Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Thursday, April 18, 2024

For weeks, UF coach Mary Wise has paid lip service to the remarkable improvement of her team during the last three months, but now she has something tangible to measure it by.

On Sept. 13, Colorado State sent UF home from its two-game road trip on the wrong end of a sweep.

It was the first time out of Florida for the Gators' six true freshmen, and UF looked like a team depending on a large contingent of first-year talent.

Saturday night, the Gators (27-3) got a chance to prove how far they have come when they squared off with the Rams (23-7) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

UF returned the favor, sweeping (25-21, 25-17, 25-23) Colorado State in the O'Connell Center in front of a modest crowd of fans who weren't busy celebrating the Gators' win in the Southeastern Conference Championship football game.

UF advances to regional play, which is held in Fort Collins, Colo., for the 17th time in Wise's 18 years as coach.

The No. 11 Gators will take on No. 2 Stanford in the Sweet Sixteen and will take on No. 6 Hawaii or No. 10 Purdue if they advance.

"They're a young team, but I think they played with a great deal more maturity tonight than they did when they were at our place," Colorado State coach Tom Hilbert said.

The biggest surprise of the night wasn't that UF found a way to beat Colorado State, it was the way the Gators defeated the Rams.

UF out-blocked Colorado State nine to five after being out-blocked in the first meeting 12 to two.

"I don't know which stat is more surprising, the fact that we had nine blocks or the fact that they had only five," Wise said. "Both are pretty amazing."

In addition to the dominance at the net, the Gators sided out extremely well and didn't allow the Rams to run points in the serve game.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

Colorado State aided UF's sideout success by recording 12 service errors and just two aces. By comparison, the Gators committed only three errors against four aces.

As they have all season, UF's large freshman class had a huge impact on the outcome.

Setter Kelly Murphy and outside hitter Colleen Ward showed just how far they have come as a unit.

"I know we always talk about having a young team, because we are a young team, but I don't even think of them as freshmen anymore," senior middle blocker Kelsey Bowers said. "They're so mature now, and it's great playing with them, they're right on pace with everyone else."

Ward logged seven kills on a team-high .429 hitting percentage and added six digs on defense.

"We tried to pick on her a little bit, and it didn't work out very well," Hilbert said.

Murphy put down eight kills on a .353 hitting percentage, dished out 13 assists and dug out five balls in her usual well-rounded performance.

"That's the best recruiting class in the United States," Hilbert said. "We know all those players. We did not underestimate Florida. We know they're good."

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.