Tuesday October 23, 2012Florida-Florida State Rivalry Renewed as No. 11 Gators Face No. 12 Seminoles in Tallahassee
Florida’s oldest non-conference rivalry will be renewed on Wednesday evening as the No. 11 Florida volleyball team travels to Tallahassee to take on the No. 12 Florida State Seminoles in Tully Gymnasium. First serve is set for 6 p.m. ET on ESPN3 with Tom Block and former Florida State head coach Cecile Reynaud. Gator fans can tune into Country 103.7 The Gator to hear longtime play-by-play announcer Tom Collett and Cory Stephens call the action.
This is the 52nd meeting between the two teams and Florida has not lost to Florida State since 1994, taking 21 straight matches. The Gators are 35-16 all-time against the Seminoles, including 28-2 under Florida head coach Mary Wise. This is the fourth time in the history of the series where both teams have been ranked (2012: UF-11, FSU-12; 2011: UF-9, FSU-25; 2010: UF-3, FSU-13; 1998: UF-9, FSU-21). Both teams are placed well in the latest NCAA RPI, with the Gators at No. 10 and the Seminoles at No. 13.
The No. 11 Gators (17-2, 11-0 SEC) remained undefeated in conference action over the weekend, sweeping Alabama in Tuscaloosa before winning their second 3-2 comeback thriller in two weeks, this time at Texas A&M. Junior middle blocker Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.), the SEC Offensive Player of the Week, led the way for Florida in both matches, registering a .750 hitting percentage with 13 kills on 16 swings against the Crimson Tide on Friday night.
On Sunday, the Gainesville native tallied 19 kills and six blocks against the Aggies, erring only once the entire match. The junior did not commit an error, blocking or hitting, after the second set. Mann averaged 4.00 kills per set against the Tide and the Aggies, hitting .566 on the weekend for 35.5 points.
Sophomore libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) had one of her best matches of the year Friday night, scooping 18 digs in the Gators’ three-set sweep of the Crimson Tide. Unroe is now second in the SEC in service aces (.34/set) and fifth in digs (4.34/set).
On Sunday, senior middle blocker Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) set a new career high with 15 kills against A&M and stuffed seven blocks on the weekend. Against the two SEC West foes, senior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) turned in a team-high eight blocks, averaging 1.00 blocks per set.
Junior setter Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.) continues to lead the SEC in assists (11.44/set), while Mann leads the conference and is fifth in the NCAA in hitting percentage (.439), and is also fifth in blocks (1.08/set). Wiggs is second in the SEC (.383) in hitting percentage and Smith is fourth (.363), making three Gators in the top five. Florida leads the league in hitting percentage (.312) and service aces (1.51/set), while ranking third in kills/set (14.24).
The Seminoles are 18-2 on the season and 10-1 in ACC play. Their only losses came at the hands of Miami (1-3) and then-No. 18 Pepperdine (0-3), and Florida State has been on a 12-match winning streak since the sweep by the Waves. FSU comes into Wednesday with a 20-match win streak at Tully Gymnasium, the longest home win streak in school history, dating back to Aug. 26, 2011. Similar to the Gators, the Seminoles also had an 0-2 comeback victory last weekend, dropping the first two sets at Georgia Tech before charging out of intermission to take the final three and the victory, 3-2. FSU returns five starters from a year ago, which saw the Seminoles take the ACC crown and earn a berth in the Final Four. Florida State junior middle blocker Ashley Neff is the only player in the nation to rank in the Top 10 nationally in blocks per set (fifth at 1.66) and hitting percentage (third at .448).
While the last two regular season meetings between the Gators and the Seminoles were both 3-0 sweeps in Florida’s favor, this rivalry has seen some close calls as of late. In 2010, Florida hosted Florida State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. A five-set thriller, the top-seeded Gators were down 12-7 in the fifth set before taking the decisive frame, 16-14. The Seminoles had match point twice and the Gators rallied, using a kill off high hands by Kristy Jaeckel to take the match, 3-2. In 2009, the Seminoles had match point at 14-13 in the fifth set in Gainesville before the Gators came back to win the set and the match, 17-15.
Florida has another quick turnaround as they host Mississippi State on Friday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The match between the Gators and the Bulldogs begins at 7 p.m. ET with live video on GatorVision and radio on ESPN 850/900. Florida is off for the rest of the weekend after the MSU matchup.
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.