AUSTIN, Texas -- Florida's first five-set victory of the 2015 campaign came when it mattered most as the No. 11 seed Gators posted an epic 3-2 victory over Wisconsin in Friday's NCAA Regional Semifinal to advance to Saturday's Elite Eight for the 15th time in school history. The Gators and Longhorns, who defeated UCLA 3-1 in Friday's nightcap, will meet for the fourth time in Regional Final action.
Gator sophomore middle Rhamat Alhassan and junior right side Alex Holston teamed up for 44 of Florida's 68 kills on the night, their most as a tandem the last two years, Alhassan with a career high 24 kills, Holston with 20 in a special show at Gregory Gymnasium on the UT campus. Senior setter Mackenzie Dagostino dished out 53 assists to direct the Gators to a .349 clipand a berth in the Elite Eight for a second straight year. Alhassan posted a career high 28.5 points and in the back row senior Nikki O'Rourke (17) and sophomore Carli Snyder (12) combined for 29 digs.
Florida scored the final three points of the fifth set to knock off Wisconsin, 15-12, in the deciding frame. Tied at 12-all, Alhassan and senior outside hitter Živa Recek blocked a shot for a 13-12 lead. Alhassan followed with another block for a 14-12 lead, and finally, the Gators erupted in celebration when Wisconsin's Kelli Bates made an attack error for the decisive point.
Florida's 3-2 win (25-17, 25-23, 19-25, 22-25, 15-12) was an up-and-down affair that ended on a high note for the Gators, who won their first five-set match of the season. The Gators out-blocked the Badgers 12-4.5 for their 20th double-digit roof performance of the campaign and put together two come-from-behind rallies in the second down 21-17 and in the fifth after Wisconsin got out to a 3-1 lead early after deadlocking the match 2-2 with third and fourth-stanza wins. Florida started with an error-free first set in which the Orange and Blue hit .583.
Winners of 16 of its last 18, Florida will meet Texas Saturday evening at 9 p.m. on ESPNU in the Regional Final for a trip to the 2015 Final Four in Omaha. Beth Mowins and Karch Kiraly will have the call on ESPNU, while Tom Collett and Josh Crow will bring Gator Nation all the action on ESPN Gainesville. The Orange and Blue have now advanced to the Elite Eight 15 times (7-7) and have advanced to seven Final Fours in the program's storied history. Florida played for all the marbles in 2003.
Florida is playing in the NCAA Regional round in Austin for the fourth time in school history and for the fifth time in NCAA play after playing its 1987 second round match in Austin. With both Texas and Florida advancing Friday, Saturday will be the latest showdown in a long list of recent matches between the two. The Florida-Texas 'rivalry' has become nearly an annual showdown. The Gators and Longhorns have played eight times since 2010, including an earlier match-up this season in Austin as part of the VERT Challenge. Florida downed the Longhorns, 3-1, in Gregory Gym (25-20, 21-25, 25- 18, 26-24).
"It was really as competitive and as fun a match as our group has been a part of. It is a shame that any team would have to lose that. I thought Wisconsin showed such great poise. They held their play incredibly steady. You can understand why they are as good as they are. Their ability to get kills and sixty-three digs. It seemed like twice that many. Fortunately, we were able to generate enough offense. This one here, Mackenzie [Dagostino] did such a terrific job running all over the court to get balls to our hitters. The hitters delivered tonight. I think those that were here in person who watched it, Rhamat [Alhassan] and Alex [Holston], 24 and 20 kills, they will go down in Florida volleyball history as one of the all-time best performances in a big match."
NUMBERS OF NOTE
For the second straight year, Florida's Regional Semifinal match went five sets and in favor of the Orange and Blue...Florida moved to 5-0 all-time against Wisconsin and 2-0 against the Badgers in NCAA Tourney play...Florida notched its 25th consecutive 25-win season after improving to 25-6 overall with the five-set win over Wisconsin...The Gators moved 1-5 in five-set affairs this season...2-0 for the Gators against Wisconsin this week as the women's hoops squad defeated the Badgers Thursday to precede UF's volleyball win Friday...UF moved to 15-8 all-time in NCAA Regional Semifinals action...Florida has 20 double-digit block performances in 31 matches this season.
FLORIDA VS TEXAS NCAA REGIONAL BROADCAST INFORMATION
Regional Final | Saturday, Dec. 12 | Gregory Gym 9 p.m. (ESPNU) | ESPN Gainesville (Tom Collett and Josh Crow on the call)
FLORIDA NCAA TOURNAMENT NOTABLES
·UF is the last SEC team standing in the 2015 NCAA Tournament and advanced to the program's 15th Regional Final
·Florida's 25th straight NCAA Tournament appearance is the fourth-longest active streak in the nation (Penn State & Stanford 35 straight, Nebraska 34 straight)
·No. 11 seed Florida was 6-4 during the regular season against the 2015 NCAA Tournament field
·The Gators have now made 23 Regional Semifinals in school history and 15 Regional Finals
·Florida has made seven Final Four appearances and played for the National Championship in 2003
·The Gators' 2015 NCAA Tournament appearance is its 25th consecutive and the 26th in program history
·Florida head coach Mary Wise is 64-24 (.727) all-time in the NCAA Tournament, with all postseason appearances occurring at the University of Florida
·The Gators are 65-25 (.722) all-time in the NCAA Tournament
·Florida has been a top-16 seed nationally 19 years, including 10 of the last 11 years
·Last season in 2014, the Gators went 3-1 in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the program's 14h NCAA Regional Final against Stanford before the Cardinal took the match in three sets to advance to the National Semifinals
·The 2015 NCAA Volleyball Final Four is slated for December 17 (National Semifinals at 7 & 9:30 ET) & 19 (National Championship at 7:30 ET) in Omaha, Neb., at CenturyLink Center. The National Semifinals and Finals will be broadcast live on ESPN2. This year marks the 35th annual Division I Women's Volleyball Championship and the third time the state of Nebraska will host the championship (2006, 2008)