NCAA volleyball regional team capsules

Published: Friday, December 9, 2011 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 9, 2011 at 12:31 a.m.

The NCAA Volleyball Gainesville Regional begins today at the O'Connell Center. Ohio State takes on Illinois in the opener at 5 p.m., with host Florida taking on Michigan in the nightcap at 7. The winners will meet Saturday at 7 p.m. for the regional championship, the launching pad to the national semifinals in San Antonio next week.

Florida (26-5)

Head coach: Mary Wise (21st season)

Scouting report: The host and 17th-ranked Gators led the nation in hitting percentage (.308) this season and have one of the most versatile attacks in the country led by senior All-America pin hitters Kristy Jaeckel (372 kills, 67 blocks) and Kelly Murphy (267 kills, 61 blocks), a pair of first-team All-SEC selections. Add in fellow senior Stephanie Ferrell (237 kills), junior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs (249 kills, 83 blocks), and middle blockers Chloe Mann (126 kills, 62 blocks) and Betsy Smith (151 kills, 103 blocks), and UF can score in a variety of ways. But it's UF's improved blocking and back row defense, the latter of which has been solidified by the play of redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe and freshman defensive specialist Holly Pole (Ocala), that has the Gators eyeing their first final four since 2003.

Michigan (22-12)

Head coach: Mark Rosen (13th season)

Scouting report: The 22nd-ranked Wolverines reached the regional semifinals for the fourth time in the last five years by upsetting perennial power and No. 11 seed Stanford, 3-1, in Palo Alto, Calif. Leading the way are 6-foot senior and All-Big Ten outside hitter Alex Hunt (team-high 396 kills and 50 aces), who had a double-double (17 kills,13 digs) in the win over Stanford; 6-1 sophomore outside hitter Lexi Erwin (361 kills); and 6-2 redshirt junior Claire McElheney (327 kills), a right-side hitter who had 18 kills against the Cardinal. Freshman setter Lexi Danemiller has a Big Ten-high 1,491 assists this season and is coming off her 15th double-double (44 assists,11 digs) of the year, while senior standout Sloane Donhoff (league-high 585 digs) is one of the nation's top liberos.

Ohio State (21-14)

Head coach: Geoff Carlston (fourth season)

Scouting report: The Buckeyes, in the Sweet 16 for the second straight year, knocked off SEC champion and No. 14 seed Tennessee, 3-2, in Knoxville in the second round. Outside hitter Mari Hole, a 6-foot junior from Oslo, Norway, had 22 kills in the upset of the Vols and leads OSU with a team-high 522 kills this season. Junior 6-1 outside hitter Emily Danks (433 kills, team-high 61 aces) added 18 kills against Tennessee, while junior setter Amanda Peterson, who is averaging almost 10 assists (9.27) per set, had 52 in the win. Five Buckeyes recorded double-digit digs in the big win, led by Hole (16) and Davionna DiSalvatore (15), the latter a sophomore from Palm Harbor, while 6-3 junior middle blocker Mariah Booth had two solo blocks and eight block assists.

Illinois (29-4)

Head coach: Kevin Hambly (third season)

Scouting report: The Illini are the only seeded team left in the bracket and the second-highest seed still playing with the early exit of No. 2 seed Nebraska, the Big Ten champion. Illinois, one of three teams (Penn State, Purdue) to tie for the runner-up spot one game behind the Cornhuskers, is the No. 3 overall seed, having reached regional play for the fourth straight year and 13th time in school history with 3-0 sweeps over Central Michigan and Marquette. The Illini, looking for their first final four berth since 1988, are led offensively by a pair of All-Big Ten senior outside hitters in 6-3 Michelle Bartsch (483 kills) and 6-2 Colleen Ward (458 kills), the latter of whom played her first two years at Florida before transferring. Redshirt junior setter Annie Luhrsen has tallied 1,396 assists this season.

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