No. 18 UF volleyball sweeps FIU


Published: Friday, August 24, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 12:18 a.m.

As far as season openers go, 18th-ranked Florida’s 3-0 volleyball win over FIU on Friday night in the O’Connell Center left everyone from the players to the coaches to the large and raucous opening night crowd of 4,705 smiling from ear to ear.

Getting a match-high 15 kills from redshirt junior Chloe Mann, 10 from true freshman Berkley Whaley and eight from senior Betsy Smith, the Gators downed the Panthers by scores of 25-21, 25-14 and 25-12 to close out day one of the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational in style.

“We were really excited to come out tonight,” Mann said. “Everyone was just really, really hyped in the locker room. We’re glad that we came out and executed a lot of things well. It’s early in the season and there’s still a lot to work on, but we’re pretty proud and happy of where we are after this win.”

“It was absolutely amazing,” Whaley said. “Just from the start when they said ‘Here come the Gators,’ it was a feeling like no other.”

Three players – Whaley, setter Taylor Brauneis and redshirt freshman middle blocker Simone Antwi – made their first starts as Gators, and all played well.

Brauneis, a junior transfer from Louisville, was impressive running the new 5-1 offense which UF is using for the first time since 2007, racking up a match-high 38 assists.

She and Mann, were a formidable pair. At one point in the first set with UF trailing 19-18, Mann, reeled off five consecutive kills – the first three of which came off perfect Brauneis sets – to put the Gators in control.

From there, Whaley and fellow true freshman outside hitter Ziva Recek, who joined Antwi with five kills, started finding their stroke, and UF’s defense, which allowed FIU to hit .387 in the opening set, picked things up, holding the Panthers to marks of .000 and minus-.031 in the second and third sets, respectively.

In addition, the Gators started finding holes with their serves, knocking down four aces.

“We’ve got a pretty good combination there with Taylor Brauneis to Chloe Mann,” Wise said. “That was pretty effective tonight. And then we got on a good serving run. That’s got to be one of our staples.

“Our initial plan was not to have two freshman outside hitters on the court at the same time. Well, that’s where we are, and Berkley Whaley was nothing short of outstanding tonight.”

UF finished the match with a lofty .417 hitting percentage, its best ever in a season opener. Mann and Smith led the way, each with a .545 mark. Defensively, redshirt sophomore libero Taylor Unroe had a match-high 13 digs, while sophomore Holly Pole added six.

Freshman Lucia Castro had nine kills to lead the Panthers.

Wise was quick to credit the huge crowd, especially the large student group at one end that was on their feet – and in FIU’s collective ear – the entire match.

“We’ve never had an organized student group,” Wise said. “That group of students was the best we’ve ever had.

“In twenty-two first nights (this is Wise’s 22nd season at UF), this one, when it’s all said and done, will go down as one of the most special.”

Florida Gulf Coast defeated Florida A&M, 3-1, in the tournament opener behind a match-high 16 kills from Christine Pinder and 25 assists and 10 digs from sophomore setter Gigi Meyer, the 2010 Sun Player of the Year (Buchholz) and youngest daughter of former UF football coach Urban Meyer.

Maria Ceccarelli had 15 kills to lead the Rattlers.

“I grew up dreaming about playing in this place,” Meyer said. “I was so nervous, but I thought I kept my composure pretty well. It’s always great to start the season with a W.”

Tournament action continues with four matches today, beginning with FIU (0-1) taking on Florida Gulf Coast (1-0) at 10 a.m. followed by UF (1-0) squaring off against Florida A&M (0-1) at noon. Play resumes later when FIU and FAMU battle at 5:30 p.m., with the Gators taking on FGCU in the tournament finale at 7:30.

Soccer: Visiting Florida (0-1-1, 0-0 SEC) and No. 14 North Carolina (0-1-1, 0-0 ACC) recorded a 0-0 double overtime tie in front of a Fetzer Field crowd of 4,125.

It was the second overtime match in the 10-match series between the two teams and Friday’s result was the first tie. The only other overtime went to the Tar Heels 2-1 in front of a James G. Pressly record crowd of 5,222 on Oct. 11, 1998. Florida last recorded a tie in its final match of the 2010 season, as Florida and Duke tied 0-0 2OT in NCAA Second Round play.

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