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Friday September 21, 2012No. 13 Gators Sweep Missouri to Open Conference Action at Home

Gainesville, Fla.

The No. 13 University of Florida team swept the Missouri Tigers, 3-0 (25-22, 26-24, 25-17), on Friday evening in front of 3,592 fans in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The Gators move to 9-2 on the season and 3-0 in conference play, while the Tigers fall to 10-3 overall and 2-1 in SEC action. The match marked the 22nd straight SEC home opener victory for Florida head coach Mary Wise.

 

“It was an interesting match,” Wise said. “It was like two basketball teams that are going fast break, fast break and just not hitting some shots. I credit Missouri’s defense and how well they played. I felt that if we could just control the first contact and make some good hitting decisions, there were kills to be had, and that was the difference in the third set. If Simone Antwi hadn’t come in and blocked that ball (to end the second set), who knows if we would have been looking at 4, maybe 5 sets.”

 

Florida hit .237 in the match behind the third career double-double (15 kills, 11 digs) for Živa Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia), while junior middle blocker Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) hit .348 with 12 kills on the night. Senior Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) tallied nine kills while junior Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.) dished out 35 assists, adding eight digs, three blocks and three kills.

 

“Our defensive players played really well and Taylor was able to give us really nice looks, so we were able to swing (at) various shots,” Recek said. “If we have one block, then it’s easier to score points.”

 

Sophomore Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) tallied 15 digs on the night, marking the 17th straight match in which she has scooped double-digit digs (dating back to Nov. 23, 2011. Unroe also continued her passing streak, registering her 10th match of the season with a perfect serve-receive percentage.

 

The Gator block was led by Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.), who stuffed four balls on the evening. Freshman outside hitter Gabby Mallette (Orange Park, Fla.) was not far behind Smith, roofing three attempted attacks to tie with Brauneis.

 

The Tigers were led by setter Molly Kreklow, who dished out 30 assists, and Whitney Little, who notched 10 kills and 10 blocks against the Gators. Overall, Missouri put up 13.5 blocks on the night, while Little had nine through the first two sets alone.

 

“Their setter is amazing,” Brauneis said. “I knew they were going to be awesome. They run a fast-paced offense and that was hard for us at first, but we pulled it out in the end and it was a great team win.”

 

Florida jumped out to a 6-1 start to the first set, forcing a Mizzou timeout after a Smith overpass kill. The Tigers tied the set off a Gator hitting error but Florida gained the edge, 10-9, off a joust at the net won by Mann. Recek and Smith teamed up for a big block to go ahead at 14-10. Mizzou put together three straight but a Wiggs slam stopped the run to put Florida up, 15-13.

 

The Gators continued to kill balls in transition and reached the double-decade mark first at 20-16, forcing the Tigers to burn their second timeout of the set. Mann nailed a quick set out of the middle to put the Orange and Blue ahead, 22-16. Mizzou went on a 3-0 run to close the gap at 22-19 and force a Gator timeout. Missouri put up a block at the end of a long rally to pull within two, 23-21, and force the final timeout of the set for Florida. Recek killed one down the line to set up set point, 24-21. A Mizzou attacking error tilted the first set Florida’s way, 25-22.

 

The second set was tight from the start, as Florida battled back from down two to tie the set at 6-6 courtesy of a kill by Mann. A solo block by Mallette continued to push the momentum the Gators’ way as Florida surged, 10-8. Mizzou burned their first timeout on the next point after a Tiger hitting error, and a block by Mann and Wiggs put the Gators ahead, 14-10. Wiggs slammed a heavy ball out-of-system thanks to a great bump-set by Unroe to continue the run, 16-11. A Smith slide kill forced Mizzou to call timeout with UF leading, 19-13.

 

The Tigers put together a 4-1 run to force a Florida timeout at 20-17 but a Mallette kill ended the surge and a Mann slam off the Brauneis quick set put UF within three of the set, 22-19. The Gators called timeout after a quick three points by Mizzou put the Tigers within one, 23-22. A Wiggs kill put the Gators at set point, 24-23, but the Tigers didn’t let down and tied the set at 24. A Mizzou service error set up another set point for Florida. Brauneis teamed up with Simone Antwi (Fairfax Station, Va.) to stuff Mizzou and take the set, 26-24, carrying a 2-0 set lead into the locker room.

 

The third stanza started much like the one preceding, as both teams battled to take the lead. There were six ties to open the set and Mizzou began to get out in front, leading 10-8 courtesy of a block by the Tigers. Florida went on a 4-0 run behind the serve of Holly Pole (Ocala, Fla.) to force a Tiger timeout at 12-10. Mann blocked the Kreklow dump attempt to pull ahead, 13-10, and a Wiggs slam from the right continued the surge, 14-11.

 

An Unroe ace put UF ahead, 15-11, and a tipped kill by Smith separated the Gators, 17-12. A Mallette kill deep to the back corner put Florida in the double-decade mark at 20-14. An ace by senior Sundai Weston (Naples, Fla.) forced a timeout by Mizzou at 21-14 and a backrow kill by Recek put Florida within three of the match, 22-14. Mallette smartly tipped a kill to the back corner to set up match point, 24-16. Mann put the match away for Florida, slamming the quick set out of the middle to give the Gators the set and the match, 25-17.

 

Florida hit .412 in the final set, as the Gators made adjustments coming out of the locker room at intermission. Brauneis spread the offense out among all of Florida’s hitters, leaving the Missouri block to commit one-on-one for much of the stanza instead of anticipating the set.

 

“We really wanted to stress setting from pin to pin, meaning don’t force the middle,” Wise noted. “You have to set over the top and get the balls to the right and left side, and then we could go back to the middle, and that’s what happened with Chloe’s last kill. It’s difficult to defend the entire net. We felt like we could take advantage of some matchups, and we finally did in the third set.”

 

The match was also a homecoming for the 1992 Florida volleyball team, the first Gator squad to reach the Final Four. The Gators were introduced during intermission while a highlight reel played of their magical night against Texas to reach the national semifinals.

 

The 1992 Florida volleyball team went 34-2, won the SEC regular season crown, defeated No. 12 LSU in the SEC Tournament finals, and became UF’s first volleyball team to reach the Final Four. In between their only two losses of the season (both to No. 1 UCLA), the Gators swept 26 opponents.

 

“Some of those players I haven’t seen since they graduated 20 years ago,” Wise said. “It’s the first time for some of them coming back… Making the effort to be here means the world to me.”

 

Florida takes the rest of the weekend off from competition before hitting the road once again. The Gators travel to South Carolina and Mississippi State next weekend to continue their SEC slate.

 

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.

 

Gator Game Notes

·         Tonight's match was only the second meeting all-time between the Gators and Tigers.

·         With the win, head coach Mary Wise moves to 22-0 all-time in SEC home openers at Florida.

·         The .031 hitting percentage by the Tigers in the first set is the lowest for an SEC opponent of Florida in one set this season.

·         The 3-0 win over Missouri is Florida's sixth straight-set win this season.

·         The Gators had 9.0 blocks in the match. That matches a season-high for blocks in a three-set match.

·         Taylor Unroe had 15 digs in the match. It's her seventh match this season with 15 or more digs.

·         Ziva Recek had 15 kills in the match to lead all Gators. It's the eighth time this season that Recek has led the Gators in kills.

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