By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Two Southeastern Conference volleyball squads on Friday will vie for the opportunity to advance to the NCAA Regional Finals. Fourteenth-seeded Florida is in Austin, Texas, to take on the third-seeded Longhorns at 8 p.m. ET Friday, while 16th seeded Kentucky is in West Lafayette, Ind., to square off with top-seeded Penn State at 5 p.m. ET Friday.
Friday, December 7, 2012
Kentucky vs. Penn State – 5 p.m. ET | Live Audio | Live Stats | ESPN3
Florida vs. Texas – 8 p.m. ET | Live Audio | Live Stats | ESPN3
A Look at Kentucky
Kentucky is making its eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, boasting an overall record of 22-10 and a 14-6 mark in the SEC. The Wildcats are one of just 14 teams nationally to appear in each of the last eight NCAA Tournaments and Kentucky is making consecutive NCAA Regional Semifinal appearances for the first time since 1987-88. Senior libero Stephanie Klefot earned SEC Libero of the Year honors for the third consecutive season and also earned second-team All-SEC accolades. Junior right-side Whitney Billings was named first-team All-SEC, while freshman Sara Schwarzwalder was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. Senior outside hitter Ashley Frazier became the 15th player in Kentucky school history to record 1,000 career kills earlier this season.
How They Got Here
NCAA First Round – Defeated East Tennessee State, 3-0 (25-9, 25-17, 25-15) in Lexington
NCAA Second Round – Defeated Ohio State, 3-1 (18-25, 26-24, 25-15, 25-18) in Lexington
Scouting Penn State
Penn State is the No. 1 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Volleyball Tournament with a 31-2 overall record, making its 10th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Regional Semifinals. The Nittany Lions are the 2012 Big Ten Champions and have claimed five NCAA Championships in program history. Penn State is led by a pair of players who average 3.25 kills or better led by Ariel Scott’s 3.64 and Deja McClendon’s 3.25. Katie Slay averages 1.35 blocks per set, while Dominique Gonzalez comes up with 3.54 digs per set.
Penn State leads the all-time series with Kentucky 5-1, though the two teams have not met since 1986.
Should Kentucky defeat Penn State, the Wildcats would advance to the NCAA Regional Finals to take on the winner of the Regional Semifinal match-up between 10th-seeded Minnesota and host Purdue. That contest would be scheduled for a 4 p.m. ET Saturday start in West Lafayette, Ind.
A Look at Florida
The 2012 SEC Champion Florida volleyball team is making its 21st NCAA Regional Semifinal appearance in the last 22 years, holding an overall record of 27-4 and 19-1 in the SEC. The Gators, who are making their 22nd consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, have advanced to 13 NCAA Regional Finals in program history, including last season. Florida leads the SEC and ranks fourth in the nation in hitting percentage at a .302 clip, while also leading the league in service aces (1.47/set). Junior middle blocker and SEC Player of the Year Chloe Mann leads the nation with a .442 hitting percentage and averages 1.16 blocks per set. Freshman Ziva Recek is the Gators’ kill leader with 4.01 per set, while setter Taylor Brauneis leads the SEC with 11.61 assists per set.
How They Got Here
NCAA First Round – Defeated Tulsa, 3-0 (25-9, 25-21, 25-21) in Gainesville
NCAA Second Round – Defeated College of Charleston, 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 25-14) in Gainesville
Texas is the No. 3 overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Volleyball Tournament with a 25-4 overall record. The Longhorns lead the nation in hitting percentage with a .320 clip after the NCAA First and Second Rounds. The 2012 Big 12 Champions are led by Big 12 Player of the Year Haley Eckerman, a National Player of the Year candidate who ranks 10th in the nation in points per set (5.16), 12th nationally in kills per set (4.51) and 28th nationally in service aces per set (0.41).
Florida leads the all-time series with Texas, 12-6. The Longhorns defeated the Gators 3-0 (29-27, 25-22, 26-24) earlier this season in University Park, Pa.
Should Florida defeat Texas, the Gators would advance to the NCAA Regional Finals to take on the winner of the Regional Semifinal match-up between sixth-seeded Southern Cal and Wichita State. That contest would be scheduled for 9 p.m. ET Saturday start in Austin, Texas.