No. 8 Florida Gators volleyball (27-3, 18-0 SEC) has rolled through the 2014 season and found plenty of success, including the 2014 Southeastern Conference Championship. As Florida approaches the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament and a showdown with the No. 9 Illinois Illini (26-7) on Friday, let’s take a look back at the ups and downs of Gators volleyball this season.
Non-conference play: Head coach Mary Wise set up a purposely tough non-conference schedule to her team prepare for the rigors of the NCAA Tournament. Before league play began, four of the nine opponents the Gators faced were top-20 teams, including USC, San Diego, Texas and Florida State. UF swept both USC and San Diego but lost in five and four sets, respectively, to Florida State and Texas. Wise said that Florida ultimately benefited from the tough slate as the players were given the chance to learn from their mistakes, which hopefully would not be repeated when in the tournament.
1 » No. 10 Florida Gators soccer on Sunday advanced to the Elite Eight of the 2014 NCAA Tournament after taking down the No. 16 Texas Tech Red Raiders 3-2 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators may have fallen short of winning their league crown, but Florida is making a significant effort in NCAA play, moving on to the quarterfinals for the fifth time in program history and first since 2003. UF got on the board first with senior midfielder Havana Solaun striking the ball from 20 yards out; it deflected off the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand, and then the post, before finding the back of the net and putting the Gators up 1-0 at 14′. Florida went ahead 2-0 at 21′ after scoring on a glancing header by sophomore forward Savannah Jordan, which came off a free kick from senior MF Annie Speese. Texas Tech fought back with consecutive goals at 37′ and 64′ to tie thing sup, but Speese notched the game-winning goal at 81′ to send UF forward in the postseason.
The Gators will travel out west to continue their trek toward the NCAA title as Florida will next take on the Stanford Cardinal on Friday at 10 p.m. in Palo Alto, California.
2 » It was an eventful week for No. 6 Gators volleyball, which captured the outright 2014 Southeastern Conference Championship on Friday with a 3-1 win against the Ole Miss Rebels in Oxford, Mississippi. The SEC regular-season title is Florida’s second in the last three years and 21st in the last 24 seasons (1991-2008, 2010, 2012), all of which have come under head coach Mary Wise. On Sunday, the Gators won their 18th-straight match of the season, taking down the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Florida has its longest winning streak since 2010 and will play its final games of the regular season on Wednesday vs. South Carolina and Saturday at Texas.
The Southeastern Conference and ESPN jointly announced on Thursday the creation of the multi-platform SEC Network, which is set to launch on Aug. 6, 2014 as part of a 20-year media rights extension between the conference and World Wide Leader in Sports that will take relationship through 2034.
Termed the “longest agreement in all of sports” by ESPN president John Skipper, the deal not only locks up the SEC with ESPN as its primary rights holder but also ensures that 1,000 league games will be aired each year including 450 live on television. The other 550 contests will be distributed digitally across a variety of platforms.
“The SEC Network will provide an unparalleled fan experience of top quality SEC content presented across the television network and its accompanying digital platforms,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “We will increase exposure of SEC athletics programs at all 14 member institutions, as we showcase the incredible student-athletes in our league. The agreement for a network streamlines and completes an overall media rights package that will continue the SEC’s leadership for the foreseeable future.”
College football, the only sport with all 14 schools’ coaches in attendance on Thursday, will obviously be featured prominently on the new channel. The SEC Network will televise 45 league football games each year, including three every Saturday of the 13-week season. CBS will continue to have first pick of each week’s SEC football games but will no longer have exclusivity to air an SEC game in the middle of the afternoon.
1 » New England Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham has been suspended four games by the NFL for violating its performance-enhancing substances policy. The substance Cunningham used was not disclosed and it is currently unknown if he already filed or plans to file an appeal. Cunningham is the fourth former Florida Gators defender to receive a four-game suspension for PEDs since 2010. New England linebacker Brandon Spikes (2010), Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden (2012) and New York Giants safety Will Hill (2012) have missed four games each. All three claimed their positive tests resulted from an ingredient contained in ADHD medication like Adderall. Cunningham would be eligible to return in the playoffs.
