Florida's roundball teams — the men beat Rider, while the women fell to Pacific in San Francisco, as we'll recap in a bit — weren't the only Gators holding court on Friday night. Florida's volleyball team played, too, and at the O'Connell Center, and those Gators scored a straight-sets triumph over Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament to move on to the program's first Elite Eight since 2005.
Seniors Kelly Murphy and Kristi Jaeckel powered Florida, as they have all year, in the Gators' 25-21, 25-13, 27-25 win. Murphy had 17 kills, 21 assists, and 10 digs, while Jaeckel contributed 14 kills, eight digs, and four blocks. Florida's hitting percentage was .439, the best a Gators team has ever recorded after the first round of an NCAA Tournament. "We’ve said we thought our team was playing its very best – well, no Gator team has had an offense at that level," coach Mary Wise told reporters after the match.
And now Florida will get to play in its 13th Regional Final match-up in program history against national No. 3 seed Illinois. The Gators haven't been to a Final Four since 2003, and will get a chance to earn that trip at 7 p.m. tonight at the O'Connell Center. The match will be broadcast on ESPNU and available on ESPN3; we'll probably end up using this story as a game thread of sorts.