Dec. 4, 2010

Courtesy of Florida Athletics

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Junior Florida right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) became just the 17th player in school history to record her 1,000th career kill Saturday as the No. 1 Gators escaped the NCAA Second Round with a thrilling 3-2 (20-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 17-15) victory against intra-state rival Florida State in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Murphy turned in her nation-leading seventh triple-double of the season and the 22nd triple-dip of her collegiate career en route to the victory.

The Gators (29-1) advance to the NCAA regional semifinals for the 19th time in the last 20 years and will face 16th-seeded Purdue on Friday at Gregory Gymnasium in Austin, Texas. Florida, which notched its 20th consecutive victory against Florida State (22-11) in the all-time series, improves to 53-20 (.726) all-time in NCAA Tournament play, including a 52-19 (.732) mark under the direction of head coach Mary Wise.

"Second-round drama - this match lived up to its billing and I can't say enough good things about how well Florida State played," Wise said. "I don't think we've played a team all year that has passed as consistently as they did. We made some uncharacteristic, unforced errors. We know that to make a run in this tournament, you have to be healthy, you have to have some pretty good talent and, once in a while, you have to catch a break. I can't give enough credit to how well Florida State played. I thought their game plan was terrific."

The epic match featured more than its fair share of twists and turns. The Gators trailed FSU, 2-1, before rallying to take a hard-fought 25-21 victory in the fourth set. With the match tied 2-2 and Florida trailing 13-11 in the fifth set after a service ace by Visnja Djurdjevic, an illegal contact call was assessed against the Gators for four hits. After the match officials conferred, it was decided to replay the previous point. Murphy and junior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) teamed for a block and then Murphy followed with a kill to knot the score at 13-all. Following two more ties, junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) registered back-to-back kills to give Florida the 17-15 victory, as the O'Connell Center crowd of 2,431 erupted in euphoria with the last put-down sailing off hands.

"I was thinking 7-12 when we took that last timeout," Wise said. "This team has been here before - we were down 7-12 against Nebraska in Omaha and this team came back and won, so I shouldn't doubt them. I just knew that at that specific point, there was no room for error - we had to play perfect. The effort level and some of those digs were just outstanding. This team has surpassed all expectations. It will go down as one of the most fun teams I have ever coached. They show such great heart and such competitiveness. Some nights when it's not going well, you're lucky and you move on. That's how I feel tonight."

Murphy charted a match-high 19 kills on .385 hitting with 21 assists and 12 digs for her seventh triple-double of the year. She also added two blocks for a match-high 20.0 points. Murphy now has 1,004 career kills, which ranks 16th all-time in school history, surpassing Jenni Keene (1994, 1996-98), who tallied 1,000 kills during her Florida playing days.

Jaeckel finished with 18 kills and 12 digs for 19.5 total points, marking her third double-double of the season and the 15th double-dip of her career, while senior middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) tallied 13 kills on .391 hitting with two blocks.

Anderson totaled a career-high 12 blocks in the match, marking the most blocks by a Florida player in a single match since former Gator Kelsey Bowers totaled 11 blocks against Arizona State in the NCAA Second Round on Dec. 1, 2006. It marked the first time this season and the third time in her career that Anderson has tallied double-figure block totals. She also came up with a career-high eight digs.

Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) charted eight kills and was stellar defensively, posting a career-high 18 digs. That surpassed her previous career high of 17 digs against Tennessee on Sept. 19, 2010. Rivers also added a career-high seven blocks, bettering her previous personal best of five blocks recorded against Georgia on Oct. 18, 2009. She finished with 13.5 total points.

Freshman setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) dished out a career-high 35 assists, bettering her previous personal record of 31 set against Nebraska on Aug. 29, 2010, and marking the second time in her career she has eclipsed the 30-assist plateau. Senior libero Erin Fleming (Orlando, Fla.) posted a team-high 20 digs to go with a career-high seven assists. She also served two aces in the match.

The teams battled evenly to open the first set, until, tied at four-all, the Seminoles fired off two consecutive points on kills from Jekaterina Stepanova and Sareea Freeman to take an early 6-4 lead. A Murphy put-down cut the Seminole lead to one at 6-5, but a Djurdjevic kill and a Florida error widened the gap to three at 8-5. Florida responded by taking four of the next five points, highlighted by kills from Rivers and Jaeckel, along with consecutive Fleming aces, to knot the score at nine all. The teams traded points until Florida State managed to take a two-point lead at 15-13 thanks to a Stephanie Neville kill and a Florida error. A Seminole error cut the lead to one at 15-14, but Florida State then broke out on a 4-0 run, highlighted by a Freeman kill and a block from Morgan and Freeman to give the Seminoles a five-point lead, the largest of the set, at 19-14. The teams again battled evenly until, down 21-16, the Gators ran off two consecutive points behind a block to cut the Seminole advantage to three at 21-18, but the Seminoles were able to close out the first set 25-20 on a Florida service error.