2 » Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert is one of four former Gators on his team and one of three Florida offensive linemen that got injured this season. Unfortunately for Gilbert, while center Maurkice Pouncey and left tackle Max Starks were able to return to action, he has been sidelined since Week 6 with an ankle injury and was officially placed on the team’s injured reserve on Monday. He is the third former Gators player to be knocked out for the season with an injury, joining Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson (ACL) and Patriots running back Jeff Demps (leg).
3 » Following in the footsteps of the soccer program, which cleaned up at the Southeastern Conference‘s annual awards announcement, Florida volleyball matched the program with three major awards and a number of placement on the All-SEC teams. Junior middle back Chloe Mann captured SEC Player of the Year honors, outside hitter Ziva Recek brought home SEC Freshman of the Year honors and Mary Wise was named SEC Coach of the Year for the 13th time. The Gators note that “this is the first time since 2000 and second time in program history for Florida” to win all three awards. Mann is the 17th player in team history to win Player of the Year, and Recek is the fourth UF freshman to be honored by the league in that capacity. Also honored Monday were junior setter Taylor Brauneis and senior right-side Tangerine Wiggs, who joined Mann and Recek on the All-SEC first team; senior MB Betsey Smith on the All-SEC second team; and Recek again on the All-Freshman team.
4 » Three members of the Gators football team have been named finalists for yearly national awards. Redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis is one of three finalists (Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins, Tulane’s Cairo Santos) for the 2012 Lou Groza Award and sophomore punter Kyle Christy is one of three finalists (Louisiana Tech’s Ray Allen, Ball State’s Scott Kovanda) for the Ray Guy Award, both of which will be announced on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. live on ESPN.
Joining them is defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is one of five finalists for the 2012 Broyles Award, which is presented to the top assistant college football coach in the nation. The other finalists are Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, Notre Dame DC Bob Diaco, Texas A&M OC Kliff Kingsbury and Stanford DC Derek Mason. Quinn has UF’s defense ranked top-15 in the nation in pass efficiency defense (No. 1), scoring defense (No. 3), yards per play (No. 3), yards per attempt (No. 4), third-down defense (No. 5), rush defense (No. 6), interceptions (No. 6), yards per rush (No. 7), red zone touchdowns (No. 13) and red zone defense (No. 15).
1 » A young Florida Gators volleyball team struggled early this season in non-conference competition but has been on a roll since, winning 17-of-18 Southeastern Conference games and clinching the 2012 SEC Championship on Sunday. Florida (23-4, 17-1 SEC) defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks (17-14, 5-14 SEC) in a 3-0 sweep (25-19, 25-14, 25-19) to pick up the team’s 31th SEC title, its first since 2010. The Gators have now won 20 of the 22 SEC regular season titles awarded since 1991; UF also captured 11 SEC Tournament titles in that same time frame, though the event was discontinued following the 2005 season. All 31 league championships have comes under the stewardship of head coach Mary Wise, who took over the program in 1991 and will certainly be up for more Coach of the Year awards.
2 » Florida women’s basketball (3-1) dominated the North Florida Ospreys (0-4) to the tune of a 30-point win (74-44) on Monday, but the story of the game was the performance of redshirt freshman guard Carlie Needles, who set a program record with nine three-pointers in a single game. Needles scored a career-high 27 points in the contest while going 9-of-17 from beyond the arc. She did not take a single two-pointer or foul shot in her 31 minutes of court time. Her nine treys also tied the mark for second in SEC history for threes made by a women’s basketball player in a single game. She is just the fifth player in league history to make nine or more triples in a game. The old UF record (eight) was held by Bridget Pettis and set just over 20 years ago (Jan. 20, 1983).
3 » Coming off of winning two SEC titles – the regular season and tournament crowns – Gators soccer (19-5-1) put together an impressive run in the 2012 NCAA Tournament before falling to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (16-5-2) in the Sweet 16 on Sunday. Florida took down Florida Gulf Coast 2-0 in opening round action last week and defeated UCF on Friday before falling 2-0 to Notre Dame on Sunday. The Fighting Irish got on the board at 20’ and again at 71’; each team had four shots on goal. The match was the last in the careers of five seniors that have made a major impact on the program. Redshirt forward/midfielder McKenzie Barney, MF Jo Dragotta, MF Holly King, MF/F Erika Tymrak and redshirt defender Kathryn Williamson were all able to say goodbye to fans at home as the first three tournament games were played at James G. Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL.
