GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Senior Kylie Jacob and sophomore Sammie Strausbaugh each tallied a team-best nine kills on the night, but No. 5 seed Florida held Jacksonville to a .175 hitting percentage to win, 3-0, [19-25, 15-25 and 16-25] in the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament Thursday night in the Stephen O’Connell Center.
Senior Alyssa Robertson followed with eight kills and three digs while hitting a team-best .500 and senior Kendall Courtney led with 24 assists and a second-best six digs, behind Mayara Prestes’s match-high of 11.
“It’s been a surreal season for us," said second-year Head Coach Michelle Collier. "This program has done really great things this year. We played a really good team on their home court, so it was tough. I’m proud of the way our team fought. I didn’t think we hung our head.
"We tried to stay with them [Florida], but they take a lot out of you. They take a lot out of your ball control and take a lot out of your hitters. They are just a tough team to beat. We were happy to be able to bring JU back on the map like we wanted and now it’s our mission to continue to get to the top.”
The Fins saw their historic season come to a close in Gainesville with their best-ever record at 30-4 (.882). The Fins' second-best finish was the program's 1983 team that posted a 35-9 record (.795). The Dolphins also ended their season with the fewest losses in the program’s 41-year history and competed in their second NCAA Tournament ever – first since 2004.
“In professional sports, these are the seasons people retire on," said Courtney. "So I couldn’t have asked for a better season. One team ends with a win. This was my dream to make it to the tournament, so it’s been a surreal year for me. I’m just really glad I got to be a part of it.”
Chole Mann netted a match-high 15 kills and a .700 attack percentage for Florida, followed by Ziva Recek’s 11 kills. Taylor Unroe led the Gators with nine digs, while both Mann and Recek tallied one block solo apiece.
Jacksonville opened the match on fire to a 2-0 lead on two straight kills by Gabriela Roman and played to a 5-2 advantage with three more kills by Sammie Strausbaugh, Kylie Jacob and Alyssa Robertson, respectively, but Florida rallied to win the first set 25-19. The Gators gained quick ground and broke away from a six-all tie to lead 12-10, 18-16 and 23-19. Florida hit .355 to JU’s .167, tallying 15 kills to 13. Strausbaugh led with four kills, while Roman and Robertson each tallied three and Jacob finished 2-0-4 for .500. Taylor Nyqyuist added the set’s lone ace.
Florida busted open the second set with a 6-0 advantage on two kills, three attack errors and one service ace before Jacksonville netted three straight on kills by Jacob and Roman and a Florida attack error. But JU struggled to escape its 10-point deficit throughout the set and fell 25-15. The Gators hit .480, netted 14 kills and tallied two service aces, while Jacksonville managed a .121 attack percentage and posted 10 kills. After the second set, Strausbaugh led with seven kills, both Robertson and Jacob tallied five, and Courtney charged with 15 set assists.
The final set opened with a three-all tie before the Gators pounced and hit a match-best .607 to Jacksonville’s match-high .250. There were three ties, but ultimately Florida led at 12-6, 20-11 and won 25-16.