The No. 9 Florida Gators volleyball team opens the 2011 season at home today against Boston College as hosts of the Active Ankle Challenge in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center this weekend.
The SEC/ACC Challenge also features Auburn and North Carolina. Both matches will air live on WRUF-FM, 103.7 in Gainesville.
Tonight marks the first-ever meeting between Florida and Boston College. The Eagles return eight players from a year ago, including outside hitter Tsvetelina Dureva, senior libero Brennan Clark, junior middle hitter Krystle Higgins and sophomore setter Cagla Sen.
Boston College went 9-24 in 2010, including 1-19 in ACC play, but second-year head coach Chris Campbell has built the program for a solid ACC run.
Coming off a 20-0 SEC season, 29-2 overall, the Gators return 10 players and four starters from a year ago, including SEC Player of the Year and AVCA First Team All-American Kelly Murphy.
Murphy was named Preseason All-SEC and was recently named as a candidate for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. She has 22 career triple-doubles, a school record, and 60 career double-doubles.
She entered the 1,000 kill and 1,000 point clubs in her junior season and was the only player to rank among the SEC’s top-10 individually in hitting percentage, kills per set and service aces per set.
Murphy was joined on the Preseason All-SEC Team by senior Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo). Jaeckel was Second Team All-SEC last fall and an AVCA Honorable Mention All-America selection.
Jaeckel will look to enter the 1,000 kill club in her final season, having 926 for her career. Jaeckel has 15 career double-doubles and has played in every set the last two seasons as one of the Gators’ starting pin hitters.
2010 Second Team All-SEC senior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson , 2010 SEC All-Freshman Team sophomore setter Chanel Brown and junior right-side Tangerine Wiggs round out the remaining starters from a Florida squad that was No. 1 in the country for a school-record eight consecutive polls.
The Gators also return redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe, who missed last season due to injury, and Hawaii transfer Stephanie Ferrell, who led the Rainbow Wahine to the 2009 NCAA semifinals and will be a powerhouse for the Gators.
Florida head coach Mary Wise enters her 21st season with the program, leading the Gators to a nation-leading 632 wins since taking over prior to the start of the 1991 campaign.
Wise has a record of 632-69 (.902) at Florida, the best winning percentage of any Division I volleyball program during that 20-year span. She has led the team to 19 SEC Championships and 20 NCAA Tournament appearances, including seven Final Fours. The Gators have a nation-leading streak of 20 consecutive 25-win seasons.