Gators volleyball huddle preparing for NCAA Tournament
The Gators huddle after winning a point in the second set against NO. 20 Stanford. This is Florida's first lose of the season as they are now 3-1. (Credit: floridagators.com)

Gator Volleyball Suppress Rebel Offense, Sweep Series

The No. 22 Gator volleyball (10-5, 4-1) season appeared a difficult one after a loss to Mississippi State. But for now, things are looking up.

Florida swept Ole Miss on Saturday (25-19, 25-14, 25-16) and repeated the cycle on Sunday at Exactech Arena. The Gators convincingly took the first two sets, then ran away with a nine-point run to finish a back-and-forth third set (25-17, 25-13, 25-17). The home team hit .349 on the match while holding Mississippi to .048.

For several games, Florida missed middle blocker Lauren Forte with an ankle injury. A limited Thayer Hall shifted to the right side. But over the weekend, UF continued to dominate into its original rotation with Hall reprising her role on the outside and Merritt Beason, her role on the right side against Ole Miss (12-3, 1-3).

Wise labeled Hall and Forte as the difference makers of the match while also appreciating how other starters held the team together while the duo battles injury. She also highlighted how the Gators have improved with minimal time for practice that doesn’t focus on preparing for an opponent. Now though, after the long stretch of games, the Gators will have the week to focus on themselves in practice, Wise says. It’s Gator time.

She’s praised the team for resilience as players heal from injuries, as has outside T’ara Ceasar. The senior says she sees the upcoming week of practice as a reset button.

Set 1

Interestingly, Ole Miss’ back row featured a former Gator player in Riley Fischer –as if Tom Brady returning to New England wasn’t enough for one day.

Florida, specifically Hall, consistently served Fischer, although she generally made good passes.

Hall and Ceasar started hot, and both posted an impressive 3-for-6, .500 performance in the first set.

Ceasar provided insight on how the Gators have been working on playing more cleanly the past few matches.

 

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The Gators were blocking across the net and eventually ended the match with 13 blocks.

Ole Miss made several errors after making good digs. For example, the Rebels once set the ball so tight the outside had no other choice to hit it into Beason’s block and bounce back onto her head. Meanwhile, Florida hustled; up 15-10, setter Marlie Monserez saved the ball from the stands.

After the midway point of the set, the Gators never allowed Ole Miss within four points. Head coach Mary Wise took a timeout on Fischer’s serve at 20-16. The Gators sided out as Ole Miss couldn’t get the third freeball over the net.

The rest of the set was all Gators, as they hit .500 while suppressing the Rebels to .152. Freshman Beason paced the 25-17 set with four kills, hitting .571.

Set 2

With kills from Hall, Forte, and Lauren Dooley and a dump from Monserez, Florida took an 8-3 lead. Ole Miss head coach Kayla Banwarth, a former U.S. Olympic libero, took a timeout.

The Ole Miss setter, Samantha Schnitta, did well at attacking the second contact. But soon, the trick became Ole Miss’ primary weapon, and Florida defused it.

Forte had three blocks. Excitement erupted as Hall earned a solo block. The next point, Ceasar aced the Rebels.

After a stretch of service errors from both teams, Florida won the longest rally of the game at 17-9; Hall finessed the Rebel defense with a roll shot like she did on several occasions.

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Wise spoke to how Florida held Ole Miss to a negative hitting percentage: – .028, meaning Ole Miss had more errors than kills. Ceasar and libero Elli McKissock were imperative to the effort. She also spoke about how Forte was able to impact the game.

The Gators won set 2 25-13.

Set 3

Set 3 was different, as Ole Miss got off to a 5-2 start via two aces and two kills from middle Aubrey Sultemeir. Beason had her third and fourth service errors in the fourth set. While scoring transpired back-and-forth, Ole Miss grabbed the lead at 14-13.

The senior Hall showed her ability to bounce back when after getting denied on the block, she returned with a kill the next point. She tied the game 16-16.

She proceeded to end the match on an eight-point service run, taking the set 25-17. Florida won their ninth set in a row.

What’s Next

Florida has the week off before it travels to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take on LSU (5-8) Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

Watch: SEC Network +

Listen: WRUF 850 AM/98.1 FM

About Julianna Reichenbach

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