GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The No. 4 University of Florida volleyball team is set to play host to one of the premier volleyball tournaments in collegiate volleyball, as the Nike Volleyball Big Four Classic comes to town this Friday and Saturday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The Gators (5-0) will entertain three-time defending NCAA Champion and top-ranked Penn State, No. 2 Stanford and No. 5 Texas at the O’Connell Center this weekend.
Stanford and Texas will square off at 5:30 p.m. ET Friday before the Gators and Nittany Lions meet at 7:30 p.m. ET Friday. Florida’s match will be carried live on ROCK 104 (103.7 FM in Gainesville) with Cory Stephens and on GatorVision. The match also will air tape-delay on Sun Sports at 10:30 p.m. ET Friday night with Tom Collett and Missy
The first 1,000 fans in attendance (starting at 4 p.m.) at Friday’s match will receive Gator volleyball t-shirts. The wackiest UF student of the match will be rewarded with a Campus USA Credit Union prize pack and students can also sign up to win a number of prizes at the door. The Dazzlers also will perform between sets 2 and 3 of Florida’s match.
On Saturday, Florida will face either Stanford or Texas at 4:30 p.m. live on Sun Sports with Tom Collett and Missy Whittemore, while Penn State will face either Stanford or Texas at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday is Gator Fan Appreciation Day – show your ticket from the Florida-USF football game and receive free admission to the volleyball match. The first 500 fans on Saturday will receive a free t-shirt courtesy of Sun Sports. Single-match tickets for Florida volleyball are $4 and children aged 17 and under are admitted free. Also, admission is free for all UF students with a valid Gator One Card.
The event will feature six returning 2009 AVCA All-Americans, including three first-team selections. It is quite a collection of teams participating in the event, as the four squads have combined for 11 NCAA Championships and 39 NCAA Final Four appearances.
Florida is coming off a trio of wins in the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational this past weekend, taking down Albany, Bowling Green and No. 15 Colorado State. The Gators have already defeated three top-15 opponents already this season, just five matches into the 2010 campaign.
The Gators have succeeded in large part due to a balanced output from its team. Five players average better than 1.65 kills per set, led by junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.). Murphy, the Sports Imports/AVCA Division I National Player of the Week for Aug. 31, leads the team with 2.58 kills per set on .356 hitting to go along with 5.63 assists per set, 1.84 digs per set and 0.53 blocks per set.
Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) and junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) follow with 2.33 kills per set and 2.32 kills per set, respectively. Freshman setter Chanel Brown (Tempe, Ariz.) dishes out 4.68 assists per set as part of a two-setter offense with Murphy.
Senior middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe (Long Beach, Calif.) leads three Gators averaging better than 0.80 blocks per set. Bledsoe averages a squad-best 1.28 blocks per set. Sophomore right-side Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash) follows with 1.16 blocks per set, while also adding 1.68 kills per set. Junior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson (Bakersfield, Calif.) averages 0.89 rejections per set.
Senior libero Erin Fleming (Orlando, Fla.) leads the team’s back-row effort with 3.32 digs per set, while Rivers adds 2.28 scoops per set.
Florida has benefitted from a powerful blocking brigade this season that has out-blocked its opponents 55.5-38.0, a +17.5 margin. The Gators have recorded double-figure blocks in four of their five outings this year, including all three meetings with top-15 foes.
Penn State (6-0) is Florida’s first opponent at the Nike Volleyball Big Four Classic. The top-ranked Nittany Lions enter the match with a nation-leading 108-match winning streak dating back to 2007. Penn State’s last loss came against Stanford on Sept. 15, 2007. The Gators are 2-12 all-time vs. No. 1-ranked teams, but both of those victories have come since 1999, when Florida recorded its first win against a top-ranked squad by downing Penn State at the State Farm/NACWAA Classic at Lincoln, Neb.
Four Nittany Lions are averaging 2.38 kills per set or better, including freshman Deja McClendon who leads the team with 3.67 kills per set. Sophomore Kristin Carpenter, who is averaging 9.59 assists per set, has guided three of her primary hitters to a .345 hitting percentage or better. On defense, senior Alyssa D’Errico is averaging 5.22 digs per set, while four Nittany Lions are averaging at least 1.00 blocks per set.
Penn State leads the all-time series with Florida 6-3, but the Gators have won two of the last three meetings. The teams first met in 1986 with Penn State earning a 3-1 victory. The two squads last met in last season’s NCAA regional semifinal with the Lions winning 3-0.
Stanford enters this weekend’s tournament with a 5-0 record, returning three-time All-American Alix Klineman at outside hitter. The Cardinal also have senior libero Gabi Ailes and senior hitter/setter Cassidy Lichtman returning to lead their squad this season. The Gators are 3-3 all-time vs. Stanford, including a five-set Florida win last
season in Stockton, Calif.
Texas, the preseason No. 2 team in the country, is 5-1 entering the Nike Volleyball Big Four Classic, having fallen to No. 5 Illinois last weekend and going five sets before defeating No. 23 Long Beach State. The Longhorns return 2009 AVCA Third-Team All-American Juliann Faucette at outside hitter to lead their squad. Florida is 10-5 all-time against Texas and has won three of the last five meetings.