Sunday September 30, 2012No. 12 Gators Put Forth Complete Effort in 3-0 Sweep of Mississippi State
The No. 12 University of Florida volleyball team (11-2, 5-0 SEC) continued its winning ways, sweeping Mississippi State, 3-0 (25-14, 25-9, 25-18), on the road for their eighth-straight victory of the season. The Bulldogs fell to 4-10 on the season and 0-5 in SEC action. The Gators remain the only team undefeated in conference play and are also undefeated (4-0) on the road this year.
“So much of this match was decided on the first contact behind the service line,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “To beat teams, you have to serve and block well because that sets up everything else. We served well, we blocked well and we had fantastic defensive back row play and that’s what we were really trying to emphasize with the team.”
Florida clicked on all cylinders Sunday afternoon, led by the play of senior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.), who hit .304 with nine kills and four blocks against the Bulldogs. Sophomore libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) was huge from behind the service line, serving up two aces and 16 points to go along with a three-set career high in digs (19).
“I’m really proud of Taylor and how she responded from Friday night,” Wise noted. “She didn’t have one of her best matches on Friday night and as Taylor goes, our team goes. I think the libero sets the tone for any team and I think when Taylor plays as well as she did today, it’s contagious.”
Junior setter Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.) dished out 38 assists and set the Gators to a .342 hitting percentage on the afternoon, adding four kills of her own (.500). Freshman Živa Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia) and senior Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) each recorded eight kills, with Smith turning in the 11th errorless match of her career as a starter.
The Gators have never dropped a match (41-0) to the Bulldogs and have only lost four sets all-time to Mississippi State.
The Gators went on a 6-0 run behind the serve of Madison Monserez (Orlando, Fla.) early in the opening stanza, jumping ahead of the Bulldogs at 8-1. Florida continued to surge, forcing Mississippi State to burn their second timeout of the set as UF held an eight-point lead, 13-5. Smith served up an ace to go ahead, 18-10, and the Gators took their largest lead of the match off an MSU hitting error at 21-10. A block for Mann and Wiggs set up set point for the Orange and Blue and a kill by Mann gave the first set to the Gators, 25-14. Florida hit .472 in the first stanza, behind six kills on seven swings (.857) from Mann.
A stuff block by Mann and Wiggs got things started for the Gators in set two, as Florida got out to a quick 5-0 lead behind the serve of Holly Pole (Ocala, Fla.). An ace for Unroe put the Orange and Blue up, 10-2, and forced a Bulldog timeout. The Gators continued to surge out of the timeout, going on a 6-0 run behind the serve of Unroe to go ahead, 16-2, and force a second Bulldog timeout. All-in-all, the Gators went on an 11-0 run to pull away, 17-2. Antwi put the set away with a quick kill from the middle, as the Gators won the second stanza, 25-9. The Orange and Blue registered a .344 hitting clip in the second stanza, as Wiggs put up four kills and Recek hit .750 with three errorless kills.
The Gator block was unstoppable in set three, as Florida registered six blocks in the third stanza. Back-to-back kills by Brauneis allowed the Gators to go ahead, 4-2. A Smith- Brauneis stuff block put Florida up, 5-2, but MSU rattled off three straight points to tie the stanza at 5-5. Back-to-back Simone Antwi (Fairfax Station, Va.)-Gabby Mallette (Orange Park, Fla.) blocks allowed the Orange and Blue to jump ahead, 9-6. An Antwi-Wiggs roof at 13-8 forced a Bulldog timeout and an Antwi-Mallette block kept the momentum on the Gators’ side, 14-8.
Back-to-back Antwi kills forced Mississippi State to burn their final timeout of the third set with Florida leading 19-9. Back-to-back Berkley Whaley (St. Petersburg, Fla.) slams put the Gators ahead, 21-10, and a one-handed set from Brauneis to Smith on the slide gave the Gators match point, 24-17. Mallette put the match away on a cross-court kill through the seam of the block, 25-17.
“I think Mississippi State had the misfortune of being injured early, as well as being young like we are,” Wise said. “I think the team we see later this season will be very different. I love their libero; she’s just a freshman and sets an SEC record in the first month of her career (50 digs vs. LSU, 9/28/12). I think she’ll be someone to reckon with all four years.”
The Gators return home to the friendly confines of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center for a four-match homestand in October. Florida hosts Arkansas and Kentucky next weekend, as the Gators and the Razorbacks face off at 7 p.m. on Friday evening. Sunday’s match between the host Gators and the Wildcats will begin at 3 p.m. with Florida playing in its first televised match of the season on Fox Sports Florida. Both matches can be heard live on Country 103.7 The Gator and seen live on GatorVision.
“Arkansas and Kentucky are playing so well,” Wise said. “I think we benefitted from playing them early and we’ve watched them on video recently. Both teams are red-hot right now and I think this upcoming weekend will be one of the toughest homestands we’ve had in SEC history.”
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