The Florida volleyball team picked up the 800th win in program history Friday night when the No. 13 Gators (12-3, 5-1 SEC) topped the Arkansas Razorbacks (10-7, 2-4 SEC) in straight sets 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 29-27).
Kristy Jaeckel, the AVCA National Player of the Week, led Florida with her 10th straight game with double-digit kills with 15 on .433 hitting.
“I think Kristy is really coming through for us,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. ”She was terminating whether we were in-system or out-of-system. There were broken plays where she just went up and hit a great shot. She’s being very patient, she’s seeing the block, she’s hitting around the block and doing a great job of it.”
Florida hit .315 in the match and continued its streak of outhitting opponents in 2011. The Gators have won the hitting battle in all 15 matches this season. Florida was relentless defensively at the net, taking the blocks edge 9.0-7.0 and outblocking all six of SEC opponents so far.
Junior middle blocker Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) also had a hot hand, hitting an errorless .750 with nine kills on 12 swings. Smith has hit above .700 on four occasions this season and leads the Gators with a .493 hitting percentage against SEC opponents.
Junior right-side Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) struck a balance on both sides of the ball, notching nine kills on a .368 hitting clip while posting a match-high six blocks against the Razorbacks. Senior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) also had a great night defensively, registering five blocks, as well as a .400 hitting percentage with four kills and no errors. Senior right-side setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) led Florida with 22 assists and eight digs on the evening.
The Razorbacks established their presence in the Stephen C. O’Connell early in the first frame, taking a 3-1 lead. Florida fought back, establishing four ties, but the Razorbacks kept finding the gaps in the Gator defense.
The Gators took their first lead at 12-11 due to an Arkansas error, but the Razorbacks roughed their way back on top, 14-13. The momentum changed for Florida after a Ferrell blast into the center of the Arkansas defense drove Florida on a 4-0 run, taking the lead, 19-17.
A Murphy service ace forced the Razorbacks into a timeout, but Arkansas battled back, tying the score at 19. An Anderson kill ignited another 4-0 run, pushing Florida ahead at 23-19. Wiggs delivered the final kill of the set, 25-21.
Arkansas took an initial 2-0 lead to begin the second set, but the Gators fought back to take the lead, 4-3. Brown set Smith up for the kill that would drive Florida on a 6-0 run with Unroe behind the service line, 12-5. The Razorbacks were unable to defend against the Gator offense, and a ball handling error sparked a 4-0 run that pushed the Gators further ahead, 16-8.
Arkansas went on a 3-0 run, but back-to-back kills from Jaeckel shifted the momentum back towards the Gators, 19-13. The Gators shut the door on the Razorbacks with a Murphy bullet to left back, 25-20, giving them the 2-0 advantage going into intermission.
The Gators and Razorbacks came out of the break dueling point-for-point, tying every possible score until 5-5. Neither team could gain more than two points over the other until a Florida attacking error ignited an Arkansas 5-0 run, pushing them ahead of the Orange and Blue, 18-15.
A Razorback setting error sparked a 4-0 run for the Gators, as Florida gained the advantage at 21-19. Arkansas wasn’t letting down, tying the set at 24. The Razorbacks had three set points but couldn’t capitalize, as Wiggs played a part in the final two points for the Gators.
Smith and Wiggs teamed up for a stuff block on Roslandy Acosta to set up match point, 28-27. Wiggs then slammed a kill down the line to give the Gators their 10th sweep of the season, 29-27.
Florida now turns to Sunday and its third televised match of the season, facing the LSU Tigers at 1:30 p.m. on Sun Sports (DirecTV Channel 653, Cox Channels 48 and 1048).
“LSU is middle-hitter dominated, they run a very fast offense and they’re one of the best ball control teams in the league,” Wise said. “They are quick and quicker than that. We will have a great, great challenge on Sunday, matching up to their foot speed and arm speed.”