UF Volleyball Tourney: UF moves to Semi-finals

It was supposed to be far more competitive than this, but if there was a silver lining for the Florida Gators in Friday evening's quarter-final match of the SEC Volleyball Tournament at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center it was that Coach Mary Wise got a chance to play her entire bench, saving their strength and energy for the next two days.

"Hey, we're the only team in the semifinals that got there in three games," said Wise after her top-seeded Gators (24-3) defeated South Carolina 3-0 (30-7, 30-20, 30-22) before 1,831 fans. The victory advanced the Gators to Saturday's 4 p.m. semifinal against fifth seed Georgia (18-9), which needed three straight wins to beat Alabama in five games. In Saturday's other semifinal at 2 p.m., second seeded Tennessee (winner in four games over scrappy Auburn) will face third seeded Arkansas, a winner in five games over LSU.

South Carolina played Friday night's match with only seven players. The Gamecocks lost five players to suspensions, one by the SEC following an incident last week, the other four by Coach Kim Hudson for rules violations this past week. South Carolina was forced to play without either of its setters.

"It's sad for the kids who broke the rules, sad for our team and sad for our program to be in this situation," said Hudson. "But, you have rules for a reason."

With Taylor Williams serving in game one, Florida ripped off seven straight points to take an 8-1 lead in a game that was never competitive. The Gators would go on a 10-0 run that would extend the lead to 23-4.

In games two and three, South Carolina was much more competitive.

"I'm proud of the way we played the last two games," said Hudson. "We didn't fold and we could have. It was a tough situation for us to be in, but we played hard so I'm proud of that."

Wise said, ""We got to rest our players more than we expected. Give credit to South Carolina for playing competitively in the second and third games."

With South Carolina so undermanned, Wise substituted freely. Middle blocker Stefanie Douglas came off the bench to register six kills. Freshman Kari Klinkenborg had the game-ending kill in game one and defensive specialist Rhian Davis came off the bench to see action on the back row in two of the three games.

Florida was paced by outside hitters Jane Collymore and Marcie Hampton. Collymore a prime candidate for SEC Player of the Year and All-America honors, led the Gators with 14 kills, while Hampton, a contender for Freshman of the Year honors, had 13 kills in only 21 swings for a .571 hitting percentage.

Junior libero Rachel Engel turned in 10 digs, while Collymore and Hampton each had nine. Senior Michelle Chatman had eight kills and four blocks, while freshman Angie McGinnis had 38 assists to go with four kills and six digs.

Chatman had a stellar defensive game. In game two, on three consecutive South Carolina hits, she blocked the ball on the left side, then in the middle and finally got the block for the kill on the right side.

"In practice all week we've really been working hard on our blocking," said Chatman. "We've made a real effort to get in position quicker so we can get our hands on the ball. I thought we did a pretty good job of that tonight."

Hampton said the five days since last Saturday's five-game loss at home against Tennessee saw good practices, but more importantly, there was rest for the match-weary Gators who had to play three matches in five days last week.

"We were really tired at the end of the Tennessee match last week," said Hampton. "We had good practices this week, but we all got rested because we know we have to be able to win three matches in three days to win the tournament. We've got one down, now we have two more to go."

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