Strong Blocking Leads No. 8 Florida Past Colorado


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Boulder, Colo. - No. 8 Florida out-blocked Colorado 12.0-3.0 on Thursday, led by sophomore middle blocker/right-side Lauren Bledsoe's (Long Beach, Calif.) career-high seven blocks and three Gators recorded double-figure kills for the second consecutive match in a 3-1 win against Colorado in the Coors Events and Conference Center.

Bledsoe recorded eight kills on nine swings for a career-best .889 hitting efficiency with a personal-best seven blocks. Bledsoe also charted a season-best 11.5 points in leading the Gators (6-0) to a 3-0 lead in the all-time series vs. the Buffaloes.

"I thought the player of the match for us was Lauren Bledsoe," Florida head coach Mary Wise said. "She played well for us both in the middle and the right side with seven blocks. We have the luxury of being able to go with the hot hand and tonight, we had Colleen, Kelly and Kristy. The key stat to the match was us having 12 blocks."

Jaeckel, the two-time reigning Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week, led the Gators in kills for the fifth time this season with a match-high 15 on .303 hitting with three blocks, one shy of her career-high. Freshman outside hitter Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) had her finest match in a Florida uniform, charting a personal-best 14 kills on .278 hitting with five digs and two blocks.

"What I was most pleased about Colleen's play tonight was her passing," Wise said. "She had a couple of blocks and five digs, and her serve will come. Colleen will be able to score points for us in both the front row and the back row."

Freshman right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) flirted with a triple-double for the third time this season, finishing with 12 kills on .346 hitting with a career-high-tying 25 assists and eight digs. Fellow setter Cindy Bathelt (Colorado Springs, Colo.) finished with 22 assists.

Junior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) had a match-high 16 digs and moved into sixth place on the school's all-time career digs list with 1,213 career digs. She surpassed Jenny Manz (1996-99), who recorded 1,202 digs in her Florida career.

The Gators opened to a 7-2 advantage to begin the first set after Bledsoe broke a 2-2 tie with a kill on the right side before Murphy served an ace to begin a streak of three service points by Florida. After the Buffaloes scored two consecutive points to cut within three, 7-4, Jaeckel followed with a resounding kill to stop the Colorado scoring streak. CU cut within two on five occasions early in the fifth set, but Rivers drilled a sharp kill on the angle to put Florida up by three at 13-10. Three consecutive attack errors by the Gators knotted the score at 13-all before Bledsoe and Rivers posted a powerful block on the right side to allow Florida to regain the advantage at 14-13.

After a tie at 14-14, Ward registered a kill and the Buffs committed an attack error to extend UF's lead to 16-14. With the Gators in front 18-16, Ward notched a kill and senior defensive specialist Christina Diaz (Hollywood, Fla.)followed with a service ace to put Florida in front 20-16 and force Colorado to burn a timeout. Ahead 20-17, the Gators' Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Murphy posted a strong block on the right side to extend Florida's lead to four, 21-17, but the Buffs would score two consecutive points to cut within two, 21-19, leading into a UF timeout. Holding a 24-22 advantage, the Gators closed out a 25-22 win in the first set after a Colorado attack error. UF hit .333 in the first set compared to Colorado's .267 hitting percentage.

Florida broke out to a 5-2 lead in the second set following a resounding block by Bledsoe and Rivers and an attack error by Colorado on consecutive plays. Following two points in a row by the Buffaloes, Murphy drilled a kill down the middle to give the Gators a 6-4 edge. With Florida in front 6-5, Jaeckel charted a powerful kill on the angle to spark a 3-0 run that was capped off by a solo block from Ward. After a Colorado kill, Ward registered a put-down of her own and then teamed with Johnson on the next play for a block on the right side to extend UF's advantage to 12-8 heading into a CU timeout.

With the Gators leading 13-11, Murphy and Bledsoe charted back-to-back kills to put Florida up 15-11. Ahead 16-13, Florida's Jaeckel posted three consecutive block assists, teaming up with Bledsoe on the first play and Bowers on the next two to give the Gators a 19-13 lead and force Colorado to use a timeout. Out of the break, the Buffs used a 2-0 run to cut within four, 19-15. Florida kept rolling to a 22-20 advantage before a Murphy kill and an attack error by CU's Lauren Schaefer put the Gators at set point at 24-20. Bledsoe notched a put-down on set point to give UF a 25-20 victory. Florida limited Colorado to just .030 hitting in the second frame, while the Gators hit .233.

The two teams battled evenly to begin the third set before Colorado broke a 4-4 tie with four consecutive points to take an 8-4 lead. Ward had two kills on the next three plays to allow the Gators to cut within three, 9-6. The Buffaloes kept rolling and went ahead 11-6. With Florida trailing 12-7, Murphy and Ward recorded kills on back-to-back plays before Bledsoe and Murphy teamed up for a block that cut the Gators' deficit to two at 12-10. Behind 16-12, Jaeckel recorded a kill off the block for the Gators, but Colorado then used a 3-0 run to go up 19-13. A Bathelt ace sandwiched in between two Ward kills brought Florida within three, 19-16, and forced a CU timeout.

A kill by the Buffs' Alex Buth put Colorado back ahead by four at 22-18 and the Buffaloes kept rolling to a 24-20 lead. Out of the break, Bledsoe notched a kill off the block on the right side and the Buffs committed an attack error on the next play to bring Florida within two, 24-22. Colorado's Emilee Cisco had a kill on the Buffs' third attempt at set point to give CU a 25-22 third-set win.

Florida stormed out to a 3-0 advantage to begin the fourth set. Bowers teamed with Jaeckel and Bledsoe, respectively, on back-to-back blocks and Buth committed an attack error to force the Buffaloes to burn an early timeout. After a Florida service error, Jaeckel registered back-to-back kills to spark a 4-0 run by the Gators that was capped off by another Jaeckel kill. Senior Kelsey Bowers' (Gainesville, Fla.) three service points was a key in that run that put Florida ahead 7-1.

The Buffaloes then used a 5-1 run to cut within two, 8-6, before Murphy drilled a kill down the middle to stop the CU scoring spree. After the two teams traded points, Colorado scored three consecutive points to go up 11-10. A Jaeckel kill and two consecutive attack errors by the Buffs allowed Florida to reclaim the lead at 13-11. Ward and Bledsoe followed with kills to extend the UF run to 5-0 and give the Gators a 15-11 advantage heading into a CU timeout. Florida kept rolling out of the break, scoring four of the set's next five points, including three kills from Ward to go up 17-12. Murphy had a kill to give UF a 23-17 lead before a Sisco attack error closed out a 25-18 win for the Gators in the fourth set.

Florida returns to action on Saturday when it travels to Ft. Collins, Colo., to face No. 21 Colorado State. Opening serve in Moby Arena between the Gators and Rams is set for 9 p.m. EDT and the match will be carried live on Cox Sports Television with Larry Vettel and Missy Whittemore and the Gator Radio Network (AM-850 in Gainesville) with Tom Collett.

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Article courtesy of Florida athletics.

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