UF bound for regional with sweep
Published: Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 11:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 11:50 p.m.
The third time was not the charm for the College of Charleston.
The Cougars, who had been knocked out of the NCAA Tournament each of the last two occasions by Florida in the O'Connell Center in 2007 and 2009, had their 2012 season end at the hands of the Gators again in the final of the Gainesville Sub-Regional on Saturday, falling 3-0 to No. 14 seed UF before a crowd of 1,623.
Led by another dominating performance from middle blockers Chloe Mann and Betsy Smith, UF won 25-20, 25-16, 25-14 to advance to regional play for the 21st time in the last 22 seasons.
Mann, a redshirt junior from Gainesville, registered 10 kills for the second straight night and hit a match-high .615 while adding four block assists, while Smith, a fifth-year senior from Atlanta, was right behind with eight kills, four block assists and a .400 hitting mark.
“We rely so much on those middles on the court,” UF head coach Mary Wise said. “They're like coaches on the floor. What we ask them to do defensively, there are a lot of adjustments made, and not made between serves but while the ball is in play. Those two have developed such a high volleyball IQ.”
The gritty Cougars (27-8) were coming off an upset of 23rd-ranked Miami in the first round, outlasting the Hurricanes in a five-set thriller that was just their second NCAA Tournament win in program history. But the 15th-ranked Gators (27-4) were simply too much with an NCAA Regional berth on the line.
“Florida's a great team and they did a great job,” Cougars head coach Jason Kepner said. “They're extremely balanced. They set people all over the place and did a great job of serving us out of system and putting a lot of pressure on us. I give them a lot of credit for executing their game plan and forcing us just to throw high balls to the outside and not really get our middles involved early on.”
Senior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs added five kills and a match-high seven block assists as the Gators controlled the net to the extent that they not only finished with nine team blocks (one solo, 16 assists) but forced the Cougars, who hit just .079 for the match, to commit 25 attack errors.
“When you play a team like Florida, you really have to pass well and be in system and not let them utilize their strengths,” Kepner said. “One of their strengths is blocking, and we made a lot of hitting errors trying to avoid them a little too much.”
“That's something we worked hard on all week in practice,” said Mann, the 2012 SEC Player of the Year, who finished the weekend with 20 kills and 10 blocks.
“We did that at a high level today.”
College of Charleston outside hitter Darcy Dolton, who had a career-high 27 kills in Friday night's win over Miami, was held to four kills in 26 swings and finished with a minus-.192 hitting percentage.
Junior outside hitter Sloane White led the Cougars with 11 kills while fellow junior Emily Neideffer added nine kills and posted a team-high .375 hitting mark.
With the win, their eighth in a row, the Gators will head to Austin, Texas, to take on No. 3 seed and homestanding Texas (25-4) on Friday night in the regional nightcap following the opener between No. 6 seed Southern Cal (29-5) and Wichita State (24-9).
The two teams played on a neutral court back in the second week of the season in August, with the Longhorns taking a 3-0 win. UF has gone 24-2 since.
“Right now we have a much better idea of who we are,” Wise said. “We're a better serving team, and even though they swept us in three, we were in it in three. They just made more plays down the stretch. That doesn't mean we can go to Austin and be in every single set there. We take that experience, but the score is 0-0 when we walk on that floor.”
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