Florida volleyball (4-2) dropped its second match of the season (27-25, 22-25, 25-18, 25-23), to the number 17 Baylor Bears on Friday .
The seventh ranked Gators competed against a former SEC foe in Avery Skinner, who played on the 2021 NCAA Champion Kentucky Wildcats. After winning the NCAA championship in her 2021 senior spring, she transferred to Baylor for her graduate program. She also has family ties to Waco, Texas.
The veteran duo of Skinner and Yosianna Pressley proved more effective with 33 kills compared to that of Gator seniors Thayer Hall and T’Ara Ceasar (28 kills).
Baylor previously defeated common opponent No. 13 Minnesota but lost in extra sets to No.2 Wisconsin, No. 23 Tennesee, and No. 4 Pittsburgh.
Florida setter Marlie Monserez aced the Bears to begin the match. Elli McKissock and Merritt Beason soon collected aces, too. As Florida head coach Mary Wise likes to say, they were serving high-risk high-reward. Florida had five aces versus four service errors.
Baylor attempted putting three Bears up to block Caesar, so she tipped it through the right blocker.
Though Florida was ahead as much as 12-7, Baylor tightened the score to 14-13. Thayer Hall brought back Florida’s momentum with a few service points.
So there they were, tied 22-22, and Wise took her final timeout.
Monserez had to set the ball from about the 15-foot line out of serve receive. Baylor dug up a big swing from Hall. Florida sided out the next point on a missed serve from Baylor.
The next point, Pressley slammed one from the back row. Baylor failed to capitalize on an overpass, and Ceasar slammed one from the back middle.
The teams continued to exchange points as the score broke even at 25. A wild pass sent Monserez scrambling to set. The point was attributed to an attack error on Ceasar veering into the antenna. Lauren Harrison skirmished Florida’s hopes in the first set with a block as well.
Sets were distributed most to Beason and Ceasar, each getting 10 sets compared to Hall, Lauren Dooley, and Lauren Forte getting four to five sets apiece.
Scoring shifted back-and-forth to begin the second set. Florida earned a 19-13 lead. While serving had a large direct impact in set one, Florida earned only one point on an ace while erroring once in the second.
In a show of hustle, senior Monserez dove into the score table to retrieve the ball off a block; she won SEC Player of the Week last week after collecting 97 assists in two games.
Up 24-22, Monserez took a deep breath and served Baylor out-of-system. Skinner’s pass left one option: herself on the outside. Merritt Beason and middle Lauren Dooley took care of the set with a block. Florida gets the win.
Baylor got off to a 3-1 lead. Hall hit through the block on her back-row attack, an effective weapon for Florida this game. When the Bears increased their lead to 6-2, Wise took a timeout, and the Gators sided out on a Ceasar slam.
The Gators had several serves go long this set, a slight reversion to first set. Both teams ended with 11 errors. Florida had seven aces to Baylor’s six.
In another trend, Monserez increased sets to Hall after set one. Hall hit .225 on the match, while Ceasar hit .263. At several points, Ceasar was dynamite, with a loud block and kill. Monserez’s setter dump orchestrated a sneak Florida point.
Still, Baylor maintained a five to six-point lead for most of the set. The Bears extended their lead to 20-14, and Florida again sided out directly after the timeout.
Something unique about Baylor is that they have 16 players. On the bench. 22 players came to this game, which translated into their bench being enthused and loud the whole game. They picked a player up from the ground at one point after an ace. In comparison, Florida has 13 players on its entire roster.
Baylor took a timeout of its own up 21-18. The rest was history. Baylor subbed in Marieke van der Mark. She closed out a quartet of kills from different Baylor contributors to win the set 25-18.
At win-or-go-home for the night and play tomorrow time, Florida came out energized. The Gators earned their first lead of the match since set 2, erupting with a kill from Ceasar to make it 6-3. A setter dump and Dooley block soon expanded the Gator lead to 10-5.
Callie Williams strung together a four-point service run to tie the game at 12. Florida had a side out percentage, meaning getting the point on the other team’s serve, of 54.1%, while Baylor achieved a 58.7% side-out rate. Hall got a kill to end the run.
Pressley was lethal for Baylor with two kills as Lauren Briseno pieced together a four-point run. The run, which included an ace, took the Bears from down 15-16 to ahead 19-16.
Moving ahead, libero McKissock produced a nice dig down the line to side Florida out. Hall followed up with an ace to narrow Baylor’s lead to one. Yet, an off speed shot from Pressley put the score at 23-22. Ceasar followed up with a tip of her own. Skinner blocked Beason. Ceasar got a kill. Beason served the subsequent serve just barely over the tape. But, Pressley hammered it.
Stars of the Stats
Lauren Dooley Florida: 9 blocks
Shane Bramsschreiber Baylor: 17 digs
Yossiana Pressley: 17 kills
Taylor Hall Florida: 40 attempts, 13 kills
UF plays Baylor again in the O’Dome Saturday at 7 p.m. The game will stream on SEC Network+.