Gators: Active Ankle SEC/ACC Challenge Champs

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The No. 9 University of Florida volleyball team (2-0) swept a tough North Carolina (1-1) squad, 3-0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-14), to become the Active Ankle SEC/ACC Challenge champions on Saturday evening at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. The SEC won the Challenge, 3-1.

Florida Senior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell (Los Angeles, Calif.) was named the Tournament MVP with 13 kills on the evening to give her 20 kills on the weekend, in addition to a .381 hitting percentage.

"They (North Carolina) pushed us," Florida head coach Mary Wise. "That's a great preparation for the next step, which is Florida State, a veteran team that gave us all we could handle a year ago, but this match was great preparation for them."

Also named to the All-Tournament team were senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.), who had her first double-double of the 2011 season with 12 kills and 10 digs, senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) who narrowly missed a triple-double with an errorless eight kills, a match-high 20 assists and seven digs, and redshirt freshman libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.), who had 19 digs on the weekend and was errorless on serve receive against the Tar Heels.

"For Kristy to finish the match with a double-double, that's the kind of performance we need from our outside hitters," Wise said. "There are some teams whose outside hitters only play three rotations and are asked only to kill balls. We ask our outside hitters (Ferrell and Jaeckel) this year to play six rotations. Not only are they going to get a lot of swings but they're going to be able to attack from middle back."

Sophomore setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) had a complete effort with 17 assists, six digs and two service aces. Jaeckel continued the Gators' dominance behind the service line, adding a match-high three aces of her own. Murphy and junior middle blocker Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) had four blocks apiece, a career-high for Smith.

The Gators held the Tar Heels to just .161 attacking efficiency, whereas Florida doubled UNC's effort, hitting at a .344 clip. The Orange and Blue outblocked and outdefended their opponent, racking up seven blocks and 45 digs on the evening.

The match began with long rallies on both sides of the net, splitting the opening points. Ferrell had a cross-court slam to spark a 4-0 run to push the Gators ahead at 6-2, with the Los Angeles, Calif. native continuing the Gators' production behind the service line. A Murphy-Smith stuff-block extended the Gators' lead at 11-5 and the dynamic serving of gave Florida a six-point lead. Ferrell continued her success at the net by nailing a Tar Heels' overpass at 16-9, knocking the 2,823 fans in the O'Connell Center on their feet. Unroe finished the set behind the service line, her topspin jumpers putting North Carolina on their heels and affording Ferrell the chance to put away the set at 25-17.

In a second set that featured seven ties and five lead changes, the Gators fell behind multiple times throughout the beginning of the second stanza. Jaeckel took matters into her own hands, sending home a perfect set from Brown to spark a 4-0 run, highlighted by Jaeckel's back-to-back aces. The Tar Heels halted the Gator run with a block by Nelson and Bleke to tie the set at 8-8. Ece Taner's ace put North Carolina back in front but errors on both sides of the net kept things tight until 18-18, when Brown dished a quick set to Murphy to tie the set at 18. Florida went on a 5-0 run, courtesy of Unroe, who forced the Tar Heels into multiple errors with her rockets behind the service line. The Gators took the lead and never looked back, with Ferrell ending the second set the same way she ended the first, thanks to a powerful swing on the outside. Florida won a hard-fought set two, 25-20.

Florida came firing right out of the gate after intermission, with the Gator offense hammering the back corners of the Tar Heels' defense. A kill down the line by Jaeckel forced a UNC timeout at 9-3, but the scoring didn't stop there. Jaeckel's serving aided the Gator attack, with another Ferrell kill putting the O'Connell Center crowd on their feet at 13-6. A Wiggs kill at 18-10 gave Florida its largest lead of the evening. Brown stepped behind the service line to give the Gators five straight points and set the stage for Jaeckel's final kill of the night. The Littleton, Colo. native put away the match with a blast in the center of the UNC defense, sending Florida off with a convincing win, as the Gators took the final set, 25-14.

Florida continues its homestand when the Orange and Blue take on in-state rival Florida State on Tuesday evening. Opening serve is set for 7 p.m. The Gators and the Seminoles will look to recreate some of the magic from their last meeting in the O'Dome, an epic 3-2 thriller in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. Florida came back in the fifth set, down 12-7, to advance to its 19th NCAA regional semifinal appearance.

The showdown between Florida and Florida State will be streamed live through GatorVision Online and fans can tune into WRUF-AM Sportsradio 850 to listen to Tom Collett and former Gator All-SEC selection Missy Whittemore call the action live.

Auburn SWEEPS Boston College, 3-0

Auburn defeated Boston College, 3-0 (25-17, 25-23, 25-18), in the third match of the Active Ankle SEC/ACC Challenge. Auburn's Kelly Fidero had a match-high nine kills and All-Tournament Team selection Vesela Zapryanova nearly had a double-double with eight kills and nine digs. Christina Solverson had a match-high 21 assists for Auburn, while teammate Kathia Rud added nine digs. All-Tournament Team honoree, libero Brennan Clark, had 15 digs on the weekend for Boston College to go along with a service ace.

MVP - Stephanie Ferrell, Florida
Kristy Jaeckel, Florida
Kelly Murphy, Florida
Taylor Unroe, Florida
Emily McGee, UNC
Brennan Clark, Boston College
Vesela Zapryanova, Auburn

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