Florida advances to Sweet 16 after five-set thriller

By Adam Silverstein
December 4, 2010

Unlike many of their previous matches this season, defeating the Florida State Seminoles (22-11) was not easy for No. 1 Florida Gators volleyball (29-1). Nevertheless the Lady Gators rallied together on Saturday night to pull off a come-from-behind five-set victory 3-2 (20-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 17-15) over the Seminoles in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Championships at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

With the win, Florida advances to the Sweet 16 in Austin, TX, where they will face head coach Mary Wise‘s alma mater Purdue.

Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy led the way for UF with a team-high 19 kills, 21 assists and 12 digs for yet another triple-double. Junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel complimented her with 18 kills and 12 digs, and senior OH Callie Rivers added eight kills and 18 digs. All over the place Saturday was senior libero Erin Fleming, who notched a team-high 20 digs while nailing two service aces. Senior middle-back Lauren Bledsoe contributed 13 kills and posted a team-high .391 attacking percentage.

During the match Murphy registered her 1,000th career kill, becoming the 17th player in school history to reach that milestone.

Trailing two sets to one, Florida rebounded in the fourth and squeaked out a 25-21 win. They would also trail 11-7 in the fifth and final set, a deficit seemingly insurmountable considering it only takes 15 points to win the tiebreaker. Fighting to even things up, the Gators found themselves down 13-11 after Rivers nailed a service ace.

The officials believed UF touched the ball four times on the next point and whistled them for illegal contact, giving FSU a temporary 14-11 lead before they decided to negate the call and play the point over. Florida would go on to tie the set at 13 and eventually win it outright after Jaeckel hit consecutive kills to end the final set 17-15.

The Gators achieved double-digit kills in each set and out-blocked the Seminoles 16.5-10.0. Florida State put forth a superb effort in their upset bid, but Florida was able to overcome some costly errors and mistakes by the officials to win their 29th match of the season and advance in their quest for a National Championship.

Before having to contend with FSU, Florida defeated the South Carolina State Bulldogs (17-23) with a clean 3-0 sweep (25-7, 25-10, 25-12) on Friday evening in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Gators posted an impressive .586 hitting efficiency as Murphy registered eight kills, 17 assists, two service aces and four digs. Rivers had seven kills and six digs, Bledsoe notched five kills and five blocks, and Jaekel added four kills and two aces.

Florida and Purdue will square off in the Austin Regional on Friday, Dec. 10. at a time yet to be determined. The winner will face either Illinois or Texas in the Elite Eight.

HIGHLIGHTS / END OF MATCH

POST-GAME QUOTES (After the break…)

Wise on the team struggling but eventually winning: “We made some uncharacteristic unforced errors. We know that to make a run in this tournament, you’ve got to be healthy, you’ve got to have some pretty good talent, and once in a while along the way you’ve got to catch a break. I think we caught a break tonight. We feel very fortunate.’’

Wise on overcoming an officiating error: “As my good friend Steve [Spurrier] would say, ‘Maybe the gods were smiling on the Gators.’ Without instant replay, I think the officials did the right thing by talking with each other, and I think they did the right thing in trying to get it right.’’

Rivers on the crowd support: “I thought our fans were amazing. Our team feeds off our fans, so it was great to have them behind us the whole way. This might have been the most emotional match I have ever played.’’

Murphy on escaping with a victory: “It would have been pretty bittersweet to have our season end with a loss to Florida State. We definitely feel very grateful that we get a chance to play again. I think we’re going to take that and show, ‘That’s how hard you are going to have to work to get to the end.’ So now we know what it’s going to take.’’

Photo Credit: University of Florida

5 Comments

  1. Tim says:

    I was at the law school and went after I saw we were down 2 sets to 1. It was an awesome finish. Don’t feel too bad for the people who left, but I would guess they regret it.

  2. Christan says:

    This was a crazy game. I think they (the seniors) knew it was their last home game and played a little tight at times. They showed a lot of heart to pull it out!

    The game was really emotionally draining. I think both coaches got yellow cards. Mary was carded for serving a ball over the net in frustration.

    It’s wins like these that bring teams together.

  3. Gatorgrad79 says:

    Mary Wise and Gator V-ball ladies ROCK!

  4. Wingtee says:

    It will be tough making
    it
    past
    Purdue. History says we play to tight
    to win it. Hope we do but if not
    it ws
    a
    really good season.

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