VOLLEYBALL: Leg Weary Gators Sweep EWU, 3-0

Just because the Florida Gators weren't hitting well and their blocking was out of sorts, there was no panic in Coach Mary Wise's team. Facing a scrappy Eastern Washington team in their fourth game in four days, the sixth-ranked Gators never lost their patience or focus as they rallied from behind to win game one and then went on to sweep the Eagles at the O'Connell Center.

Florida's offensive struggles in game one could be attributed to weary legs. The Gators played two matches on Friday and one on Saturday to win the Aquafina Classic against teams that were more highly ranked than the Eagles. It wasn't a case of taking EWU lightly, though, just a case of a tired team facing a good team with fresh legs.

Florida trailed most of the match but rallied thanks to a series of EWU hitting errors and net violations to get a slight lead at 26-24. The Eagles rallied to tie the game at 27-27 before Florida got the final three points to close out the game behind the hitting and blocking of sophomore Kisya Killingsworth. Florida didn't have near the troubles in games two and three, winning games two and three by identical 30-16 margins.

"We would have stretched it a little thin if we had scheduled another match tomorrow," said Coach Mary Wise, whose team improved its record to 5-0 for the season. "I was beginning finally to see a little bit of fatigue but this is a well conditioned group but even so, eventually it's going to wear on you."

Florida's superior size and athletic ability took over in the last two games, and even though Florida didn't hit for a high percentage, the Gators stayed patient throughout.

"When you aren't hitting well, you have to take advantage of other things," said sophomore outside hitter Marcie Hampton. Hampton had only eight kills in the match, double the number of All-America Jane Collymore. Collymore had only four kills in 24 attempts but she had five service aces and seven digs.

"What Jane is showing is that she's more than a one-dimensional player," said Wise. "That's what the great players are."

Hampton had an impressive service game, too, and she continued to be steady as a back line defender with five digs and exceptional passing.

It was the service game that allowed the Gators to compensate for the inconsistencies on offense.

"I think today we might not have been as in-synch offensively but we created points off our serve," said Wise. "We've worked really, really hard on our serving for a year. We have a pretty effective group serving now."

Hampton and Collymore were a contrast in jump-service style. Hampton's specialty is a floater that has very little spin when it crosses the net. Collymore hits a top spin fast ball that is like a split finger fast ball the way it dips after it gets over the net. The effect is like bringing in a fast ball pitcher after a knuckleballer.

"She is bringing the heat, Jane is, and Marcie's moves like a knuckleball," said Wise, who said that the emphasis on serving is starting to pay off. "This is something we've emphasized a lot for the past 12 months to get better at and I think we're beginning to see some of those signs."

While Hampton and Collymore were doing their part with the serve and their back line defense, Killingsworth continued her inspired play at the net. Starting with the weekend matches against Missouri State and UC-Santa Barbara, Killingsworth started dominating the middle plus showing off her athletic skills.

Killingsworth finished Monday's match as Florida's top hitter with 10 kills in 18 attempts and she added a pair of blocks. Wise knows that if Killingsworth continues to develop in the middle, the Gators have a chance to be an outstanding team.

"She's a special athlete who's learning the game but it's all coming together because of how hard she's working," said Wise.

The Gators also got another solid match from sophomore Amber McCray, who is returning to form after missing all of 2004 because of a devastating knee injury. McCray had the kind of injury that is more often than not a career ender. She rehabbed all of last season and has played with increasing confidence early in this season. She finished the Monday match with eight kills in 18 attempts to go with three blocks.

Florida plays in the UTSA Dome Rally tournament in San Antonio this weekend. The Gators are in a pool with a pair of ranked teams --- #16 Texas A&M and #7 Southern California --- and tough Notre Dame.

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