Seniors pace Florida to victory
Gators make regionals as unseeded team for first time
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The senior trio of Stephanie Ferrell, Kristy Jaeckel and Kelly Murphy put the No. 17 Florida on their backs and back in Gainesville, as Florida reached the regional semifinals by defeating No. 6 seed Northern Iowa, 3-1 (16-25, 25-14, 25-14, 25-22), in second round action.
The Gators punched their ticket to the Gainesville regional this evening, holding UNI to its lowest hitting percentage (.187) since October 14th against Drake (.168) and September 10th against Minnesota (.100), with the loss against the Golden Gophers as UNI’s lone defeat of the regular season.
The Gators have reached the regional semifinals in 20 of the last 21 years. This is the first time in program history that Florida has reached the regional semifinal as an unseeded team.
Murphy paced Florida by notching her 74th career double-double with 15 kills and 20 assists, narrowly missing a triple-double with nine digs. Jaeckel registered 13 kills, five blocks, five digs and four service aces, with all of those aces coming in the second stanza. Ferrell had one of her most consistent matches of the season, recording nine kills and two blocks for 10.0 points against the Panthers.
Redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe led all players with 16 digs on the evening to go along with three assists and two service aces.
The teams battled for the lead early, with Florida taking as much as a two-point lead with a UNI hitting error. UNI took the lead at 8-7 with a block of Smith. UNI took a two-point lead at 11-9 and Florida called timeout after a kill snuck through the Gator defense. UNI continued to extend their lead, going up by as much as seven at 18-11, forcing the second Florida timeout. A Panther hitting error stopped the UNI run at 18-12. The Panthers continued to extend their advantage, leading by as many as nine at 23-14. The Panthers finished strong in the first stanza, taking the opening set, 25-16.
The Gators opened the second set strong, taking a 4-0 lead behind three straight service aces from Jaeckel. Ferrell nailed one from the right pin to take a 7-3 lead. Unroe fired off an ace to give the Gators a 10-4 advantage in the second stanza. Jaeckel and Smith teamed up for a stuff block at 12-6 and another Gator block, this time by Ferrell and Mann, forced the Panthers’ second timeout of the stanza at 14-7. Florida continued to roll and a slam by Ferrell on the right side gave the Gators an 18-10 lead. The Gators kept extending the lead, surging with a block by Smith and Wiggs at 20-12. A Ferrell overpass kill continued the momentum and another Jaeckel ace set up the Gators with set point at 24-14. A block by Murphy and Smith gave the Gators the second set at 25-14.
The teams fought for the lead early with the Gators keeping a slight advantage through the opening points. The Gators took a 10-7 lead off a huge swing by Jaeckel, forcing a Panther timeout. Jaeckel slammed one from the right to give Florida a 11-8 advantage. The Gators continued to surge, taking a 15-9 lead behind the serve of Smith. A kill by Murphy forced a second UNI timeout at 20-13. Jaeckel hit an absolute rocket from the left to go ahead, 23-14, and Murphy put away the set for the Gators at 25-14.
The Panthers took an early 3-1 lead but the Gators continued to push, sparked by a Mann solo block with Florida down 5-4. A Mann-Wiggs stuff block tied the set at 6 apiece and kills by Jaeckel and Mann forced a UNI timeout with UF leading 8-6. Back-to-back blocks by Jaeckel gave the Gators a 10-6 advantage. Another Jaeckel block pushed Florida ahead, 12-8, and an ace by Unroe forced UNI into their second timeout, 13-8. The Gators came out on top of another long rally with a mash by Murphy at 19-11. A Mann-Murphy stuff block continued the lead for Florida, 20-11. The Panthers went on a 3-0 run, forcing a Gator timeout at 20-14. Murphy halted the UNI run with a slam through the seam of the block at 21-14. The Panthers went on another three-point streak to cut the Gator lead to four at 21-17. A Mann kill found its way through the UNI block at 22-17 but the Panthers continued to push, cutting the UF lead to two at 23-21. The teams fought for momentum but it was a UNI error gave the Gators the match, 25-22.