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Friday September 6, 2013No. 8 Gators Prep for Nation's Top Two Teams at Final Nike Big Four

Austin, Texas

The Florida volleyball team continues its Texas road swing, traveling up I-35 to Austin for the final installment of the Nike Big Four Classic, featuring a battle of four of the nation’s top teams. The No. 8 Gators take on No. 2 Stanford and No. 1 Penn State at Gregory Gymnasium, home of No. 6 and 2012 NCAA Champion Texas.


Florida faces the second-ranked Cardinal at 4 p.m. ET Saturday with the tape-delayed broadcast airing at 11 p.m. ET Saturday. Chris Marlowe and Nell Fortner will be on the call for the third straight Big Four matchup between the Gators and the Cardinal. The Gators match up with the newly-minted top-ranked Nittany Lions at 11 a.m. ET Sunday with the tape-delayed broadcast featuring Paul Sunderland and Fortner at 6 p.m. ET. Both matches will air on Longhorn Network.


CARDINAL TO WATCH: Stanford features returning AVCA All-American Carly Wopat, a dominant force at the net. Wopat has 471 career blocks and currently ranks seventh all-time in program history. Wopat was a key cog in Stanford’s 3-1 victory in last year’s Nike Big Four at Penn State. Wopat led the Cardinal with 17 kills, eight digs and seven blocks.


NITTANY LION TO WATCH: Junior setter Micha Hancock was recently named MVP of the Penn State Invitational after a strong weekend against Syracuse and Louisville. Hancock tied for third on the squad in kills with five against Syracuse, posting a .556 hitting clip. She also dished out 30 assists, while pacing the team to a .313 hitting percentage. Against Louisville, Hancock registered eight service aces, two kills and seven digs against the Cardinals to round out the weekend.


ALL-TIME: Stanford leads the all-time series (5-3) with all eight matches occurring during the Wise era. The last two matches have been part of the Nike Big Four, with Stanford taking a 3-1 victory in 2012 and a 3-2 thriller on their home court in Maples Pavilion in 2011. Penn State leads the all-time series (7-3) with a 4-3 record under Wise. The last Florida-Penn State match was also under the Nike Big Four umbrella, as the Nittany Lions defeated the Gators in four in the inaugural Nike Big Four Classic in 2010. That victory was Penn State’s last of their record-breaking 109-match winning streak before Stanford snapped their stretch with a four-set victory on the final day of competition.


MARY’S MINUTE: “Seems like we’ve been to Austin on a fairly regular basis the last four years. With the Nike Big Four, it’s always a pick your poison situation. The good news is we don’t play Texas, but we’re playing the two top teams in the country in Stanford and Penn State.”



Florida Head Coach Mary Wise

                At Florida: 690-80 (.896)

                All-Time: 771-143 (.844)


Stanford Head Coach John Dunning

                At Stanford: 343-61 (.848)

                All-Time: 780-163 (.827)


Penn State Head Coach Russ Rose

                At Penn State: 1,091-175 (.862)

                All-Time: Same


LAST TIME OUT: The No. 8 Florida volleyball team stayed perfect on the season, sweeping host University of Texas-San Antonio in three sets (25-18, 25-17, 25-20) Thursday afternoon to continue their undefeated start to 2013. Sophomore outside hitter Živa Recek led the Gators with a team-high 12 kills against the Roadrunners. Senior setter Taylor Brauneis directed the Gator offense to a .292 hitting percentage, dishing out 36 assists and 11 digs for her fourth career double-double. Freshman Alex Holston and sophomore Gabby Mallette each contributed nine kills. For Holston, it was a new career high in her young Florida career. Mallette’s tally was her highest in a three-set match and just off her career high of 10 kills, a mark she put forth in two five-set matches on the road at Arkansas and Texas A&M last season. Junior libero Taylor Unroe scooped 17 digs Thursday, two under her career best for a three-set match.


NEAR-PERFECT NUMBERS: Thursday’s match was the third of the season where Florida did not allow a service ace. The Gators opened their season 4-0, the 13th time in program history and first time since 2011.


NOT ON OUR WATCH: UF held preseason C-USA Player of the Year McKenzie Adams to a .098 hitting percentage, her lowest of the season. Florida has held every opponent in 2013 to under .200 hitting efficiency. The Gators kept the Roadrunners to a .143 offensive clip.


ON THE HORIZON: After the Nike Big Four, the Gators return home to host the third annual Active Ankle Challenge. Florida welcomes Georgetown, Iona and Western Michigan to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Friday-Saturday, September 13-14. Gator fans will be treated to a family affair Friday night, as Georgetown’s starting setter, freshman Caitlin Brauneis, is the younger sister of Florida’s starting setter, Taylor Brauneis. Shortly after the Active Ankle Challenge, Florida faces in-state foe Florida State on Tuesday, September 17. The Gators’ greatest non-conference rivalry enters its 28th year and will be the 53rd meeting between the Gators and the Seminoles. Under Gator head coach Mary Wise, Florida has gone a remarkable 28-3 against FSU, including an undefeated 16-0 at home.


PRESEASON BUZZ: Florida was picked to win the Southeastern Conference title in a preseason vote of the league’s coaches, while senior middle blocker Mann and sophomore outside hitter Recek were named Preseason All-SEC. Mann was also recently named a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award.


THEY’RE BACK: Florida returns 11 letterwinners and five starters from a year ago, including First Team All-American Mann, AVCA National Freshman of the Year Recek, AVCA Honorable Mention All-American setter Taylor Brauneis, 2011 SEC All-Freshman Team honoree Taylor Unroe and sophomore outside hitter Gabby Mallette.


LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: Florida will be on television 12 times during the course of the 2013 regular season, the most of any Southeastern Conference program. The Gators’ first televised match is Saturday, September 7 against Stanford at the Nike Big Four Classic.


FOLLOW THE GATORS: For all of the latest information on Florida volleyball, please visit GatorZone. For up-to-the-minute updates, follow Florida Volleyball (@GatorZoneVB) and Coach Mary Wise (@GatorMary) on Twitter. You can also find the Gators on Facebook.


Saturday, September 7

4 P.M. ET               Florida vs. Stanford             Live Stats              Radio


Sunday, September 8

11 A.M. ET            Florida vs. Penn State        Live Stats              Radio


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