No. 9 Florida Holds Off Late Rally By No. 25 Kentucky


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GAINESVILE, Fla. - Redshirt Florida freshman Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) recorded a match-high 18 kills and freshman right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) notched her third consecutive Friday night triple-double as the No. 9/8 Gators held off a late rally by No. 25 Kentucky for a 3-2 (25-21, 25-21, 16-25, 21-25, 15-8) victory in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

Jaeckel added seven digs to complement her 18 kills and a squad-best 19.5 points for the Gators, who improve to 13-1 overall, including a 7-0 mark in the Southeastern Conference. Murphy charted 11 kills on .400 hitting with 25 assists and 10 digs, as she has recorded a triple-double on the past three Friday nights. She also tied her career high with three service aces. Sophomore outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) finished with a season-high 12 kills to complement six digs and two blocks.

"This match measured up to its billing with it having two undefeated SEC teams going head-to-head," Florida head coach Mary Wise said. "I think tonight, we were very fortunate to win this match. Obviously, Kentucky got on a roll in the third and fourth sets and they were doing what they do best - serving aggressively and blocking for points. The key stat might be that Kentucky only had seven blocks in a five-set match."

Florida, which led the majority of the way in each of the first two sets, dropped the third set 25-16 and had to rally for most of the fourth set before falling 25-21. The Gators then relied heavily on the experience of their veterans to help guide them to the five-set victory.

"In the final set, we needed our older players to take over and that's exactly what happened," Wise said. "Elyse Cusack and Kelsey Bowers took over the fifth set."

Four Gators recorded eight or more kills in the match as senior middle blocker Kelsey Bowers (Gainesville, Fla.) added a season-high-tying eight put-downs and led Florida's blocking effort for the sixth time in the last seven matches with three rejections. She also moved into ninth place on Florida's all-time career blocks list and now has 373 career rejections.

Freshman setter Cindy Bathelt (Colorado Springs, Colo.) finished the match with 24 assists and six digs. Junior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) headed the team's defensive effort with a match-high 22 digs. She now has 1,346 career digs and needs just eight more to tie Roni Armeda (1986-89) for fourth place on the all-time digs list at UF.

Florida opened up to a 7-3 advantage in the opening set after a Kentucky service error and back-to-back kills by Jaeckel. The Wildcats then ran off two consecutive points before Rivers and Murphy registered back-to-back kills, followed by a Kentucky attack error that extended the Gators' advantage to 10-5. Kentucky, trailing 15-9 following a Jaeckel kill, used a 3-0 run to cut within three, 15-12 before the Cats committed three consecutive errors to allow the Gators to go up 18-12. From there, Kentucky used a 5-1 run to cut within two at 19-12 following a Jaeckel attack error. With Florida in front 23-21, Rivers and sophomore middle blocker/right-side Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) charted back-to-back kills to give the Gators a 25-21 first-set victory.

Florida began the second set on a 7-2 tear after back-to-back kills by Rivers forced UK head coach Craig Skinner to burn a timeout. The Wildcats rallied with a 4-1 run to cut within two, 8-6, following a Rivers service error. With Florida leading 13-11, Murphy and Bowers each recorded put-downs to extend Florida's advantage to 15-11. After the Gators widened their margin to five, 18-13, after consecutive kills by Rivers and Jaeckel, Kentucky used a 5-1 scoring spree to whittle its deficit down to one, 19-18, after a Becky Pavan kill that forced a Florida timeout. The two teams traded points until an attack error by Kentucky's Sarah Mendoza and a Bowers put-down ended the 25-21 second-set win for the Gators.

Kentucky raced out to an 8-4 lead to commence the third set after a Jaeckel attack error and a Queen Nzenwa kill. With the Wildcats ahead 9-5, freshman outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) registered a kill and Kentucky's Nzenwa committed an attack error to bring Florida within two, 9-7. With the Cats ahead 12-10 after a Bowers put-down, the Wildcats ran off five consecutive points to go up 17-10 and force Wise to burn a timeout. With UK ahead 18-14, Mendoza served the Wildcats to a 6-0 run that put them ahead 24-14. A kill by Kentucky's Brooke Bartek closed out the 25-16 victory.

The Wildcats took a 13-4 advantage to begin the fourth set, prompting Wise to quickly burn a timeout. Florida began working its way back into the set with a 5-1 run that put it within five, 14-9, after a Mendoza attack error. With Florida trailing 15-9, Jaeckel charted back-to-back kills to cut within four, 15-11, but the Wildcats extended their lead back out to five, 19-14. The two teams traded points and a put-down from Jaeckel brought UF within two, 22-20. After an attack error by Pavan brought UF within one, 22-21, the Wildcats closed out the set on a 3-0 run to take a 25-21 victory.

The two teams battled evenly to begin the fifth set before Kentucky committed three consecutive errors to allow the Gators to break a 5-5 tie and go up 8-5. The two teams then traded points before a UK service error and kills by Murphy and Ward put Florida in front 13-8. A Kentucky attack error and a Murphy kill finished off the 15-8 match-clinching set.

Florida returns to action on Sunday when it plays host to Tennessee. Opening serve in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center is slated for 1:30 p.m. EDT and the match will be carried live on Sun Sports and WRUF AM-850.

Article courtesy of Flordia athletics.

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