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Friday, April 12, 2024

Another week, another award for the Gators' freshmen class.

Setter Kelly Murphy garnered her second consecutive Southeastern Conference Freshmen of the Week honor after posting yet another triple-double - this time against Alabama.

"The joke is, if you ever had a daughter, and you wanted her to play volleyball, you want her to be left handed and 6-foot-2," UF coach Mary Wise said. "Kelly's mother played volleyball, and maybe she wished better than the rest of us."

The physically gifted freshman has already received the SEC Offensive Player of the Week and the American Volleyball Coaches Association National Player of the Week in her short career.

When she was recognized as the top offensive player and freshman in the conference two weeks ago, she became the second player in SEC history to earn both titles at the same time.

Murphy leads the team in assists and hitting percentage and ranks second in kills and digs.

In most cases, Murphy's contributions would be considered enough for an entire freshman class.

But the Gators (12-1, 6-0 SEC) have seen a high level of play from many of their first-year players.

"This early in the season, we've won matches having to rely on young players," Wise said. "But we knew going into it that this was a class that had talent, what they lacked was collegiate experience."

UF's surplus of freshmen players started gaining recognition right from the very beginning of the season.

Outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel, who leads the team in kills and points per game, took home the most valuable player award in both of the team's tournaments, and she was named SEC Freshman of the Week in each of the first two weeks.

With Murphy earning her second such award this week, the Gators became the first team in conference history to have two players win the award multiple times in the same year.

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And a third might not be far away.

Outside hitter Colleen Ward also received the award this season, making it five times out of the first six weeks that a UF player has held the distinction.

Setter Cindy Bathelt has been another key contributor in her first year in uniform, ranking second on the team in assists.

Wise has used the passing talents of Murphy and Bathelt to implement a new offense involving two setters rather than the traditional one.

The presence of another setter has allowed Murphy to hit the ball more often and contribute in all facets of the game.

Her two triple-double performances have drawn her comparisons to former Gators setter Angie McGinnis, who is the only other player in UF history to accomplish such a feat.

"They're both really tall setters and really great offensively," said Senior Kelsey Bowers, who played with McGinnis for three years. "Angie was a little bit more vocal and competitive, but I think Kelly will be too as she gets older."

There has to be some aspect of her game left to improve.

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