GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida middle blockers Chloe Mann and Betsy Smith performed well on Sunday afternoon, as No. 11 Florida swept Auburn, 3-0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-15), to remain unbeaten in SEC action (9-0).
The Gators moved to 15-2 on the year, as the Orange and Blue haven’t dropped a match since a four-set defeat to then-No. 9 Stanford at the Nike Big Four Classic on Sept. 1.
“I thought early on, Auburn made so few unforced errors and they served the ball very aggressively,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “As we controlled the first contact better, the game plan became pretty evident and that was get the ball to the middle. 31 kills out of our middles in three sets is pretty impressive. It’s impressive by our hitters, by our setter and by our passers.”
Mann crushed 20 kills, tying her career high from just a few weeks ago when the Gators defeated South Carolina in four sets. Mann also had seven blocks, tying her career high and setting a season high. Her .679 hitting percentage is a new season high.
Smith was unstoppable against the Tigers, hitting a career-high .917 with 11 errorless kills on 12 swings. Smith has hit above .500 five times in 2012 and has been errorless nine times since taking a starting role in 2011 (min. nine attacks).
“The thing that makes Betsy so special, besides the fact I see her as the face of Florida Volleyball, is she really exemplifies what this team is about in terms of working hard, grinding, getting better, as she has throughout her five years,” Wise said. “The other day, she had more digs than she did kills, and she took great pride in her digs. She works hard every day in all aspects of the game.She’s not the fastest and she’s not the biggest jumper that we’ve had come through here, but we’ve had few that worked harder. Those numbers are a reflection of her work ethic.”
Junior setter Taylor Brauneis dished out 41 assists to set the Gators with a hitting percentage of .300 or better. Sophomore libero Taylor Unroe scooped a match-high 11 digs and served up a match-high two aces, while sophomore defensive specialist Madison Monserez and Živa Recek turned in nine digs apiece on the afternoon. Senior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs stuffed a season-high-tying five blocks against the Tigers.
The teams battled to open the match with a Mann-Wiggs block, tying the set at 4. A Smith kill gave Florida the advantage at 8-7 and the Gators continued to lead throughout much of the opening set. An Auburn hitting error gave the Gators their largest lead of the set thus far at 14-11.
Unroe then served up an ace to put Florida ahead 16-13. A Recek-Smith stuff block continued the three-point Gator lead and a triple block by Gabby Mallette, Mann and Wiggs put Florida within two of the set victory 23-18. Back-to-back Mann kills tilted the opening frame in Florida’s favor 25-19.
Florida came out strong in set two, as Mallette slammed three consecutive kills to put the Gators ahead 4-1. Back-to-back Gator blocks continued the momentum on Florida’s side 6-4.
Monserez served up an ace out of the Auburn timeout to go ahead 19-15. Smith got into a rhythm towards the middle of the set, putting away three kills in four attempts to get the Gators ahead 22-15. Mann then put away her 12th kill of the afternoon to give the Gators the second set 25-19.
Out of intermission, the Gators went on a tear, leading 6-1 behind the serves of Smith and Brauneis to force a Tiger timeout. Mann and Smith continued to dominate at the net, as six of Florida’s 12 points were won off kills by Gator middles with the Orange and Blue leading 14-7. Out of Auburn’s second timeout of the set, the Gators continued to surge, as a triple block by Mallette, Mann and Wiggs put Florida ahead 16-9.
Sophomore defensive specialist Holly Pole stepped behind the line to serve up four points for Florida to extend its lead to double-digits at 21-10. Unroe served up her second ace of the night to get the Gators within two of the match 23-11. Recek tooled the block to end the match 25-15.