Gators rally to top Tech for volleyball tourney title

Published: Saturday, September 8, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 12:01 a.m.

Ziva Recek has yet to play her first Southeastern Conference match, but rest assured the the remainder of the league knows all about her.

Recek capped an outstanding weekend by earning Tournament MVP honors after leading 15th-ranked Florida to the team title at the Active Ankle Challenge with a come-from-behind 3-1 win over an experienced and determined Georgia Tech squad in the tourney finale Saturday before an O'Connell Center crowd of 2,407.

Recek, a Slovenian native, set a career high with 23 kills and hit .417 as the Gators improved to 6-2 on the season with a hard-fought 22-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-22 decision over the Yellow Jackets (7-2) in a battle of tournament unbeatens.

“Where we are fortunate is that Ziva plays nothing like an 18-year-old freshman,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “She really played well again tonight when we needed her.”

Senior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs, who joined Recek on the All-Tournament team, finished with 12 kills, but it was a tremendous defensive effort keyed at the net by middle blockers Chloe Mann and Betsy Smith and on the back row by sophomore libero Taylor Unroe that turned the tide.

UF had just one team block in dropping the opening set, but ended up with 10 more over the final three sets, with Mann (11 kills, one solo block, five block assists) and Smith (six kills, five block assists) pacing the way.

Unroe, meanwhile, led the Gators in digs for the eighth time in eight matches, recording a match-high 17 digs in the win.

“The difference in the match was when we started blocking balls,” Wise said. “Blocking can come in streaks, and Chloe and Betsy really anchored the defense.”

Georgia Tech, which was led by senior outside hitter Monique Mead's 20 kills, had defeated Jacksonville, 3-0, in the first of Saturday's four games

The Gators followed with a four-set victory over Louisiana-Lafayette, taking down the Rajin' Cajuns by scores of 25-15, 25-14, 23-25, 25-12 for their second win of the tournament.

Recek once again led the way, recording her first career double-double with 13 kills and 13 digs.

Wiggs and Mann each added 10 kills, with Wiggs continuing her hot hand of late with a team-high .667 hitting mark that included no errors.

“Georgia Tech played very well,” Wise said. “That's a team with five seniors and two juniors. They came in here and played lights out with no fear, and I thought our team responded after the first set.”

Prior to the UF-Tech match, the JU Dolphins (1-8) rallied for a five-set win over Louisiana-Lafayette (4-6) to earn their first win of the season.

Tech's Mead and Bailey Hunter joined UF's Recek and Wiggs, JU's Sammie Strausbaugh and Louisiana-Lafayette's Blair Claypoole in earning All-Tournament honors.

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