As the 2011 University of Florida Gators volleyball team journeyed to the NCAA Elite Eight, finishing with an impressive 27-6 record, many quotes were said along the way that described how influential and vital each starting teammate was to the court. As each player is as just as essential to the other, here are a few of the more memorable quotes, which deliver accurate descriptions of how each player was seen and what they delivered to the 2011 Gator volleyball team when it was needed most.
Senior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson:
“Another player who made great strides was Cassandra Anderson,” said Florida coach Mary Wise after the Gators defeated Kentucky 3-1 on Sept. 23. “The three blocks, the hitting .400, she just didn’t get enough balls. That was one of her best matches.”
Anderson had five kills against Florida’s Southeastern Conference foe, two digs and led the match with three blocks, including two solos.
Anderson concluded the 2011 season with 105 kills, 59 blocks, 56 digs and 19 service aces.
Sophomore setter Chanel Brown:
“I thought Chanel did such a good job of getting the ball not only to Kelly but the balls to the middles,” Wise said about Brown after a competitive and important match against Michigan in the NCAA Sweet 16.
Brown led the Gators with 23 assists and had five digs.
Brown ended the season with 663 assists 162 digs and 20 service aces.
Senior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell:
“Stephanie Ferrell was terrific,” said Wise after the Gators defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 3-1 in the first round of the SEC double-round robin. “One of the best matches she’s had. I can’t say enough positive things about Stephanie in terms of how she went from a hitting slump and worked her way out of it. She came to practice early, watched film, took meaningful reps and just worked her way out of it.”
Ferrell notched 11 kills off of 17 swings for a .588 hitting percentage while only posting one error against the Wildcats.
Ferrell had 246 kills on the season along with 29 blocks, 81 digs and 11 service aces.
Senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel:
“When you have a player like Kristy Jaeckel, so much of her leadership comes from just her work ethic,” Wise said. “Underclassmen watch Kristy and how hard she works. She may not be the best jumper on the team, she may not be the fastest player on the team, but she has worked her way into being the player she is right now. So in many ways, they see how hard she works and her attention to detail, that helps the younger players whether they are front row or back row.”
“She works so hard and does so much for our team,” UF junior Tangerine Wiggs said. “She passes for us, she digs balls for us, she blocks balls for us. She has a great hitting efficiency. So, we are just so grateful to have a player like her on our team because she makes us all better.”
“Kristy was in the zone. 19 points in three sets, that’s pretty good,” Wise said about Jaeckel’s stellar performance against the Georgia Bulldogs on Nov. 18, when the Gators swept the Bulldogs 3-0.
Jaeckel had a match-high 14 kills, hitting on a .480 clip, along with three aces. The outside hitter also put up three blocks and notched 19 points on the night, a feat that that hasn’t been achieved in a three-set win since Callie Rivers tallied 19.5 points back on Nov. 29, 2007, against College of Charleston.
Jaeckel led the Gators in kills, points and service aces on the season as the senior racked up 405 kills on the season (seventh in SEC) to go along with 500.5 points (fourth in SEC) and 49 aces (1st in SEC, 27th in NCAA). She is also third on the team in digs (268) and blocks (72), including a team-high 21 solo blocks.
Sophomore middle blocker Chloe Mann:
“For Chloe to have five blocks and nine kills, she really brought her ‘A’ game,” said Wise after the Gators defeated Clemson 3-0 on Sept. 3. Wise gave her a starting opportunity and she did not disappoint. “She took full advantage of that starting opportunity. She is the best jumper on the team. She looked like an experienced player out there because she never looked lost.”
Mann led the match in hitting efficiency, registering an .818. The sophomore recorded nine kills off of 11 swings with no errors and still managed to put up five blocks for the Gators. One of Mann’s blocks was a solo effort, which made the middle blocker the only Gator to get a solo block that match.
“We had no answer for her,” LSU coach Fran Flory said of Mann’s outstanding performance against his Tigers team on Nov. 11 when Florida defeated the Tigers 3-1. “It was very frustrating sitting on the bench trying to get our middles to respond. As a coaching staff, if you have someone put up those numbers, it is your job to teach and coach your kids through that match. The key was that she wasn’t predictable. She hit right, she hit left, she tipped and she had a knack for picking the right shot at the right time.”
Mann recorded the second-highest hitting percentage in NCAA history (minimum of 20 attacks), as the middle blocker hit .900 against the Tigers. She recorded 18 kills with no errors on 20 swings. Her performance was the highest in the history of the SEC with at least 20 attacks and she registered a then-career-high 20.5 points.
By the end of the 2011 season, Mann had recorded 145 kills and 67 blocks for the Gators.
