UF volleyball wins SEC opener

The No. 7 Florida Gators volleyball team swept its first SEC opponent of the year in three sets, extending its record to 8-2 on Friday in Starkville, Miss. The Gators defeated Mississippi State in their SEC season opener at the Bulldogs’ gym, 25-20, 25-18, 26-24.

UF finished the match outhitting the Bulldogs .310 to .198 and collected three more blocks on the night.

Florida senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy led the Gators as she earned a triple-double and had no attacking errors for the night. Murphy had 10 kills, 19 assists and 11 digs. Senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel led the team with an attacking performance of 14 kills. Junior right-side Tangerine Wiggs joins Jaeckel with a high attacking performance of 11 kills and contributed five blocks. Junior middle blocker Betsy Smith also put up four blocks for the Gators to help them to their victory.

Sophomore setter Chanel Brown matched Murphy’s stellar assisting performance with adding 19 assists as well. Freshman defensive specialist Madison Monserez collected seven digs throughout the match for her first career start. Redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe led the match with 15 digs.

It was a battle back and forth with the Gators and the Bulldogs throughout most of the first set. Nine of the twenty-five total ties in the match were in this set alone. Wiggs acquired over half her total blocks and Jaeckel had five kills. Even though the Bulldogs out hit the Gators .244 to .167, Florida took the first set, 25-20.

The second set was an easier task for the Gators as they cruised to a 25-18 win. Florida had great service return as they held the Bulldogs to just a .056 hitting percentage.

In the third set, both teams came out of intermission fired up. Jaeckel had over half of her total kills in this stanza and the Gators had their best hitting percentage of the night in this set with a .410. Florida made a comeback at the end as it looked like the Bulldogs were getting ready to take the third set.  The Gators went on a 6-1 run to win the third set, end the match and gain their first SEC win of the year.

Florida continues SEC play in the O’Connell Center next weekend by hosting the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers on Friday and Sunday. The Gators take on the Wildcats at 7 p.m. on Friday and the Volunteers at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at lizxxbeth@gators.ufl.edu