The No. 6 Florida Gators will be playing host to the Kentucky Wildcats tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m., in the O’Connell Center. This is the second SEC game for the Gators as they are 1-0 so far in conference play.
They defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a three game sweep last Friday to improve their record to 8-2. Being recognized for her outstanding performance against the Gators’ first SEC opponent, senior setter/right-side hitter Kelly Murphy has been named the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Week and Sports Imports/American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I National Player of the Week.
Murphy landed her 25th career triple-double in the game, contributing 10 kills, 19 assists and 11 digs. Murphy has been named SEC Offensive Player of the Week seven times throughout her career and has been awarded the Sports Imports/American Volleyball Coaches Association Division I National Player of the Week twice before. Earning this achievement as a freshman and junior, Murphy became the first athlete in UF school history to win this award three times in her career.
As the Gators get ready to take on their second SEC opponent, defense will be a main focus for them.
“Overall, the theme of this year is defense, so I think that’s something we will definitely work on”, senior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell said.
“They’re physical players,” senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel said. “They hit the ball hard, they serve well, they pass well and they’re big so they put up a nice big block. We really have to make sure we bring our A-game against them.”
Head coach Mary Wise credits the Kentucky’s Wildcats program and recognizes how challenging this game will be.
“One of the signs of really good programs is that they take no dips,” Wise said. “I think Kentucky is at that point now where they just keep reloading and yes, they have some veteran players with a lot of experience, but they also have a lot of young players that are playing right now. A very, very well coached team. I think I Friday night will be as good of a match as we will have all season at home.”
The Kentucky Wildcats are heavily stacked up with upper-class men, as six of their 14-man squad is juniors or seniors.
Junior libero Stephanie Klefot will be a test to the Gators’ offense as she has over 1,000 career digs, becoming just the 10th player in Kentucky school history to reach such a milestone. She was also SEC Defensive Player of the Week for two consecutive weeks to help Kentucky to their UK Invitational tournament victory. The Wildcats are also led by junior outside hitter Ashley Frazier who was named the MVP of the UK Invitational tournament.
The Wildcats are coming off of a nine-game winning streak as they stand 2-0 in conference play so far and have an overall record of 11-2. The last two times the Gators and Wildcats played each other, the Gators defeated UK both times. They won 3-1 in Lexington and then swept them 3-0 in the O’Dome.
The fan base so far this season has been collecting record-breaking numbers and the team is excited to come back to play in the O’Dome for a SEC show down.
“We’ve been away from home for a few weeks and are excited to get back,” junior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs said. “Our fan support so far this season has been so awesome. We are so grateful for everyone that comes out and supports us and we really just hope we keep it up and continue to have such a great turn out during season.”
Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.