Freshman defensive specialist Madison Monserez:
“I think Maddie is really playing awesome right now,” said senior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell as the freshman picked up nine digs against the Kentucky Wildcats in the SEC first round of the double round robin. “To put such pressure on her as a freshman, I think she takes it all in stride and it’s not even stressing her at all.”
The true freshman finished the season with 114 digs.
Senior setter and right-side hitter Kelly Murphy:
“I thought Kelly’s setting choices and delivery were outstanding,” Wise said about Murphy after the Gators were victorious against Georgia in a 3-0 sweep on Nov. 18. “The reason our hitters were hitting at such a high efficiency was a lot because Kelly and Chanel (Brown) were delivering. Kelly was extra special tonight.”
Murphy led the match against Georgia with 21 assists and also added five kills and five digs.
“Truthfully, I think we could have kicked it to Kelly and she would have killed it,’’ Wise said about Murphy’s performance against the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. “She was in that kind of zone.’’
Murphy registered 17 kills on a .517 hitting percentage against the Wolverines. The senior also had 21 assists, 10 digs and a block for the Gators.
Murphy led Florida with 693 assists on the year and finished fifth in the SEC in service aces (38) and hitting percentage (.330). The right-side hitter and setter was second on the team in service aces, kills (297) and points (367.5), and third in digs (271).
Freshman defensive specialist Holly Pole:
“Holly and Maddy (Monserez) are so awesome,” said UF junior Tangerine Wiggs. “I can’t even describe how hard it is as a freshman to come in that environment, especially them coming in against three awesome teams (Iowa State, Texas and Stanford). They both came in with full confidence and when they are confident, that makes us confident in them.”
Pole played plenty in the NCAA Tournament, ending the season with 85 digs for the Orange and Blue.
Junior middle blocker Betsy Smith:
“I think so often our unsung hero is Betsy Smith,” Wise said in the post-match press conference after the Gators defeated the Michigan Wolverines 3-0 in the NCAA Sweet 16. “Seven out of 10 and four blocks, just a total complete team effort.”
Smith registered seven kills off of 10 errorless swings for a match-leading .700 hitting clip. The middle blocker also had five digs and four blocks against the Wolverines.
“A player who has been such a pleasant surprise from the blocking standpoint has been Betsy Smith,” Wise said. “And she is a whole different player than she was a year ago. She is helping us in both the offensive end and the defensive side.”
“Betsy may not be the best jumper in the league or the fastest player or the tallest middle in the league, but there are very few who have a higher volleyball IQ and I would put her work ethic up against anybody,” Wise said.
Smith wrapped up the 2011 campaign with 165 kills, 109 blocks and 39 digs.
Redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe:
“She is only two matches into her career, so there is a lot of great future ahead of her,” said Wise as the Gators were preparing to face off against their biggest in-state rival, Florida State, on Aug. 30. “Her game will continue to get better in terms of her serving, secondary setting and defense, but for her as a freshman, the way she started is really exciting.”
“From an offensive standpoint I thought we were very sharp and from a defensive standpoint, that was Taylor Unroe’s match of the year in terms of quality digs,” Wise said about Unroe’s performance during the Gators victory 3-0 against the Georgia Bulldogs. Unroe notched 12 digs for the Gators against the Bulldogs during the second round of the SEC double round robin.
Wise’s high expectations for Unroe were quickly met as the redshirt freshman led the Gators’ backcourt throughout the 2011 season, recording 432 total digs and 95 assists. Unroe is third on the team for assists after the two designated setters.
Junior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs:
“Although her numbers may not be big, she allowed us with her blocking to dig behind it,” Wise said about Wiggs after the Michigan match in the NCAA Regional semifinals where the Gators were victorious in a 3-0 sweep.
While Wiggs only had two kills on the night, Wise’s quote emphasizes it was her efforts on the court that gave the Gators the opportunities they had offensively. The junior also picked up two blocks against the Wolverines.
It’s apparent that Wiggs shined as a right-side hitter as the junior registered 244 kills on the season and put up 87 blocks for the Gators.
While every player in a Gators uniform has received recognition individually for their triumphs, there are two standout seniors who perform together so incredibly that many began talking about the dynamic duo as if they were one. To give acknowledgment to the superior performances these two players exerted together on the court, here are quotes which sum up not only their talent as players, but their extraordinary character as well.
Kelly Murphy and Kristy Jaeckel:
“We knew coming in they were going to be good,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “They’re two great, very talented players, and I don’t think we had a very good answer for them.”
“I can’t say enough great things about these two,” Wise said. “They have given everything possible throughout their careers and we’ve had a pretty good run. ”
“They’re irreplaceable,” said Wise. “Not just their talents, but the quality people. It will be tough.”
Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.