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Friday, April 19, 2024

Florida ended the weekend with the same amount of downed sets as when they began it - zero.

The No. 8 UF volleyball team (2-0) began the season on a high note as it swept UNLV 3-0 (25-16, 25-23, 25-19) on Friday and Colorado 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-15) on Saturday in the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational in the O'Connell Center.

"This was a good opening weekend for us - a good little practice run," senior libero Elyse Cusack said. "I think now that we put this under our belt, we feel a little more confidence."

The Gators two-setter offense featuring Brynja Rodgers and Kelly Murphy was a success, as it led to 74 assists combined between the two players over the weekend. The versatility of Murphy, who can play setter along with the right hitter position, gives UF the flexibility to play this type of scheme.

But even coach Mary Wise didn't know whether to expect this type of success from the offense due Rodgers' arrival in Gainesville late this summer after transferring from New Mexico State.

"The key player has been Rodgers," Wise said. "She's been here all of three weeks with these players. Imagine starting a freshman quarterback who didn't enroll early. That's what it would be like."

On the other hand, Wise expected this from Rodgers' counterpart. She even admitted to sometimes expecting too much from Murphy, who won the AVCA National Freshman of the Year award last season.

"I think we are guilty of that with Murphy because of the type of elite plays she can make," Wise said.

Murphy enjoyed a tremendous start to her season over the weekend and was named the MVP of the tournament. She tallied a total of 27 kills, 34 assists and eight digs in the two-day event and fell only three digs short of notching her seventh career triple-double on Saturday.

Benefiting from the assists Murphy and Rodgers dished out were sophomore outside hitters Kristy Jaeckel and Colleen Ward, who combined for 44 kills in the two matches.

Ward especially came on strong late Saturday, as she recorded eight kills and four digs in the third set. She finished the match with 12 kills and 11 digs for her first career double-double.

"If you talk to our strength coach, Matt DeLancey, he would say Ward had the most productive summer out of all of them," Wise said. "In terms of how much she's improved and what she was able to accomplish, she worked really hard."

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Florida will try to extend its 6-0 set streak at 7 p.m. tonight in the O'Connell Center against, Florida State, a team that Wise said has greatly improved since last season.

"This is one of the best Florida State teams we've played in years," Wise said. "FSU has a lot of players returning.

"Four years ago, they had a great recruiting class and those players are now seniors. This is a team that we could easily see twice - meaning once this Monday and then later in the NCAA Tournament."

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