Nov. 26, 2008
COLUMBIA, S.C. - A valiant effort by South Carolina fell short, as No. 14 Florida took a five-set win, 25-27, 25-17, 22-25, 25-21, 15-11, on Wednesday evening at the Volleyball Competition Facility. The Gators move to 24-3 on the season and 18-2 in Southeastern Conference play while clinching a share of their 18th consecutive league crown. The Gamecocks close the regular season at 21-9 and 12-8, respectively.
Outside hitters Ivana Kujundzic and Hannah Lawing both had double-doubles, with Kujundzic tying for the match high with 17 kills to go with 10 digs. Lawing tied her season best with 13 kills and added a team-best 14 digs, while libero Sarah Cline also had 14 digs. Lawing also set a career high with five blocks, while Kujundzic added six. Middle blocker Belita Salters had 15 kills and a season-best eight blocks. Petra Lorenzi added 13 digs and six assists. Setter Bridget Denson-Dorman had 39 assists and nine digs, while middle blocker Megan Laughlin added eight kills and a season-best five blocks. Florida was led by Kelly Murphy's triple-double, with 17 kills, 25 assists and 13 digs. Murphy also had five blocks. Kelsey Bowers and Colleen Ward both had 13 kills, while Kristy Jaeckel added 10 kills and seven blocks. Cassandra Anderson had 10 blocks, and libero Elise Cusack contributed a match-best 24 digs. Cindy Bathelt had a double-double with 31 assists and 11 digs.
The Gamecocks got out to a 12-5 lead in the first set behind three early blocks, two coming from Lawing. The Gators went on a six-point run to make it a one-point set again, with three Gamecock errors aiding the skein. Florida fell behind, 15-11, but came back to take a 17-16 lead after a five-point string that included three Murphy kills. The teams battled back and forth until the Gamecocks got a set-point chance after a Lawing smash, but Murphy answered to tie up the match again. Then South Carolina looked to be in trouble, as Salters slipped on an attack attempt to give Florida a chance at set point. However, Lawing stepped up with a kill to knot it up again at 25-25. Kujundzic gave the Garnet and Black a chance to win it again with her smash, and a Gator attack went wide, handing South Carolina the first set. Lawing hit .444 with five kills and six digs in the first.
The serving game cost the Gamecocks in the second set. Four service errors and four Florida aces proved to be the difference in the 25-17 set-two UF win. After South Carolina took a 4-3 lead, the Gators responded with nine consecutive points, including two Bathelt aces and two Anderson kills. The Gamecocks kept trying to claw back, but Bowers landed two aces to put Florida on top by nine, 20-11. Bowers clinched the set with her second kill at 25-17. Ward had five kills in the second frame alone.
Kujundzic nearly won the third set for South Carolina by herself. A Kujundzic kill and a block by the junior and Salters gave the Gamecocks their first real advantage at 14-11. That grew to 16-12 on consecutive Kujundzic smashes. But the Gators would come back, taking a brief 17-16 lead after a five-point run helped by two Gamecock attack errors and one blocking error. A four-point South Carolina swing put the home team back on top at 22-19, with Kujundzic getting three straight kills in the stretch. The Subotica, Serbia, native assisted Laughlin with a block to get the Gamecocks to set point, and Laughlin put it away with her swing. Kujundzic hit .583 with seven kills, three digs and two blocks in the frame.
The Gamecocks got leads of 9-6 and 16-13 in the fourth before Florida came back. A five-point Gator run, led by two Ward kills, put Florida on top at 18-16. The Gamecocks tied it up at 20-20 on a Gator error, but Florida rebounded with a Jaeckel kill and a triple block to get the advantage the squad needed. Erin Fleming ended the frame at 25-21 with her only ace of the match. The Gators hit .433 in the fourth, led by Bowers' and Ward's five kills.
South Carolina fell behind, 4-3 in the first after consecutive attacking errors, but the team responded with back-to-back blocks by Salters and Kujundzic to turn around the set for the time being. Two more Gator errors, one attacking and one serving, put the Gamecocks up, 8-5. But Florida came back with a six-point string, getting two kills from Jaeckel and one each from Callie Rivers and Lauren Bledsoe to take control at 11-8. A Salters solo block and a Laughlin kill on an overpass brought South Carolina to within one at 11-10, but Florida took the next two points on a Bowers smash and a block by Anderson and Jaeckel. A Ward kill put the Gators at match point, and Murphy ended it with a cross-court shot at 15-11. The Gators held the Gamecocks to a -.042 hitting percentage in the final frame.
Florida held the advantage in every stat category at the end, though the blocks were close at 15.5-14.0,
South Carolina now waits for the NCAA Volleyball Selection Committee's decision on whether their season will continue. The Volleyball Selection Show broadcasts live on ESPNU at 10 p.m. EST on Sunday night.
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