Gators prepare for Austin Regional

The 14th-seeded Florida volleyball team (27-4, 19-1 SEC) travels to Texas to compete in the NCAA Austin Regional, Friday-Saturday, December 7-8 in Gregory Gymnasium. The Gators take on the host and third-seeded Texas Longhorns in the regional semifinal at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN3.

All three matches of the Austin Regional will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks with play-by-play analyst Adam Amin and color commentator Maria Taylor on the call. Both regional semifinal matches will air live on ESPN3 and the regional final will be broadcast live on ESPNU.

Joining the 2012 Southeastern Conference Champion Gators in the Austin Regional are No. 3 seed and Big 12 Champion Texas (25-4), who faced one another earlier this season in the first match of the Nike Big Four Classic at Penn State. The Gators fell in three tight sets, 27-29, 22-25, 24-26, to the Longhorns in late August but have won two of the last three matchups with Texas.

Florida leads the all-time series (12-6, 12-5 under Wise) with Texas and is 4-3 against the Longhorns in the NCAA Tournament (4-2 under Wise).

Sixth-seeded and Pac-12 runner-up Southern California (29-5) and unseeded Wichita State meet up in the other regional semifinal. The Shockers, who knocked off No. 11 seed Kansas to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history, and the Trojans, the three-time NCAA Champions (1981, 2002, 2003), will meet at 6 p.m. ET on Friday evening for a berth to the Elite Eight.

Florida has advanced to NCAA regional action in 21 of 22 seasons under 2012 SEC Coach of the Year Mary Wise. The Gators are competing in their 22nd consecutive NCAA Tournament and are making their 23rd appearance overall. The Orange and Blue are 58-22 (.725) all-time in the NCAA Championships, including a 57-21 (.731) mark under Wise’s direction.

Florida has a 13-7 (.650) record in the round of 16 and has participated in 13 regional finals, including last year’s Elite Eight appearance in the Gainesville Regional. The Gators have reached the national semifinal on seven occasions during that span.

The Gators lead the SEC and are fourth in the nation in hitting percentage (.302), while also ranking tops in the conference in service aces (1.47/set). Junior middle blocker and SEC Player of the Year Chloe Mann leads the nation with a .442 hitting percentage, putting down 367 kills on the year thus far. Mann leads Florida with 1.16 blocks/set, good for third in the SEC.

AVCA South Region Freshman of the Year Živa Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia) leads Florida in kills with 429 (4.01/set) and ranks top five in the SEC in kills and points per set (4.48). The SEC Freshman of the Year already owns the Florida freshman record for kills and is second in kills per set only to Gator Great Aury Cruz, who crushed 4.32 kills/set during her rookie campaign.

AVCA All-South Region and First Team All-SEC selection Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.) leads the conference with 11.61 assists/set, good for 13th in the NCAA. Brauneis is a key component to Florida’s offensive prowess in 2012, as the Gators have ranked in the top-five in hitting efficiency nationally all season.

Florida’s senior class, comprised of Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.), Sundai Weston (Naples, Fla.) and Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.), has been the picture of consistency throughout the season. Wiggs, an AVCA All-South Region and First Team All-SEC selection, is second in the SEC and 20th in the NCAA in hitting percentage with a .382 offensive efficiency and is third on the team with 239 kills on the year. Wiggs is second on the team in total blocks with 82 and is third in blocks per set (.80).

Smith, a Second Team All-SEC honoree, is ninth in the conference with a .341 hitting percentage, tallying 205 kills in 2012. Smith is second on the team in blocks per set (.81) and third in total blocks with 77. Weston has come on as a late serving specialist and has tallied 14 digs and five service aces on the season.

Texas has won 19 of their last 20 matches since switching to a 5-1 offense, led by junior setter Hannah Allison. Four Longhorns were named AVCA All-Central Region, as Khat Bell, Big 12 Player of the Year Haley Eckerman, Sha’Dare McNeal and Bailey Webster were all recognized for their efforts this season.

The Longhorns lead the nation in hitting percentage (.320) and are ninth in the country in blocks (2.99/set). Eckerman is 10th in points per set (5.16), 12th in kills per set (4.51) and 28th in aces per set (.41), while Bell is 23rd in the NCAA in blocks per set (1.38).

Courtesy of UF Communications