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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Murphy continues to impress in win against Mississippi State

Nearly lost in the sound of cowbells and Bulldog yells was yet another golden moment for Kelly Murphy.

In front of a rowdy crowd in Starkville, Miss., the freshman setter tied a career-high 15 kills to lead No.10 UF to a 3-0 (25-15, 25-22, 25-11) win at Mississippi State Sunday.

That was two days after notching the second triple-double (14 kills, 35 assists and 15 digs) of her career during Friday night's 3-1 (25-23, 18-25, 25-19, 25-21) win against Alabama. Murphy (14 assists) tallied her fifth consecutive double-double of the season.

It's the kind of performance that most players would celebrate.

But when you have the kind of freshman season that Murphy has up to this point, expectations are inevitably raised.

"I don't think that (Murphy) would tell you that was her best match of the year or anywhere close," UF coach Mary Wise said.

Despite Murphy's stellar play, the Gators (12-1, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) struggled to find a rhythm offensively in the second set on Sunday finishing with an uncharacteristic .147 hitting percentage.

"We were hitting right into their blocking," Wise said.

The outmatched Bulldogs (6-10, 1-4 SEC), led by Ioana Demian's nine kills, went point for point with the Gators for most of the set.

"When you win easily in the first set, sometimes there's a letdown" Wise said. "It's evident that's what happened today."

Then junior middle blocker Kristina Johnson came off the bench and righted the Gators' ship.

"(She came in) with a lot of energy, and I think that really helped because we weren't getting much from anyone else," Wise said. "It was great for her to come in, in a different role, and play inspired. I thought that was really the difference toward the end of set No. 2. "

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The Gators rally was aided by a flurry of services aces.

Kelsey Bowers (3 services aces) and Cindy Bathelt (2 services aces) combined for four aces in back-to-back turns behind the line to help break an 8-8 tie in the second set.

UF continues to get consistent play from its freshmen.

Kristy Jaeckel's dominant hitting (12 kills) against Mississippi State helped UF bounce back to sweep the Bulldogs after the sluggish second set.

Cassandra Anderson seems to have found her way into the rotation for UF.

The freshman outside hitter played critical minutes in both of the Gators matches over the weekend and even smacked home the match-winning kill against the Bulldogs.

A radio broadcast contributed to this report.

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