No. 1 Florida Volleyball Faces Purdue in NCAA Regional Semifinals

By: UF Sports Communications
By: UF Sports Communications

Austin, TX - The No. 1 University of Florida volleyball team opens
play in its 19th NCAA Regional Semifinal in the last 20 years when the
Gators face Big Ten Conference member Purdue on Friday in Austin, Texas. Opening serve in Gregory Gymnasium is slated for 6 p.m. ET.

The Gators (29-1) are riding a 24-match winning streak and are the
tournament’s No. 1 seed for the first time in program history. Florida
has been ranked No. 1 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association
Poll for a school-record eight consecutive weeks and has boasted the
nation’s top Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) the entire season.

Florida advanced to the NCAA regional semifinals with a 3-0 victory
against South Carolina State in the NCAA First Round and a thrilling
come-from-behind five-set win against intra-state rival Florida State in
the NCAA Second Round. The Gators are making their 21st all-time
appearance in the NCAA Tournament and hold a 53-20 mark all-time in NCAA play.

“When you play any team that’s coming out of the Big Ten, you’re playing a team that’s battle-tested,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “This Purdue team, in particular, is big and physical in the back row and they are jet-fast and great ball-handlers in the back row. For us to be successful tomorrow night, we are going to have to play our best match of the year.”

Florida is 3-2 all-time in program history against Purdue (23-10),
though the two squads have not faced one another since Sept. 2, 1995.
The Boilermakers are making their fourth trip to the NCAA Regional
Semifinals in the last six years and advanced to this year’s NCAA Round of 16 with wins against Bluegrass State opponents Kentucky and
Louisville.

“Purdue plays some hard-nosed defense and they’re a big, physical
blocking team, so we’ve really been working on our defensive game,” said junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel. “We’re excited to be in Austin and play some teams we haven’t played before.”

As a team, the Gators rank eighth in the nation in hitting percentage
with a .294 clip, while also ranking in the top-20 nationally in blocks
per set (10th – 2.84 bps) and are 23rd in the nation in service aces per
set with 1.62.

Offensively, Florida is led by junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy
(Wilmington, Ill.), who is the only player who ranks in the Southeastern
Conference’s top-10 in hitting percentage, kills per set and service
aces per set. Murphy averages 3.07 kills per set on .376 hitting with a
league-leading 0.38 aces per set. Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers
(Winter Park, Fla.) and Jaeckel follow with 2.52 and 2.51 kills per set,
respectively.

Junior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) leads the
SEC and ranks 29th in the nation with 1.28 blocks per set, highlighted
by a career-high 12 blocks last Saturday vs. Florida State. Senior
middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) follows with 1.07
blocks per set, while sophomore right-side Tangerine Wiggs adds 0.98
blocks per set.

Freshman setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) dishes out a squad-best 5.64 assists per set, while senior libero Erin Fleming (Orlando, Fla.) adds 3.56 digs per set.

Purdue is making its 13th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history and its fifth all-time appearance in the NCAA Regional Semifinals. The Boilermakers, like the Gators, are battle-tested, having played 11 teams that made this year’s NCAA field and 10 of their matches this season were against ranked opponents.

Senior setter Jaclyn Hart ranks sixth in the Big Ten Conference wi10.63 assists per set, ranking second all-time in program history with
4,869 career assists. Sophomore outside hitter Ariel Turner leads the
Boilermakers offensively, averaging 3.51 kills per set and having posted
double-figure kills on 26 occasions during the 2010 campaign. Senior
middle blocker Kristen Arthurs leads her team in blocks per set with
1.04 and has been her squad’s leading blocker in 14 matches this season.


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