AUSTIN, Texas -- The No. 8 Gator volleyball team put up a fight in their final Nike Big Four showing but came up short, falling to No. 1 Penn State, 3-0 (18-25, 17-25, 20-25) Sunday in Gregory Gymnasium. Senior CLASS Award nominee Chloe Mann led the Gators with 10 kills on the morning, while Živa Recek tallied seven slams.
Junior libero Taylor Unroe turned in a match-high 14 digs against the Nittany Lions, while Mackenzie Dagostino and Taylor Brauneis shared setting duties, dishing out 15 and 14 assists respectively.
* Florida ended their four-year run in the Nike Big Four at 3-5, defeating Texas in five sets in both 2010 and 2011 and taking down No. 2 Stanford in four sets in 2013.
* This was just the second time in program history the Gators have played the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country in the same weekend. In 2003, No. 3 Florida defeated No. 2 Hawaii in the NCAA Final Four before falling to No. 1 Southern Cal in the National Championship match.
RECORDS: Florida: 5-1 (3-5 all-time in Nike Big Four); PSU: 3-1 (4-4 all-time in Nike Big Four)
MARY'S MINUTE: "It was a great experience for our team to play Penn State who has been amongst the elite for the last several years. They were an elite team today. The separator was the serve-pass game and they were outstanding today. It was a great learning experience for us and we'll be better from it. All credit to Penn State for how they played today. We approached this weekend like all of our preseason tournaments where you learn about players you don't play on a regular basis. The turnaround in this tournament is so fast. It's something we don't have to face in the SEC because the teams are so familiar with each other. All four non-conference weekends really do prepare us for postseason when you're learning about players for the first time."
NEXT UP: The Gators return home to host the third annual Active Ankle Challenge. Florida welcomes Georgetown, Iona and Western Michigan to the Stephen C. O'Connell Center Friday-Saturday, September 13-14. Gator fans will be treated to a family affair Friday night, as Georgetown's starting setter, freshman Caitlin Brauneis, is the younger sister of Florida's starting setter, Taylor Brauneis. Shortly after the Active Ankle Challenge, Florida faces in-state foe Florida State on Tuesday, September 17. The Gators' greatest non-conference rivalry enters its 28th year and will be the 53rd meeting between the Gators and the Seminoles. Under Gator head coach Mary Wise, Florida has gone a remarkable 28-3 against FSU, including an undefeated 16-0 at home.
THE GANG IS BACK: Florida returns 11 letterwinners and five starters from a year ago, including First Team All-American Mann, AVCA National Freshman of the Year Recek, AVCA Honorable Mention All-American setter Taylor Brauneis, 2011 SEC All-Freshman Team honoree Taylor Unroe and sophomore outside hitter Gabby Mallette.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: Florida will be on television 12 times during the course of the 2013 regular season, the most of any Southeastern Conference program. The Gators' next televised match is Friday, October 4 at home against Texas A&M.
FOLLOW THE GATORS: For all of the latest information on Florida volleyball, please visit GatorZone. For up-to-the-minute updates, follow Florida Volleyball (@GatorZoneVB) and Coach Mary Wise (@GatorMary) on Twitter. You can also find the Gators on Facebook.