Oct. 2, 2011
ATHENS, Ga. - The Georgia Bulldogs dropped a hard-fought, competitive match to the 13th-ranked Florida Gators, 3-0, on Sunday afternoon in front of a season-high Ramsey Student Center crowd of 1,797.
The nationally-ranked Gators edged the Bulldogs in extra-points in the first set, 26-24, and took the second set 25-15. The set came down the wire again with UF taking it 25-23 to improve to 11-3 overall and 4-1 in Southeastern Conference action. UGA fell to 6-10 overall and 2-4 in league play.
"We have been talking for weeks now about fighting and how hard it is to win points," Georgia head coach Lizzy Stemke said. "We are taking baby steps in the right direction. We are right there. We had some serve and pass issues and against a team like Florida, you can't have those issues. I love the way we competed in set one and set three. Those are the feelings and drive that we will start practice with on Monday."
Florida earned the win behind a team hitting percentage of .469 with a total of 52 kills and only seven errors as five players finished above a .400 mark in the match led by a .700 clip from Betsy Smith, who finished with seven kills. Kristy Jaeckel had a match-best 14 kills at .520 and Kelly Murphy had 13 kills on a.480 clip while finishing just shy of a triple-double with 20 assists and nine digs. Stephanie Ferrell added a .444 hitting percentage to the effort with five kills while Tangerine Wiggs hit an even .400 with seven kills.
Georgia also had a strong offensive showing hitting .305 with 42 kills including three players in double-digits. Sophomore outside hitter Brittany Northcutt had a team-best 13 kills on a .364 clip, junior right side hitter Briana Bahr notched 11 kills and sophomore outside hitter Kathleen Luft contributed 10 on a .643 on a career-best .643 hitting percentage.
In a tightly-matched first set, Georgia got off to a quick lead after kills from Bahr, Luft and Northcutt added to a 4-1 advantage. Florida bounced back, and the teams went through five tied scores. The Gators grabbed its first substantial lead at 17-13 after they notched five-straight points. Answering right back with a 6-2 scoring spree, the Bulldogs were within reach at 21-20 in Florida's favor. At 24-22, Georgia didn't give in and back-to-back kills from Bahr tied the set. However, Florida was able to close the set at 26-24.
"It is always important to show up early in big games," Bahr said. "We wanted to come out early and show them that we are not a team that is going to roll over. We wanted to show them that we are a team that has a lot of fight in us."
Florida jumped ahead 5-1 to start the second set and never gave up the lead. Ahead 11-7, Florida put together five-straight points to go up 16-7 en route to a 25-15 set win after closing the set with a 6-3 scoring run.
The third set opened with Florida putting up two points out of the gate before Georgia quickly matched it. Not letting the Gators get a lead of more than three, Georgia started climbing back by getting the lead down to one at 9-8. The game became tied at 11 after a block from sophomore middle blocker Elena Perri before Georgia got its first lead with a Bahr kill right after. The set stayed close as the Bulldogs were down only one at 22-21 after a Summers' ace. Georgia held off Florida's match point with two Northcutt kills, but the Gators took the set at 25-23.
The Ramsey Student Center attendance of 1,797 was the largest of the year for the Bulldogs, and it marked the fourth time in 2011 that the home crowd has been over 1,000. Georgia only had three home matches over 1,000 in both 2009 and 2010.
"I hope the fans feel our appreciation," Stemke noted. "In a match like this, the atmosphere that we had today gave us a big push in key moments. They are providing a fantastic environment for our team to fight in. I hope that we continue to build on that."
Sunday's match against Florida was the fourth in a five-match home stand for Georgia. The Bulldogs will conclude the season-long stretch of matches in the Ramsey Student Center on Wednesday against Auburn. First serve for the UGA-AU match is slated for 7:02 p.m. ET and will be carried live on ESPNU.