Gators Rip FAU In NCAA 1st Round Match

Although it was a first round match in the NCAA Tournament and there is still a long road to travel to get to the Final Four, Mary Wise had to be totally satisfied with the effort her Florida Gators gave against Florida Atlantic Thursday night. Looking like a team that's primed and ready for a deep run in the tournament, the Gators were spectacular in every phase of the game as they put an end to Florida Atlantic's dream season.

The Gators hit an eye-opening .430 and dominated defensively, holding the Owls to a miserable .049 while taking all three games, 30-19, 30-15 and 30-14 before a crowd of 1,533 at the O'Connell Center. The Gators (31-2) advanced to the second round where they will face Kansas State (21-10), a winner over Florida A&M (27-30, 30-14, 30-27, 30-28) at 7 p.m. Friday.

Florida Atlantic, champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference, saw its season end with a school record 29-3 record.

The stat sheet told the story for Florida's easy win. The Gators took care of the ball and Florida Atlantic did not. Florida made only five attack errors, four service errors and two blocking errors in the entire match. Contrast that to 31 attack errors by Florida Atlantic and what was expected to be a close first round match turned into a blowout by the Gators.

"I thought we had a very solid performance as indicated by the performance," said Coach Mary Wise. "We were low errors and awfully good offensively."

With sophomore setter Angie McGinnis (first team All-SEC) spreading the ball around, the Gators got kills out of every attack position. McGinnis had 36 assists out of Florida's 45 kills. On the outside, Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Collymore (14 kills, .367 hitting percentage), Hampton (second team All-SEC, 10 kills, .474 hitting percentage) and Amber McCray (six kills, .545) led the way. From the inside, Florida got nine kills from middle blocker Kisya Killingsworth (first team All-SEC, .600 hitting percentage) and four from Kari Klinkenborg (.300 percentage).

Defensively, Florida's game plan called for neutralizing Florida Atlantic outside hitter Kelly Paiva, who came into the match leading the nation with six kills per game. Paiva finished the night with 14 kills but it took her 55 swings to do it. She finished the match with a .036 hitting percentage. Wise felt the Florida defense had everything to do with the low percentage for Paiva although she felt that the FAU senior is everything she's advertised to be.

"She's legit but I like to think she had to earn those kills," said Wise. "To hold her to under 10 percent hitting efficiency I think says a lot about our defense."

In some ways, the win was almost too easy for the Gators, but Wise insisted that once a team is in the NCAA Tournament, no wins are taken for granted.

"You get to a point where any coach will tell you that in the NCAA Tournament you'll take any win, any way you can any it comes and you move on," said Wise. "It's extra special to do it in such a good way."

Florida bolted to a 20-11 lead in game one but FAU fought back within five at 23-18 before the Gators took control, scoring seven of the match's final eight points for the win. Killingsworth contributed three of Florida's points on that run with a couple of kills and a block.

In game two, the Gators trailed 5-4 when they went on a 19-2 run that blew the match wide open. Collymore had four kills during that decisive stretch while Hampton had two. McCray got points with a couple of kills and a block and Klinkenborg had a kill and a block.

Florida jumped out to a 7-1 third game lead and then cruised to the win. The Gators were ahead 20-7 when FAU rallied too little and much too late to make the final score a more respectable 30-14.

If the Gators get past Kansas State Friday night, they will go to the Omaha Regional which will likely be hosted by national number one seed Nebraska. The Gators are fourth ranked nationally but seeded eighth in the NCAA Tournament.

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