Wednesday November 21, 2012No. 15 Gator Volleyball Tops Gritty Auburn Squad, 3-1
The No. 15 Florida volleyball team (24-4, 18-1 SEC) survived a feisty Auburn squad on Wednesday night, taking a 3-1 (25-23, 23-25, 25-9, 25-20) victory over the Tigers at the Student Activities Center.
Florida was led offensively by junior middle blocker Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.), who hit an errorless .560 with 14 kills on 25 swings to go along with a career-high eight blocks, including five in the third set alone. Mann hit above .500 for the 13th time this season and continues to lead the conference in hitting percentage (.436).
Sophomore libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) led the backrow charge with 19 digs, averaging a whopping 4.75 digs/set. Unroe passed a near-perfect match on serve receive and set a new season high with six assists against the Tigers.
“There was high level volleyball on both sides, as one would expect this late in the season,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “The defense that Auburn displayed and how gritty they are, our team had to match them both physically and emotionally. The difference in the match, in addition to our blocking, was the defense of Taylor Unroe.”
Freshman phenom Živa Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia) turned in her ninth career double-double with 17 kills and 13 digs, while seniors Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) and Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) added seven and six kills, respectively.
Sophomore defensive specialists Madison Monserez (Orlando, Fla.) and Holly Pole (Ocala, Fla.) turned in eight scoops apiece. Monserez and Pole were both responsible for sparking many scoring runs, as the Gators were aggressive behind the service line throughout the match.
Junior setter Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.) dished out 45 assists on the night, serving up a match-high three aces against the Tigers.
Friday was the 18th time this season that a Gator opponent had been held to hitting less than .200 and the 11th time that Florida has turned in double-digit team blocks (11.0).
Freshman outside hitters Berkley Whaley (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Gabby Mallette (Orange Park, Fla.) combined for six kills on Wednesday in Mallette’s return to the court after missing three weeks due to illness.
The teams battled to open the frame but Auburn held a slight advantage through the bulk of the set, using a 3-0 Tiger run to lead 8-6. After 21 straight sideouts between the teams, Florida was able to tie the set at 19-all behind the serve of Monserez. Recek used kills from Wiggs and Brauneis to pull within one, down 18-17. Recek slammed one through the seam of the Tiger block, sparking a 5-0 Gator run with Pole behind the service line, forcing an Auburn timeout with Florida leading 22-19. The Gators earned a set point off a Recek kill but Auburn scored two straight to force a Florida timeout at 24-23. The Orange and Blue went back to their bread and butter, as Recek nailed a kill off the block to give the first set to the Gators, 25-23.
Auburn jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second stanza before Florida settled and strung together four straight points with Pole behind the service line, tying the set at 5-all. A Mann-Recek block tied the frame at 8-8, and the Gators began to pull away courtesy of a Wiggs kill and ensuing Tiger attacking error. Kills by Recek and Mann put the Gators ahead, 17-14, forcing a Tiger timeout. The teams traded side outs and an Auburn attacking error forced the Tigers’ second timeout of the set with Florida leading 21-17. Auburn began to cut away at the Florida advantage, pulling within two at 22-20. Out of the break, Florida looked to halt the Auburn momentum with a Mallette kill but the Tigers scored five straight to tilt the frame Auburn’s way, 25-23.
Florida came out on fire in the third, jumping out to a 6-0 lead behind the serve of Brauneis, who served up two aces in the streak. Recek then stepped behind the service line to get the Gators on a run of their own, scoring five straight to lead 11-3. An Unroe service ace forced a Tiger timeout with the Gators ahead, 13-3, and Florida continued to roll, as Brauneis and Mann stuffed an Auburn attack to go up 17-7. A Brauneis dumped kill gave the Gators a 19-8 lead and a Mann-Wiggs roof put Florida ahead, 21-8. Mann and Wiggs teamed up again for the stuff, this time on set point to give the Gators the third set victory, 25-9.
The Gators got out to a 6-1 advantage in the fourth frame, forcing an Auburn timeout. A Smith-Wiggs stuff block put the Gators up, 8-5. After Auburn cut their deficit to two points at 11-9, Florida went on a 4-0 run to make it 15-9. A Brauneis-Smith roof got the Gators to the double-decade mark at 20-12, but Auburn rolled off four straight to cut UF's lead to 20-16, forcing a Gator timeout. Mallette slammed a kill down the line out of the break to halt the Tiger tear, and a Smith kill put the Gators within three of the match, 22-18. Auburn scored two straight but Florida didn’t falter, as Brauneis served up an ace to give the Gators match point, 24-20. Mann used an offspeed roll shot to put the match in the Gators’ hands, taking the fourth frame, 25-20.
Florida will travel on the Thanksgiving holiday to Athens, Ga., as the Gators take on the Georgia Bulldogs at 7 p.m. ET on Friday night to close the 2012 regular season. The match between the Gators and the Bulldogs will air live on GeorgiaDogs.com and can be accessed for free. Gator fans can listen live to Cory Stephens call the match live on ESPN 850/900.
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