4 » Learning last Friday that the team would no longer be allowed to perform tumbling or stunts at games, events or practices, members of Florida cheerleading were up in arms and expressed their frustration via social media. Supporters of the squad have now created SaveFloridaCheerleading.com in an effort to explain their position and give the administration reason to reverse their decision.
1 » Even though his recent hernia surgery will keep him out for up to two months, Miami Heat forward Mike Miller said Tuesday that he is “pretty secure” in his future with the team. Miller, who has four years remaining on his contract with the Heat, is thinking about getting healthy much more than he is about possibly being waived. “I’ve been in this league now 12 years,” he told the Associated Press. “I’ve been traded 675 times. First time I’ve been amnestied, but you get used to it. You do what you can. I’ve always done the same things. I prepare myself to play every year. Whether it’s where I’m at or it’s a different place, that’s how I’ve always looked at it. Put yourself in the best position to succeed when you’re there.”
2 » The gift package for the 2012 Gator Bowl was announced this week and the Florida Gators will each get five different items when they travel to Jacksonville, FL in the coming weeks. Every player will receive a Fossil watch, Gator Gear performance headwear, rolling luggage bag, Jostens ring and commemorative football. Many other packages feature electronics like video game systems, iPods and televisions or gift certificates so players can pick out whatever they want.
3 » A fake movie trailer showcasing Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow‘s progression from college star to doubted professional to successful signal caller has been making the rounds recently. You can check it out below:
4 » Florida senior setter/right side Kelly Murphy was featured in a story by ESPNW.com’s Mick Elliott Wednesday about her going into a special zone while on the court no matter how stressful the situation. Since Murphy joined the Gators, the team is 107-17 and has won two SEC Championships while making it to the NCAA Tournament all four years. Murphy has one more chance to win the big one with Florida, something she’s striving to do as the team begins Sweet 16 action on Friday. “I came here because I wanted to win a national championship,” she said. “To finally do that, that would mean everything. That’s the one goal that I’ve always wanted.” Head coach Mary Wise also praised her ability both as a player and leader. “A unique talent,” Wise said. “She has a picture-perfect arm swing coming from a 6-foot-2 left-hander. She has great court vision and great arm speed. That by itself would be enough to make her a special talent. But then she has one of the best deliveries and touches on the ball…of any setter in the college game. She makes it look effortless.” No matter how the season ends, Murphy will always be remembered as one of the best volleyball players ever to wear the orange and blue.
5 » Murphy was one of two Gators – the other being senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel – to earn a spot on the 2011 AVCA Division I South Region Team, the organization announced Tuesday. Two of the best players ever to suit up for Florida, Murphy and Jaeckel are now automatically eligible to be named AVCA All-Americans due to their selections to the regional team.
6 » Three Gators soccer players were listed on the 2011 NSCAA All-South Region team on Thursday. Juniors midfielder Erika Tymrak and defender Kathryn Williamson were named to the first team, while junior MF Holly King earned second-team recognition. Tymrak and Williamson were also given All-SEC first team nods, while King was placed on the second team.
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.
Finishing the season with a perfect 20-0 record in the Southeastern Conference and a No. 1 seed in the 2010 NCAA Championship Tournament, No. 1/1 Florida Gators volleyball (27-1) was honored by the SEC on Monday with a number of awards.
Florida junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy was named the 2010 SEC Player of the Year, head coach Mary Wise was named 2010 SEC Coach of the Year and six Gators earned All-SEC recognition including three to the First Team.
Joining Murphy on the First Team were seniors middle back Lauren Bledsoe and outside hitter Callie Rivers. Junior MB Cassandra Anderson and junior OH Kristy Jackel were named to the Second Team, while freshman setter Chanel Brown earned All-SEC Freshman Team recognition.
Florida will host the first two rounds of the 2010 NCAA Championship at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Opening round action for the Gators begins on Friday when they face South Carolina State at 7:30 p.m.
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