The No. 13 Florida Gators (15-3, 8-1 SEC) will hit the road on Wednesday night to face off against the South Carolina Gamecocks (10-9, 1-8 SEC) in the Volleyball Competition Facility in Columbia, S.C.
The 8:00 p.m. match will be featured as part of ESPNU’sWednesday Night Women’s Volleyball doubleheader, following the ACC showdown between powerhouses, Duke and North Carolina. The match will also be aired on ESPN3.com and Florida fans can tune into the live radio broadcast on Sportsradio 850 with play-by-play announcer Cory Stephens.
The Gators defeated both Alabama and Ole Miss this past weekend on the road, winning each match in three games. The victories marked their fifth and sixth SEC sweeps of the season. Florida is 5-0 on the road against conference opponents this season, winning all of those matches in three sets.
“We are not flawless by any stretch, but we are moving in the right direction,” head coach Mary Wise said. “That has been our goal all year, to get better from month-to-month.”
Senior Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) led the way for the Gators this weekend registering 26 kills and 12 digs, posting a double-double in Tuscaloosa against Alabama. Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award finalist Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) hit a match-high .500 against Ole Miss on Friday, smashing seven kills to go along with 22 assists and seven digs. The setter and outside hitter added another 22 assists on Sunday against the Crimson Tide along with nine kills and nine digs.
Junior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) combined for 21 kills on the weekend to continue her spectacular playing streak. Redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) controlled the backcourt hitting the floor for 27 digs on the weekend.
“What we see in Taylor is execution but also I think there’s a different mindset,” Wise said. “She’s now at that point where she’s moving towards what the great liberos have, is that feeling that no ball should score on them.”
The Gators currently lead the SEC in hitting percentage with a .311 clip to rank second in the NCAA. Florida also leads the conference in opponent hitting percentage—limiting opponents to a .158 clip—and service aces, with 1.70 aces per set (which place the Gators at 16th in the country in that category).
Last season, the Gators swept the Gamecocks, 3-0 (25-20, 20-17, 25-13 and 25-14, 25-16, 25-12) both times the teams met during the season. Florida leads the overall series by a margin of 44-7 over South Carolina, with 39 of those meetings under Florida head coach Mary Wise.
“Again it’s going to be defense,” Wise said about preparation for the Gamecocks. “In terms of defense and ball control because they’re a very good serving team and at home, good serving teams become great serving teams. It’s not a venue that you can chase balls around. It has a low ceiling, so we really have to take care of the first contact. We will be stressing that on serve receive and first contact on defense.”
The Gamecocks split 1-1 this past weekend as they fell to Alabama on Friday in three sets, but had their first SEC win of the season against Ole Miss in four sets on Sunday.
Freshman outside hitter Bethanie Thomas compiled her fifth double-double of the season, registering 11 kills and 11 digs in South Carolina’s three-set loss at Alabama. Junior setter Taylor Bruns tallied a match-high 26 assists and added seven kills hitting off of a .462 clip. Sophomore libero Paige Wheeler led the backcourt, posting a team-high 16 digs for the Gamecocks.
The return of sophomore Juliette Thevenin helped lift the Gamecocks over the Ole Miss Rebels in a four-set victory. Bringing some balance back to South Carolina, the outside hitter notched a match-high 17 kills and 10 digs in her first match in three weekends.
Senior middle blocker Teresa Stenlund registered 11 kills and six blocks, and redshirt freshman outside hitter Cara Howley had 12 kills, each posting .524 hitting percentages. Junior setter Taylor Bruns had a match-high 48 assists and added five kills and 10 digs. Freshman outside hitter Bethanie Thomas posted eight kills and had a team-high of 11 digs.
This match will mark South Carolina’s fifth-annual “Dig Pink” match in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is the second-consecutive year that the Gamecocks will wear pink jerseys in light of the occasion. The first 200 fans to arrive in the Volleyball Competition Facility will receive pink shirts in honor of the event.