Friday October 19, 2012No. 11 Gators Defeat Alabama, 3-0, to Take 13th Straight Victory
The No. 11 University of Florida volleyball team continued its unbeaten streak in conference play, as the Gators (16-2, 10-0 SEC) swept the Alabama Crimson Tide in three sets (25-19, 25-16, 25-14) on Friday night at Foster Auditorium.
Florida has won 13 straight matches dating back to its four-set defeat at the hands of then-No. 7 Stanford at the Nike Big Four Classic. Alabama falls to 14-8 on the year and 3-7 in SEC play.
“Tonight was one of those matches I was a little concerned about coming into because we only play Alabama once and they’ve been playing well all year,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “They’re dangerous at home and they have a great atmosphere. They’re just going to get better and better.”
Junior middle blocker Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) had a stellar night for the Orange and Blue, tallying a match-high 13 kills with just one error for a .750 hitting percentage. Friday night was Mann’s eighth match of the season hitting above .500 and the Gainesville native is now hitting a remarkable .435 on the year.
The Gators held the Tide to just .036 on the night, the lowest hitting percentage for a Florida opponent since Oct. 9, 2011 vs. LSU (.027). The Orange and Blue hit .405 on Friday, the second-highest hitting percentage in SEC play for the Gators. Junior setter Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.) dished out 37 assists on the evening, adding three kills and four digs.
“Once again, Taylor Brauneis did a superb job distributing the ball tonight,” Wise said. “I also think Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) had one of her best matches of the year with 18 digs. A year ago, a lot of the balls she dug up tonight would have been kills. She’s getting three-option passes on a lot of those hard-hit balls. Alabama would try not to hit to her and would end up hitting into our block.”
Florida held Alabama’s Kayla Fitterer, one of the best hitters in the SEC, to just four kills and a .154 hitting percentage on the night. Overall, Florida has held their opponent to less than .200 in 13 matches in 2012.
“I have to give a lot of credit to (associate head coach) Dave Boos and (volunteer assistant coach) Karl Miller for their work with the defense this week,” Wise noted. “I think Taylor (Unroe) had one of her best matches tonight in a Gator uniform.”
Recek led all players with a match-high 14.0 points, her 10th match of the season leading the Gators in that category.
“She’s been so good for us in all aspects of the game,” Wise commented. “All of our opponents try to pick on her because she’s a six-rotation outside hitter but I think she handles the pressure really well. I think something she was really good at tonight that won’t show up in a stat sheet was her block set-up. She was able to force Alabama to hit right to our back row defense. She did a great job tonight.”
The teams battled to open the set with the Crimson Tide taking a slight lead in the early going, 4-3. The Gators used an Alabama miscue to build the momentum on their side, going on a 6-1 run behind the serve of Recek. Bama burned a timeout in an attempt to slow the Florida run but the Gators continued to roll, leading by as many as seven at 15-8. The Tide began to chip away at the Florida advantage, as the Gators called timeout with a three-point lead at 18-15. Florida quickly righted the ship and rattled off three straight points behind the serve of Recek to get within four points of the set, 21-15. Recek put away the match for the Gators, 25-19.
The second stanza was tight from the outset, as the teams combined for seven ties and two lead changes. A 5-1 run got the Gators to a 14-10 lead and forced a Tide timeout. Brauneis kept the Alabama defense guessing, distributing the ball pin-to-pin and helping the Gators get to 20-12, courtesy of a dumped kill. Back-to-back kills by Mann put Florida at set point and a Crimson Tide attack error gave the Gators a 25-16 set victory and a 2-0 lead in the match.
The third set started similarly to the first two but the Gators soon went on a 6-0 run to lead 11-8 and force a Tide timeout. Brauneis served up an ace and her tricky jump float led to a Mann overpass kill, 16-10. Florida continued to push, using back-to-back kills from Mann and Smith in the middle to lead 20-13 as Alabama called their second timeout of the set. Unroe slammed an ace on the back line to lead, 22-13, and put the Gators within three of the match. Back-to-back Smith-Wiggs stuff blocks gave the Orange and Blue match point and the match, 25-14.
The Gators travel to College Station, Texas on Sunday for a nationally-televised matchup with SEC West leader Texas A&M. First serve is set for 2 p.m. ET on ESPNU. The Aggies fell 3-0 to the Tennessee Lady Vols on Friday night, extending the Gators’ lead in the SEC race to three matches.
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