UF volleyball sweeps host tournament
Published: Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 9:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 25, 2012 at 9:21 p.m.
The 18th-ranked Gators capped their first weekend of competition with a pair of wins Saturday to claim the team title at the 2012 Campus USA Credit Union Invitational.
Florida (3-0) downed Florida Gulf Coast in the tournament finale, winning 3-0 in a matchup of the tourney’s two unbeaten teams before an O’Connell Center crowd of 2,825.
The Gators, led by tournament MVP and former Eastside standout Chloe Mann’s 16 kills, prevailed by scores of 25-16, 25-19, 25-16, finishing the two-day, round-robin tourney without dropping a set.
“It was our defense, especially our floor defense, that kept us in play,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “At one point we were digging at eighty-five percent.
“We’re not going to overpower you, so we need to be spunky on the back row and the team did that.”
Leading that effort was redshirt sophomore libero Taylor Unroe with a match-high 17 digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Holly Pole from Ocala Vanguard got her first start of the season and just missed giving UF two players in double digits, finishing with nine digs.
FGCU (2-1) had outlasted FIU, 3-2, in a five-set thriller in the first of four matches played Saturday, spoiling a terrific performance by the Panthers’ Marija Prsa who posted tournament-high marks for kills (25) and points (25.5) in a match.
The Gators then took the floor for their first of two Saturday matches and easily downed an outmanned Florida A&M squad, winning in straight sets by scores of 25-11, 25-11, 25-14 in a match in which all 15 UF players participated.
Mann had 11 kills, but the story was the true freshmen, led by outside hitter Ziva Recek, who paced the Gators with 12 kills and a .455 hitting percentage. Berkley Whaley added eight kills and hit .412, while classmate Nikki O’Rourke made her first UF appearance a memorable one by scoring nine straight service points to open the second set.
FIU (1-2) bounced back to pick up its first win later in the day by downing FAMU (0-3) by a 3-1 count.
In addition to Mann, the All-Tournament team included two UF newcomers — Recek and junior setter Taylor Brauneis. The Gator trio was joined by FIU’s Prsa, Florida A&M’s Maria Ceccarelli and Florida Gulf Coast’s Kaitlin Holm.
UF’s weekend performance was even more impressive considering the loss of sophomore outside hitter Noami Santos-Lamb to a torn ACL suffered during the team’s Fan Day scrimmage Aug. 18.
The injury left Wise doing some serious scrambling.
“We had to scrap everything we were doing and recreate,” Wise said. “What we learned this weekend was that this team will compete; they’ll play hard. As a coach, there’s nothing more you can ask for.”
The Gators’ mettle will get a serious early test when they travel to University Park, Pa., for the Nike Big Four Classic next, hosted this year by No. 3 Penn State.
Florida will face No. 2 Texas on Friday at 4:30 p.m. and No. 6 Stanford on Saturday at 4 p.m.
“We addressed that with the team afterward,” Wise said. “Sometimes when you expect it to come easy and it doesn’t, that gets frustrating. Well, no one is going to expect it to come easy next weekend. Every point is going to be a celebration because they’re going to be so hard to come by with teams that are bigger, older and more experienced than us.
“But we’re going there with nothing to lose. It’s only going to help us down the road.”