UF volleyball dominant in NCAA opener
Published: Friday, November 30, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 12:19 a.m.
Tulsa senior Tyler Henderson won the battle, but the Florida Gators won the war.
NCAA Tournament, UF vs. College of Charleston, 7:30 p.m., AM-850
Led by 13 kills from Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year Ziva Recek and a strong 10-kill, six-block performance from SEC Player of the Year Chloe Mann, No. 14 seed UF swept the Golden Hurricane by scores of 25-9, 25-21, 25-21 in a first-round NCAA Tournament match Friday, overcoming a match-high 17 kills from Henderson, the NCAA's all-time leading scorer.
UF (26-4) got off to a sensational start, dominating the opening set while holding Henderson to zero kills and a minus-.571 hitting mark.
But the Tulsa star started finding her stroke and the Golden Hurricane (26-10) rebounded to play the favored Gators tough before succumbing to UF's array of weapons that included a .500 hitting mark by Mann, UF's redshirt junior middle blocker; eight kills and a match-high .667 mark from senior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs; and 37 assists from junior setter Taylor Brauneis.
“In set one, we kind of got out of the gate pretty fast,” UF head coach Mary Wise said. “We knew that the numbers of Tyler were not indicative of her talent.
“We were so impressed with her ability to respond after the first set. Sometimes you see players with in their inability to do what they do best, it can snowball. Boy, did she put a halt on that. Pretty impressive to finish with 17 kills in three sets.”
Defensively, 15th-ranked UF was led by sophomore Maddie Monserez who had a match-high 16 digs including a handful of diving, one-handed saves that brought the O'Connell Center crowd of 1,832 to their feet.
“One of the biggest differences in the match was the play of Maddie,” Wise said. “She led us in digs and was all over the court. I felt she really provided a lot of inspiration to our entire team. She does it every day in practice, but it's pretty cool to do it in the NCAA Tournament for people to see.”
“I think blocking and digging brings the energy in general,” Monserez said. “When we get a big block or a big dig, that's what generates our energy. I was happy that I could provide that.”
Wiggs said UF's first-set precision was the result of focusing in practice.
“We focused on Tulsa and only Tulsa,” she said. “They're a phenomenal team with a great outside hitter and are very well-coached, so it was exciting to see the focus level we had from the beginning.”
The loss was tough to take for Henderson, who saw her stellar career come to an end.
“That was our plan, to shake it (first set) off and come back and fight,” she said. “The second and third sets were so close, we felt like if we could have pulled one of those out, it could have changed the momentum.”
Mann came up with a number of clutch plays for the Gators.
“It's real easy to look at the offense — another double-digit kill performance and hitting .500 — but it's the six blocks (two solo, four assists),” Wise said. “She set the tone early-on, and that's where Chloe's game has evolved.”
“They won the big points when they had to,” Tulsa coach Steven McRoberts said. “They made a lot of hustle plays tonight.”
The opening match was a five-set thriller, with Southern Conference champion College of Charleston rallying for a come-from-behind 25-22, 21-25, 19-25, 25-22, 15-10 upset of 23rd-ranked Miami, the Atlantic Coast Conference runner-up.
The Cougars (27-7), who will play UF tonight at 7:30 for the right to advance to next weekend's regional in Austin, Texas, got 27 kills from Penn State transfer Darcy Dorton while ending the season for the Hurricanes (25-6), who got double-doubles from Taylor Hollins (17 kills, 12 digs) and Savannah Leaf (13 kills, 18 digs).