Florida's Cusack Writes New SEC Career Digs Record

12/11/2009

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. ¬ - Senior Penn State outside hitter Megan Hodge
turned in a match-high 20 kills on .366 hitting and the No. 1 Nittany
Lions hit .454 as a team in a 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 25-21) win against No.
14 Florida on Friday evening in the NCAA Regional Semifinals at the
Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

Senior Florida (25-6) libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) became the
Southeastern Conference's all-time career digs leader on Friday evening,
turning in a match-high 15 digs to increase her career total to 2,138
and allow her to surpass former Arkansas standout Ashley Miller (2,126)
for the league's all-time record.

"I am so proud of the way our team competed tonight," Florida head coach
Mary Wise said. "Hats off to Penn State and its players and coaches. I
think 3,400 people saw some really elite-level volleyball today. This
match was a really good starting point for 2010 and where we will begin
for next year."

The match marked the final contest for Cusack and fellow senior Kristina
Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.), who end their careers for the Gators with
a 111-15 record (.880) record over the four-year timespan. The duo
competed in four NCAA Regional Semifinals and three SEC Championships.

"Both of our seniors will leave different legacies, but very important
legacies," Wise said. "In Elyse, you have a four-year starter who holds
our school and conference record for digs. KJ's legacy can be measured
in terms of what she has meant to this team in terms of her leadership
skills both on and off the court."

Penn State (35-0), which extended its NCAA record consecutive winning
streak to 99 matches, advances to the NCAA Gainesville Regional Final
against Cal. Opening serve for that match is set for 4 p.m. ET Saturday
at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center and the match will be carried live on
ESPNU.

Sophomore outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) led the way
for the Gators offensively on Friday, turning in a team-high nine kills,
while sophomore outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) followed
with eight kills.

Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) dished out a
team-high 26 assists, while junior right-side Callie Rivers (Winter
Park, Fla.) added seven kills and a season-high 10 digs.

The two teams battled evenly to begin the first set until three
consecutive Penn State kills gave the Nittany Lions a 10-6 advantage.
PSU kept adding to its lead to go ahead 15-8 after a 5-2 run and
back-to-back kills by Arielle Wilson. The Nittany Lions scored 10 of the
final 14 points of the set to take a 25-12 first-frame victory.

Penn State raced to a 7-2 advantage to open the second set and kept
adding to its lead to go ahead 15-8 until a put-down by Rivers stopped
the scoring streak. Down, 20-12, Florida engineered a 5-2 run to cut
within five, 22-17 on an attack error from Wilson. The Nittany Lions
then scored three of the last four points to close out a 25-18
second-set win.

After a number of early ties, Florida jumped ahead 7-5 in the third set
thanks to a Murphy kill and a service ace by junior middle blocker
Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.). Penn State quickly tied the score
at 9-9 and then raced ahead 12-9 after three kills on four plays. The
Gators hung tough, cutting within four on several occasions, last at
22-18. The two teams traded points until the Nittany Lions closed out
the 25-21 win on a Blair Brown kill.

Florida ends its season with its 18th NCAA Regional Semifinal appearance
in the last 19 years and extended the nation's longest consecutive
streak of 25-win seasons to 19.

 

*Article courtesy Florida athletics

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