UF volleyball sweeps Jacksonville

Published: Friday, September 7, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 1:10 a.m.

You can say one thing about Florida's freshmen. They certainly seem to enjoy the spotlight.

Freshman outside hitters Ziva Recek and Gabby Mallette combined for 20 kills on 31 attacks with no errors and freshman setter Dana Backlund recorded a match-high 33 assists in her first career start as No. 15 Florida swept Jacksonville, 3-0, to cap off the first day of the Active Ankle Challenge before an O'Connell Center crowd of 1,765 Friday.

Recek, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, led the way with 13 kills and posted a .619 hitting percentage, marking the third straight match and fourth in the last five that she has led the Gators in kills as UF won easily by scores of 25-18, 25-11, 25-11.

Mallette, meanwhile, got the most extensive work of her young career and responded with seven kills and a match-high .700 hitting percentage, helping the Gators (4-2) hit .468 as a team.

Backlund added four kills, three digs, two block assists and a solo block while standing in for junior starter Taylor Brauneis, who was held out as a precautionary measure after suffering a mild concussion in practice earlier this week but was cleared to play.

“It was a great opportunity for Dana Backlund,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “She may be called on at any point in time, and what a great experience for her. She really, as the match went on, just got better and better and found rhythm with her hitters.

“It was another good opportunity for Gabby Mallette playing in that role, and you can see by her numbers she responded as well. The change we made didn't make us any older. The team we put out there just gets younger and younger, but good things were happening.”

Redshirt senior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs, coming off a season-high 13-kill effort against Stanford, added nine kills and hit .438 against the Dolphins (0-7), who were led by Sammie Strausbaugh's seven kills.

“She (Wiggs) just seems so much quicker to the ball, and I think she's in the best shape that she's been in,” Wise said. “She's stronger now. I just feel like she's a different type athlete than she was her first two years here.”

UF also was impressive at the net, posting nine team blocks. Fifth-year senior Betsy Smith led the way with a match-high five block assists while adding five kills and a .444 hitting mark for the Gators.

“Betsy Smith, with the energy she plays with, you can see why we love having her on the court,” Wise said.

Georgia Tech (6-1) swept Louisiana-Lafayette (4-4) by scores of 25-18, 25-22 and 25-20 in the tournament opener behind 11 kills apiece from Monique Mead and Courtney Felinski.

The tournament concludes with four matches today. JU and Georgia Tech square off at 10 a.m., followed by UF against Lousiana-Lafayette at noon. The Rajin' Cajuns and Dolphins will meet at 5:30 p.m., with the Gators and Yellow Jackets set to battle in the tourney finale at 7:30 in what will be UF's final tuneup before SEC play.

“Preseason (pre-SEC) is a great opportunity for us to learn about ourselves and work on some of our weaknesses, and I think we did a great job today,” Wiggs said. “Some of the youngsters stepped up, and we worked really well as a cohesive unit. It was a great night for us.”

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