Gainesville, Fla. – Defeat. Loss. Upset.
Such words are virtually unknown to the members of the
University of Florida’s women’s volleyball team. One loss is what
the 33-1, third-seeded Gators had endured prior to facing
14th-seeded CSU Friday night at Florida’s O’Connell Center; one
loss that occurred in the team’s first match of the season against
top-ranked Southern California; one loss that remained one loss at
the conclusion of the team’s NCAA-record 33rd consecutive sweep of
A group of 3,136 boisterous Gator fans came out to support the
blue and orange in Florida’s quest to reach the regional finals and
a match against the No. 11 seed Penn State who upset sixth-seeded
Kansas State 3-1 in the previous match. The Rams did little to
impede the Gators’ quest.
Florida (34-1) exposed the overmatched Rams (33-5) with
remarkable speed on defense and lighting-quick jump serves from
senior Aury Cruz, who led Florida with 11 kills and six service
aces, to win in three games 30-13, 30-22, 30-26, ending the Rams’
23-game winning streak in the process.
“Florida is a physically talented team,” said CSU head coach Tom
Hilbert whose tea m failed to end the Gators’ now record 100-game
winning streak. “I’m proud of our players, we fought hard. Some
things could have gone our way to change the flow of the game, but
we didn’t capitalize on (those opportunities).”
Be it the pressure that comes with facing a national powerhouse
on its home court or the nerves that accompany a regional semifinal
appearance, the Rams did not open the match strong and it cost them
“There were some nerves on our part,” conceded junior setter
Melissa Courtney after CSU allowed Florida to jump to an 11-0 lead
to begin the match. “But we fought back and didn’t let up.”
The Gators’ first point of Game 1 epitomized the flow of the
game as junior Michelle Chatman skied for one of her team-high
three blocks on the Rams’ first kill attempt and got the home crowd
into the game early.
“I don’t think the crowd affected (the Rams) negatively as much
as it affected us positively,” said Florida head coach Mary Wise of
the vocal audience. “They gave us a lot of energy (Friday
The Gators scored at will on CSU in Game 1 as Ram errors and
miscommunications led to a flurry of Gator points.
“Obviously allowing Florida to come out with a (big) run to
begin the match was an obstacle to overcome,” Hilbert said. “But
I’m proud of the way we settled down and played from that point
Indeed the Rams did manage to keep the match respectable after
that first game, but Florida’s defense never allowed CSU to get
into a rhythm.
“This is a very quick and athletic team,” Wise said of her
Gators. “Sometimes it looks like we have more than six players out
there. We thought that (the Rams) were the toughest opponent to
face in the regional semifinal; they had won (23) matches in a row
coming in and we knew they would show us some things that we had
not seen yet this year.”
Regardless of what the Rams showed the Gators it wasn’t
CSU battled well with Florida in Game 2 tightening the score at
22-24 late, but could not get any closer as the Gators ran off
eight consecutive points to take the game 22-30.
“They played fabulous defense,” said junior Becky Sarauer who
recorded 10 kills and a .190 hitting percentage. “We have to give
Indeed the Gators showed why they are the third-ranked team in
the nation holding the Rams to a .134 hitting percentage overall,
well below CSU’s average of .276 coming into the contest.
Middle blocker Katie Jo Shirley was one bright spot for the Rams
that managed to find some holes in the Gators’ defense. The junior
pegged a game-high 14 kills and .348 hitting percentage in the
“Katie Jo Shirley is a relentless player and tough to defend,”
Wise said. “She kept us on our toes throughout the game.”
With their surprising regular season at its end, the Rams
returned home Sunday and now turn their attention to next season
when the entire team returns to make another run at glory.
“Can we see ourselves winning matches like this?” Hilbert asked
rhetorically. “I think the answer is yes. We just have to get
better in a number of areas and we’ll do that with another