, with Florida taking a 3-1 victory en route to their first Elite Eight appearance since 2005.
First serve is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, September 21 and the match-up between the Gators and the Tigers is the lone match for Florida volleyball next weekend. Next weekend will also be a homecoming of sorts, as the 1992 Final Four team will be honored at both the volleyball match on Friday evening and the football game on Saturday afternoon.
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