The 16-seeded Florida volleyball team (22-8) advanced to the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night, defeating a highly-touted No. 24 Miami team. Head Wise said it took one of the Gators’ best matches all year to defeat the Hurricanes (25-5) in three sets (25-15, 25-20, 25-16).
Outside hitters Thayer Hall and Sofia Victoria led the court with 13 kills apiece. The latter was playing her second game in her established started after outside hitter T’ara Ceasar left the team citing mental and physical health.
Mary Wise, in her 31st year as the head coach at UF (and 35th-year head coaching overall), earned her 1,001st win on Friday. While she did not want to spend too much time talking about her achievement on Thursday, she spent some time reflecting as the Gators secured their ticket out of the Gainesville First and Second Rounds.
Florida will hit the court again on Thursday.
Florida got off to a quick 5-2 start, and expanded it to a 14-7 lead. The Gators took their biggest lead at 21-12.
Thayer Hall led the Gators in kills with seven, hitting .500. Victoria hit an astounding .625 en route to six kills.
The Hurricanes were, however, able to put a stop to Merrit Beason in the first, who had zero kills on six swings, while the Florida middles only had one kill each. Victoria missed two serves. None of these errors deterred a 25-15 wallop by Florida.
“We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus blared out in Exactech Arena as Florida gained a 6-2 lead.
The Hurricanes blew back though, taking the next six points. They won what may have been the longest rally of the game via a kill from middle Leah Janice, and benefitted from two Victoria hitting errors.
Head coach Mary Wise took a timeout down 8-6. Victoria sided the Gators out with a kill, and soon middle Lauren Forte and Beason contributed kills.
Forte became more involved in the second set, including a solo block.
Victoria appeared unphased by a slow start to the set as she hit three straight kills. She was even hit a kill out of the back row. Monserez spoke to Victoria’s style of play and the kind words said she about the team during the game.
The service line remained an issue for Victoria as she missed her fourth serve of the match, narrowing the Gator lead to 19-18. She did remain on the service line the rest of the match.
Hall sided Florida out and libero Elli McKissock led the Gators on a four-point service run to reach set point. Miami feened off one set point, but Beason responded with a kill the next point. Gators win, 25-20.
There was minimal letdown for the Gators to begin a set that could advance them to the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament.
Monserez had a setter dump. Miami even let a ball drop in serve receive.
Down 7-1, the Hurricanes took a timeout. Hall returned to the court and immediately aced them twice.
Hall also caught up to Victoria for most kills on the court. After the game, Hall spoke to the way her team has supported her as she’s battled injury this season, something she frankly considers part of her UF story at this point.
Leao and Angela Grieve remained the top targets for Miami setter Savannah Vach, ending with 10 and 8 kills. No one else on the squad had more than three.
Florida worked up to a 22-12 lead. Miami put up their last efforts, with Grieve pointing to the ground in fiery celebration after a kill.
Soon though, in fashion the duo said they found fitting for their likely final match at Exactech Arena, Monserez set Hall for a kill. The Gators won 25-16.
— Gators Volleyball (@GatorsVB) December 4, 2021
Wise said afterward she senses a good vibe from her team, something she attributed to her seniors who are battling for their season to continue with expert focus.
Assuming No. 1 Louisville wins out their games for the First and Second Round, the Gators will travel to play the Cardinals. Regardless of the opponent, Florida resumes play on Thursday.