The Gators raced out to a 4-0 lead early in the second set thanks to a Jaeckel kill and a block from Jaeckel and Anderson, forcing the Seminoles to take a time-out. The teams traded points after the break until another Jaeckel kill stretched the Gators' lead to five at 7-2. Florida State battled back, firing off two straight points behind a Neville and Freeman block to bring the score to 7-4, but the Gators responded with a 3-0 run of their own on a kill and service ace from Jaeckel to widen the gap to six at 10-4. The Seminoles then ran off four consecutive points, highlighted by two blocks and a Stepanova kill to cut the Florida lead to just two at 11-9, but consecutive kills from Rivers and Murphy quickly padded the Gators' lead at 13-9. The teams continued to battle until Florida State broke out with three consecutive points behind blocks from Djurdjevic, Neville and Freeman to cut the Florida lead to one at 18-17. Ahead by two at 21-19, Florida took a four-point lead on consecutive kills from Rivers and Murphy to bring the score to 23-19. A Stepanova kill kept the Seminoles alive, but the Gators held on, wrapping up the second set at 25-22 to level the match at one set all.

In the third set, the Gators again jumped out to a quick 5-2 lead behind put-downs from Jaeckel, Bledsoe and Rivers. Florida State battled back with a 3-0 run, highlighted by a block from Stepanova and Young, to knot the score at five all. A Bledsoe kill and a Seminole error gave the Gators a two-point advantage at 7-5, but the lead was quickly erased by a Neville kill and a Florida error to lock the score again at 7-7. The Gators then fired off three straight points thanks to consecutive Bledsoe kills to retake the lead at 10-7. Florida State managed to come within one at 13-12 on a Rachael Morgan kill and a block from Djurdjevic and Ashley Neff, but a Jaeckel kill and a Seminole error quickly stretched the Florida lead back to three at 15-12. Holding on to another slim one-point lead at 15-14, Florida broke out with a 3-0 run behind three consecutive kills from Jaeckel and Bledsoe to widen the gap to four at 18-14, but the Seminoles weren't done yet. Down 19-15, Florida State battled back within one at 19-18 thanks to a Stepanova kill and a pair of Gator errors. A Wiggs kill stretched the Florida lead to two, but the Seminoles fired off four straight points, highlighted by another Stepanova kill, to take their first lead of the set at 22-20. The teams continued to battle until a Stepanova kill set up a Florida State set point at 24-22, allowing them to close out the set on a Florida hitting error at 25-22 to take a 2-1 lead.

The teams battled their way to tie the score eight times to open the first set until, with the eighth tie knotting the score at 9-9, a Jaeckel kill and a block from Wiggs and Bledsoe gave the Gators a two-point advantage at 11-9. A pair of Gator errors then allowed the Seminoles to lock the score at 11 all. The Gators fought their way to a three-point lead at 16-13 on a Rivers block, but a Djurdjevic kill brought the Seminoles back within two at 16-14. The Gators retaliated by taking four of the next five points thanks to an Anderson kill and three more from Murphy to take a late 20-15 lead. Florida State wouldn't concede the set, battling back within two at 21-19 behind kills from Morgan, Neville and Stepanova. The teams continued to battle, trading points until a Rivers and Anderson block gave the Gators a set point at 24-21. Florida put away the hard-fought fourth set on another Rivers and Anderson block to set up a final fifth set showdown.

The two teams picked up right where they left off to begin the fifth set, deadlocked in five consecutive ties until a pair of Gator errors gave Florida State a three-point lead at 8-5. The Gators battled back within one with a Rivers and Anderson block and a Ferrell kill to bring the score to 8-7, but the Seminoles ran off four straight points, highlighted by consecutive kills from Djurdjevic, Neff and Stepanova, to take a commanding five-point lead at 12-7. The Gators rallied, using a Rivers service ace and Murphy kill to knot the score at 13. Both teams kept battling until, down 15-14, the Gators ran off three final points, highlighted by a Murphy kill and two more from Jaeckel to take the match.

The Seminoles, who advanced to the NCAA Second Round in back-to-back years for the first time in program history, were led by Stepanova's 15 kills. Djurdjevic added 14 kills and Morgan had 12. Senior libero Jenna Romanelli tallied a match-high 22 digs.