Nov. 17, 2008

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Three Florida players registered double-digit kills, led by freshman right-side/setter Kelly Murphy’s (Wilmington, Ill.) team-high 13, but No. 22/19 Kentucky won a 3-2 (25-23, 14-25, 20-25, 25-20, 15-6) decision against the No. 12/9 Gators on Sunday in Memorial Coliseum.  

The two teams, who split the season series after a five-set win by the Gators (21-3, 15-2 Southeastern Conference) in Gainesville on Oct. 10, are now in a first-place tie atop the SEC standings.

“This match lived up to its billing being a five-set thriller both times we played,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “Both teams played very well and I couldn’t have been more proud of the way our players played this weekend. To come in and take Kentucky to five after beating UT on Friday speaks volumes about where our team is at right now.”

Murphy’s 13 kills complemented 22 assists, nine digs and three blocks, as she recorded her 18th double-double this season. Sophomore right-side/middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) added 11 kills on .476 hitting and tied her career high in digs with seven, while senior middle blocker Kelsey Bowers (Gainesville, Fla.) tallied a season-high 10 kills with a career-high eight digs and a team-high five blocks.

Junior libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) led the team’s defensive effort, finishing with a team-high 20 digs to complement two service aces. Freshmen outside hitters Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) and Colleen Ward (Naperville, Ill.) each tallied seven kills in the match.
Freshman setter Cindy Bathelt (Colorado Springs, Colo.) dished out a team-high 25 assists.

The two teams battled evenly to begin the first set before Kentucky’s Lauren Rapp registered a kill and then served an ace to give the Wildcats an early 7-5 advantage. Kentucky extended its lead to 12-8 before the Gators got back-to-back kills from freshman middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Ward cut their deficit to two, 12-10. With Florida trailing 14-12, Bowers and Jaeckel each notched kills to knot the score at 14-all. After another tie at 16-16, two consecutive Kentucky kills put them ahead by two, 18-16, forcing Wise to burn a timeout.

Out of the break, Jaeckel registered a kill on the outside to spark a
3-1 run that again tied the score, this time at 19-all. A block by the Wildcats on the right side and a kill on the next play put Kentucky back up by two, 21-19, heading into a Florida timeout. With the Gators down three, 22-19, the Wildcats committed a service error and Cusack served an ace to give UK a 23-21 advantage. Kentucky scored two of the next three points to reach set point at 24-22. A Callie Rivers (Winter Park,
Fla.) kill staved off one attempt at set point, but the Wildcats got a kill from Rapp on the right side to take a 25-23 first-set victory.

Florida raced out to a 3-0 lead to begin the second set as the run was capped off by a Jaeckel kill. A Bledsoe kill and a four-hits call against the Wildcats extended the Gators’ advantage to 5-1. With Florida leading 6-2, Kentucky’s Blaire Hiler and Queen Nzenwa notched back-to-back kills to cut its deficit to two, 6-4. A put-down by Ward in the middle sparked a 3-0 Florida run that extended its lead to five, 9-4. The two teams began trading points before the Gators, leading 12-9, got a block from Bowers and Jaeckel and the Wildcats committed back-to-back errors to put Florida ahead 15-9.

UF kept rolling to a 17-10 advantage that forced UK head coach Craig Skinner to burn a timeout. Out of the break, the Gators ran off five consecutive points to go up 22-10 behind the strong serving of Bathelt.
With Florida leading 22-11, Murphy registered back-to-back kills toreach set point at 24-11. The Wildcats staved off three Florida attempts at set point before Anderson won a joust at the net to give the Gators a
25-14 second-set win.

Florida broke out to a 5-2 lead in the third set after back-to-back kills by Bledsoe and Murphy and an attack error by Rapp. The Gators extended their advantage to 7-3 after Murphy teamed with Anderson for a block and then recorded a kill of her own. After a Murphy put-down put Florida in front by four, 8-4, a Murphy attack error and two service aces by Kentucky’s Laura Stokowski sparked a 6-0 run by the Wildcats that was capped off by three consecutive blocks to give them a 10-8 advantage.

The Gators scored three of the next four points to knot the score at
11-11 before Ward served an ace on the next play to give UF the lead at 12-11. From there, Florida scored two in a row to extend the run to 5-0 and give the Gators a 14-11 advantage heading into a Kentucky timeout.
The Wildcats cut within three, 17-14, before using a 3-0 run to knot the score at 17-17. Back-to-back kills by Murphy and Rivers put the Gators ahead 19-17. With Florida in front by one, 19-18, Bowers notched a kill and the Gators recorded a block on the next play to extend their lead to two, 21-19. Bledsoe charted a kill and the Wildcats committed an attack error to put Florida up by four, 23-19. Florida closed out a 25-20 third-set win with a kill by Bledsoe on the right side.

The two teams battled evenly to begin the fourth set before Kentucky broke a 7-7 tie with back-to-back kills to take a 9-7 advantage. A resounding put-down by Anderson down the middle stopped the scoring streak, but the teams continued to trade points before Kentucky scored two in a row to go up 16-13.

With the Gators trailing by three, 17-14, Anderson and Bowers registered back-to-back kills to cut within one, 17-16. A Bowers kill and an attack error by the Wildcats tied the score at 18-all. A Rapp kill for Kentucky and a Florida error gave UK a 21-19 lead and forced Wise to use a timeout. Out of the break, the Cats scored four of the set’s final five points to take a 25-20 fourth-set win.

Kentucky broke to a 3-1 lead to start the deciding set before Rivers and Murphy each registered back-to-back kills to knot the score at 3-3. A kill and an ace by the Wildcats’ Becky Pavan put them ahead 5-3. They extended their lead to 8-5 as the two teams switched sides and kept rolling to an 11-5 advantage before a Murphy kill on the right side stopped the scoring streak. The Wildcats were able to close out the 15-6 victory with four consecutive kills to close out the match.

Kentucky (25-4, 16-2 SEC) was led by Pavan’s 14 kills on .481 hitting.

Florida returns to action on Friday when it plays host to Mississippi State. Opening serve in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center is slated for 7 p.m. EST and the match will be carried live on WRUF-AM 850 with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore.

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