Gator Volleyball Bests Top-10 Gophers

The Florida volleyball team (4-1) came off a sweep in Sacramento and a four-set loss to Stanford and had a big challenge on Sunday at home, facing three-time First Team All-American Stephanie Samedy and top ten ranked Minnesota.  She showed up, hitting .380 on 71 attack attempts. No one else went over .167 or 25 attempts for Minnesota.

The Gators defeated number 9 Minnesota in four sets (25-20, 25-19, 22-25, 25-23).

Set 1

The Gators started with a 7-1 run, including two aces from Elli McKissock and an out-system slam from T’ara Caesar off a Thayer Hall bump set. A 6-1 timeout couldn’t stop the run, which only ended when McKissock missed her serve.

At 13-6 in the first set, Stephanie Samedy had half of Minnesota’s points. She ended the set hitting .500 with eight kills. Florida middle Lauren Forte, meanwhile, was almost statistically unstoppable in the first set, going 6-for-7.

Redshirt senior Caesar’s serve got Minnesota out-of-system during the set. Florida won the set 25-20 on attack error from setter Melanie Shaffmaster.

Set 2

Senior Hall collected two consecutive aces in set 2. Florida got off to another 6-1 start. At 6-3, Wise challenged a hard-line hit from T’ara Caesar that the refs called out. The review reversed the score.

Florida continued to give freshman Merritt Beason reps on the outside while senior Hall shifted to the right-side. 

Later, Minnesota outside Jenna Wenaas blocked two balls on a 3-0 scoring run to narrow the Gators’ lead to 12-10. Hall responded with a service run of her own, including garnering her third ace, this one on Wenaas. Middle Lauren Dooley got a stuff block to contribute to the 4 point streak.

At 19-13, Forte tied Samedy for most kills on the court with 13.

Katie Myers put service pressure on Florida, while Gator setter Marlie Monserez played aggressively at the net to help clinch the set 25-19.

While some thought of serve receive as something to improve after Florida’s loss to Stanford on Tuesday, the Gators stayed in-system more frequently on Sunday.

Set 3

The third set transpired in a consistently closer fashion.

Things weren’t going as well for Florida to begin the third set. Monserez chased down a dig, and when Caesar hit the ball from the back row into the next, she was visibly outraged.

Florida had several service errors early on. Outside hitter Airi Miyabe got a kill from the ten-foot line. And, dastard topspin from Natalie Glenn extended the Gopher lead. She followed up with an ace rolling over the net.

Wise took a timeout with the Gators down 17-14. Florida sided out when Monserez went up to set and quickly shifted into attack mode.

Down 18-16, Florida challenged a swing by Thayer Hall ending a rally consisting of many tips and block touches, but the refs sided with Minnesota. 

Myers put service pressure on the Gators again and blocked Hall to end the rally. The next point, Hall terminated the run with a kill. Two points later, Hall slammed the ball down the line from the right side to get the game to 20-19, Minnesota.

After a Miyabe line kill and a net violation by Minnesota, McKissock aced them to tie the game at 21. Minnesota returned from their timeout with a first-ball side-out kill from Glenn. 

Wise used her final timeout at 23-21. Libero CC McGraw got Florida out-of-system on the first pass, and the whole play proceeded to be messy.

Ceasar got a kill at 24-22, but Samedy earned the other three of the last four points.

Set 4 

The fourth set started a lot more like sets one and two. Florida got off to a 7-1 run that ended after an eventual Minnesota timeout.

Again, the score went back and forth to reach 9-5, Florida.

In what would be for most players improbable- but not for Samedy,- the Gophers star turned a low set into Beason hustling toward the Dazzlers to save the ball to continue the rally off McKissock’s dig. Florida returned the ball over the net, and Miyabe terminated the ball for Minnesota.

Shaffmaaster aced Hall, and Sofia Victoria briefly subbed into the game. The score continued to flip-flop, culminating in a kill to tie up the game 16-16 by Forte, who finished hitting .667 on the match.

A Minnesota service error tied the game 20-20. Caesar had a stellar dig in the backcourt, but Minnesota took the point on a Shaffmaster kill.

Dooley evened it up with a kill at 21-21. Samedy got a kill, then Hall terminated down the line to maintain the scoring pattern. Hall dug Samedy the next point as Florida ran to its own bench to retrieve the ball. But, Minnesota went right back to their star and she terminated.

At 23-22, Wise took Florida’s final timeout of the set. Beason hit two consecutive kills on the right pin to put the Gators up 24-23. The Gophers kept trying to set Samedy even when it was inconvenient on the final point, and she hit wide. The Exactech Arena crowd erupted.

Stars of the Stats 

Beason: .462 with 16 kills

Monserez: 56 assists

Shaffmaster: 45 assists

What’s Next

Florida plays number 9 Baylor at home Friday at 7 p.m and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Previously, Minnesota lost to Baylor so it will be interesting to see how everyone stacks up.

About Julianna Reichenbach

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