Friday October 5, 2012No. 11 Gators Block Razorbacks, 3-0, for Eighth Sweep of 2012
The No. 11 University of Florida volleyball team (12-2, 6-0 SEC) put on a blocking showcase on Friday evening, as the Gators swept Arkansas, 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-15), to stay undefeated in SEC play. The Razorbacks fall to 13-4 on the year and 4-2 in conference action.
“On a night where we just had a hard time getting on track offensively, and a lot of that had to do with Arkansas, it was the defense that was the story of the match,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “Betsy Smith was so good, especially early. Our two middles were part of a lot of blocks and they really controlled the net.”
Florida’s middles were red-hot on Friday night, as senior Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) stuffed a season-high seven blocks against the Razorbacks to go along with six kills, and junior Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) registered 11 kills and six blocks on the evening. Florida freshman outside hitter Živa Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia) notched a match-high 13 kills against Arkansas, adding six digs and four blocks.
The Gators’ 16.5 team blocks are the most in a 3-set match since Nov. 25, 2006, and the Orange and Blue held Arkansas to their lowest hitting percentage of the season (.119). Florida is undefeated at home all-time against Arkansas (15-0) and the Razorbacks have not won a set in Gainesville since Oct. 17, 2004.
“Arkansas is such a good offensive team; they’ve been lighting it up as of late, so there’s an advantage of playing a team a second time,” Wise commented. “Our younger players are older and our older players are pretty smart.”
Freshman Gabby Mallette (Orange Park, Fla.) hit .250 with six kills and two blocks against Arkansas, while sophomore libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) patrolled the Florida back court with two aces and 13 digs and sophomore defensive specialist Madison Monserez (Orlando, Fla.) contributed nine scoops.
No Razorback hit in double figures on Friday night and while Arkansas outhit Florida in the first set, .216-.209, the Razorbacks were unable to get past the formidable Florida block.
“Arkansas is a good team, and they never backed down,” Mann said. “I thought they played really well tonight. They definitely laid it on the court.”
The teams traded points to open the match but the Razorbacks slowly began to pull away with Florida down 10-7. A stuff block by Brauneis and Smith stopped the Razorback run as the Gators inched within two, down 10-8, but Arkansas continued to push and forced a Florida timeout at 13-9. Recek tipped a kill off the block to pull within two and a Smith overpass kill tied the set at 14-14, forcing a Razorback timeout.
An Unroe service ace out of the timeout continued the Gator momentum and a Smith solo stuff put Florida ahead, 17-15. A Brauneis overpass kill kept the two-point Gator advantage, 19-17, and a second Smith solo block got the Gators to the double-decade mark, 20-18. Arkansas went out on a 3-0 run to overtake the lead and force a Florida timeout, UF down 21-20. Mann, Mallette and Wiggs teamed up for a roof to take back the lead, 22-21. A Mallette kill out of the Arkansas timeout pushed the Florida lead to two, 23-21. A big swing on the left for Mallette set up set point and Wiggs found the seam in the block to give the Gators the first set, 25-23.
Arkansas jumped out to a quick lead in set two, but Recek put together three straight heads-up plays to tie the set, 4-4. The teams continued to battle, as Arkansas took a three-point lead at 8-5. Florida went on a three-point run of its own, tying the set at 8 apiece with a Monserez service ace. The Gators continued to surge, jumping ahead with three straight kills by the Orange and Blue, 11-9. Back-to-back blocks for Florida put the Gators ahead, 15-10. Arkansas strung together three straight to pull within two of Florida, 16-14.
The Orange and Blue called their first timeout of set two as UA came within striking distance, 17-16. A quick kill from Brauneis to Mann out of the break extended the Gator lead to two and an Unroe service ace put the Orange and Blue up three, 19-16. The Razorbacks called their second timeout of the set after an Arkansas attacking error at 21-17. A Brauneis-Smith stuff block gave the Gators set point, 24-18, and a Mallette-Smith roof ended the set in Florida’s favor, 25-18.
The third stanza was tight early on, with back-to-back Florida blocks putting the Gators ahead, 5-4. The Orange and Blue kept the single-point advantage throughout much of the first set, with the Gators getting up, 11-9, courtesy of a Mann kill. Arkansas took timeout after a Wiggs tip put Florida ahead, 13-10. A Recek-Smith stuff put the Gators up by four, 15-11, and a Recek tip to the deep corner forced a Razorback timeout at 16-11. Florida continued to surge, using a Recek-Smith stuff block to jump ahead, 19-12. A Mann solo stuff set up match point, 24-14, and it was Mann once again who put down the final kill for the Gators, 25-15.
Florida will look to continue its hot streak, hosting Kentucky (10-6, 4-2 SEC) at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Sunday is Florida’s Serving for a Cure match and fans are invited to wear pink to promote breast cancer awareness. The matchup between the Gators and the Wildcats will air live on Fox Sports Florida.
“I thought we just stayed patient and when you do that, good things will come,” Wise said. “We need good things to come on Sunday in a big way, because I think Kentucky is the hottest team in the league right now.”
“You know, we just take it one set at a time, and we see Kentucky on Sunday,” Smith noted. “They’re going to bring their best game, and they’re playing really, really well right now. We’re going to have to play even better.”
Florida is on a nine-match winning streak, dating back to Sep. 7, and has earned eight sweeps on the season. Smith attributes the streak to the team’s closeness and communication.
“I think our biggest thing is probably our team chemistry,” Smith said. “If we’re having a rough night, we’ve got each other’s backs and we’re always there supporting each other. In the locker room, it’s kind of a jovial spirit. We’re really good friends on and off the court.”
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.