Florida Gators volleyball sweeps JMU in the season opener

Special to GC on the Florida Gators volleyball team

HARRISONBURG, Va. -- A school record 14 block assists from sophomore middle blocker Rhamat Alhassan, a 32 point second-set win for the Orange and Blue after facing an 11-point deficit and a 3-0 sweep on the road were all highlights of No. 4 Florida volleyball's 2015 debut against JMU at Sinclair Gymnasium in Harrisonburg, Va., Saturday.

A feisty James Madison squad made the Gators dig deep, especially in the second frame, for their first win of the 2015 season (25-16, 32-30, 25-18). Senior outside hitter Živa Recek put down a team-leading 17 kills for a .538 hitting efficiency to lead the Orange and Blue offensively, while senior libero Nikki O'Rourke scooped up 17 digs in the back row, two shy of a career high. Senior setter Mackenzie Dagostino served up 42 assists towards UF's efforts.

While Florida worked out some first-match kinks in the initial set against James Madison, six roofs from Alhassan and four error-free slams from Recek powered the Gators to a 25-16 set victory. After the Dukes got on the board first, UF countered, then rattled four points off under sophomore Carli Snyder's serve to get the night started.

It took 32 points in the second, but it belonged Florida in 32-30 fashion for the 2-0 lead. Facing an 11-point deficit to start the frame, while not ideal, proved to be no problem for the Gators, who showed a lot of heart and resilience in battling back. At 21-18 with redshirt freshman defensive specialist Lindsey Rogers on serve, Florida strung together four points to tie the set. A back and forth battle ensued, but Snyder laid down the hammer for set point at 32-30 to give UF a 2-0 lead in the match.

Florida worked quick in the third for a 25-18 finale, sealing its season-opening victory with a sweep.

Three Florida volleyball All-Americans in Alhassan, Simone Antwi and Alex Holston, are back home for UF's season-opening weekend of play. UF's road swing in DC marks the first of seven road matches to open the 2015 campaign for the Gators, who will be tested early and often with three ranked opponents in the stretch, which includes the DC duo, the VERT Challenge in Austin, Texas, and the Outrigger Resorts Volleyball Challenge in Honolulu.


"What our veteran team knows is that when we play these matches on the road, you get team's best shots. James Madison played very, very well. It was a fun match -- that second set going back and forth. A whole lot of credit to the effort of the JMU players and how well they were coached. Our team showed a lot of character in our ability to come back in the second set. After just the first match of the year, our hope is that we can improve from the first match to the second as we've done in the past."

Florida: 1-0
James Madison: 3-1

*         Saturday's match marked the first meeting between the Gators and Dukes

*         899 | Entering the 2015 season, Florida volleyball owned at an all-time program record of 898-188 (.827). With wins at James Madison in UF's season opener, the Gators made it 899 victories all-time in the history of the program
*         21 | The Gators have now won 21 season openers under head coach Mary Wise
*         14 | Block assists for sophomore middle blocker Rhamat Alhassan, a new school record and career high. Alhassan passed Kelsey Bowers, who had 13 in a 3-0 sweep at Alabama Oct. 29, 2006

The No. 4 Gators will continue their DMV road swing with a match at American University in Washington, DC, Sunday. First serve is slated for 4 p.m. at Bender Arena. American and Florida will meet for the third time, the last being 2003. The Gators are 2-0 all-time against the Eagles and have won one match each in Gainesville and DC, respectively.

American University (Aug. 30)
Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Patriot League Network <http://campusinsiders.com/network/patriot_league/live>
Radio: ESPN Gainesville<http://www.wruf.com/>
Live Stats: American Stats<http://aueagles.com/sports/w-volley/2015-16/boxscores/20150830_rhfi.xml>

*         2014 Record: 26-7, 15-1 (Patriot League)
*         Series Record: Florida leads, 2-0 (2-0 under Mary Wise)
*         3-set: 2-0; 4-set: 0-0; 5-set: 0-0
*         Home: 1-0 | Away: 1-0 | Neutral: 0-0
*         Last Time Out: Aug. 29, 2003 at Gainesville | W, 3-0 (30-14, 30-21, 30-16)
*         Last Time Out at D.C.: Sept. 22, 2002 | W, 3-0 (30-17, 30-11, 30-18)
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Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.