Sunday October 14, 2012Middles Mann and Smith Have Career Days as No. 11 Florida Sweeps Auburn, 3-0
Florida middle blockers Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) and Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) put together some of the best volleyball of their careers on Sunday afternoon, as the No. 11 Gator volleyball team swept Auburn, 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-15), to remain unbeaten in SEC action (9-0).
The Gators move to 15-2 on the year, as the Orange and Blue haven’t dropped a match since a four-set defeat to then-No. 9 Stanford at the Nike Big Four Classic on September 1.
“I thought early on, Auburn made so few unforced errors and they served the ball very aggressively,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “As we controlled the first contact better, the game plan became pretty evident and that was get the ball to the middle. 31 kills out of our middles in three sets is pretty impressive. It’s impressive by our hitters, by our setter and by our passers.”
Mann crushed 20 kills, tying her career high from just a few weeks ago when the Gators defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks in four sets. Mann’s 20 kills marks just the second time a Gator has tallied 20+ kills in a 3-set match since the move to 25-point sets in 2008 (22, Živa Recek vs. Texas – 8/31/12). Mann also roofed seven blocks, tying her career high and setting a new season high. Her .679 hitting percentage is a new season high.
Smith was virtually unstoppable against the Tigers, hitting a career-high .917 with 11 errorless kills on 12 swings. Smith has hit above .500 five times in 2012 and has been errorless nine times since taking a starting role in 2011 (min. nine attacks).
“The thing that makes Betsy so special, besides the fact I see her as the face of Florida Volleyball, is she really exemplifies what this team is about in terms of working hard, grinding, getting better, as she has throughout her five years,” Wise said. “The other day, she had more digs than she did kills, and she took great pride in her digs. She works hard every day in all aspects of the game.
“She’s not the fastest and she’s not the biggest jumper that we’ve had come through here, but we’ve had few that worked harder,” Wise continued. “Those numbers are a reflection of her work ethic.”
Junior setter Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.) dished out 41 assists to set the Gators to their 12th match of 2012 with a hitting percentage of .300 or better. Sophomore libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) scooped a match-high 11 digs and served up a match-high two aces, while sophomore defensive specialist Madison Monserez (Orlando, Fla.) and SEC Offensive Player of the Week Živa Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia) turned in nine digs apiece on the afternoon. Senior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) stuffed a season-high-tying five blocks against the Tigers.
The teams battled to open the match with a Mann-Wiggs stuff block tying the set at 4-4. A Smith kill gave Florida the advantage at 8-7 and the Gators continued to lead throughout much of the opening stanza. An Auburn hitting error gave the Gators their largest lead of the set thus far at 14-11. Unroe served up an ace out of the TV timeout to put Florida ahead, 16-13. A Recek-Smith stuff block continued the three-point Gator lead and a triple block by Gabby Mallette (Orange Park, Fla.), Mann and Wiggs put Florida within two of the set victory, 23-18. Back-to-back Mann kills tilted the opening frame in Florida’s favor, 25-19.
Florida came out strong out of the gate in set two, as Mallette slammed three straight kills to put the Gators ahead, 4-1. Back-to-back Gator blocks continued the momentum on Florida’s side, 6-4. Monserez served up an ace out of the Auburn timeout to go ahead, 19-15. Smith began to get into a rhythm towards the middle of the set, putting away three kills in four attempts to get the Gators ahead, 22-15. The Orange and Blue continued to go to their bread and butter, as Mann put away her 12th kill of the afternoon to give the Gators the second set, 25-19.
Out of intermission, the Gators went on a tear, leading 6-1 behind the serves of Smith and Brauneis to force a Tiger timeout. Mann and Smith continued to dominate at the net, as six of Florida’s 12 points were won off kills by Gator middles with the Orange and Blue leading 14-7. Out of Auburn’s second timeout of the set, the Gators continued to surge, as a triple block by Mallette, Mann and Wiggs put Florida ahead 16-9. Sophomore defensive specialist Holly Pole (Ocala, Fla.) stepped behind the line to serve up four points for Florida to extend its lead to double-digits at 21-10. Unroe served up her second ace of the night to get the Gators within two of the match, 23-11. Recek tooled the block to end the match, 25-15.
Florida hits the road to face SEC West foes Alabama and Texas A&M next weekend. The Gators face the Crimson Tide at 8 p.m. ET on Friday evening in Tuscaloosa before traveling to College Station to take on the Aggies on Sunday afternoon. First serve between the SEC East leader and the SEC West leader is set for 2 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
Florida is undefeated against both squads all-time, as the Gators own a 36-0 all-time record against Alabama, including 34-0 during the Wise era, and a 6-0 record against Texas A&M (4-0 under Wise). Gator fans can listen to both matches on Country 103.7 The Gator with longtime play-by-play announcer Tom Collett on the call.
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