Florida Volleyball Loses Heartbreaking Five-Set Match to Stanford

The Florida volleyball team fell to the Stanford Cardinal in a five-set nail-biter Tuesday night. The Gators entered the matchup coming off a successful weekend posting a 3-0 record in the Gator Invitational. In this match, Stanford came out of the gates rolling and the Gators were able to hang on until the very end. A first set victory for Stanford with a 31-29 score set the tone for back-and-forth scoring the rest of the game.

Merritt Beason, Marina Markova and Gabbi Essix led the way for the Gators tallying 13, 12 and 10 kills, respectively. Freshman setter Alexis Stucky notched 45 assists, while Bre Kelley contributed 10 blocks.

Florida head coach Mary Wise is proud of her team’s fight, especially in the face of challenges this season.

Set One Goes Down to the Wire

The Gators got off to a hot start, taking a 6-3 lead with a monster kill from Markova. However, the Cardinal rallied back to tie the game at six apiece. Stanford’s Sami Francis proved to be a force to be reckoned with at the net, delivering two back to back blocks and forcing Wise to call a timeout down 10-6.

Essix turned things around for the Gators coming out of the timeout, burying two kills and executing a clutch block to put the Gators within two points of the Cardinal.

Beason’s five-point serving streak helped the Gators take back the lead from the Cardinal. Stanford setter Kami Miner executed a beautiful dump just past the 10 foot line to inch within two points of Florida. Essix responded with a clean kill into the center of the court to give the Gators a 22-19 lead.

Stanford rallied to tie the game at 22 apiece, forcing a timeout from Wise. The Gators left the timeout on a mission, scoring off a kill from Kelley and a double block from Stucky and Kelley.

However, the Cardinal weren’t going away just yet. Set one went down to the wire with Stanford pulling it out 31-29. A kill from All-American Kendall Kipp sealed the deal.

Cardinal Capitalize Again

Francis’ two early blocks created a wall that the Florida attackers couldn’t get through to start the second set. Kelley decided to use Stanford’s big blockers to her advantage with a tool hit to put the Gators within one point. Markova evened the score with a kill to tie the game at seven all.

Stanford’s Miner caught the Florida defense standing up and out of position with another setter dump giving the Cardinal at 14-12 lead.

Down 18-14, Wise elected to call a timeout to help her team regroup. The timeout proved to be a good move because Markova immediately pounded a kill to the ground to shift the momentum back to the Gators. Stucky followed it up with a beautiful quick set to Kelley who capitalized with a kill, putting Florida within two of Stanford. The Cardinal continued to roll to a 23-20 lead, forcing the Gators to call their second timeout of the set.

Despite struggling from the service line, the Cardinal still managed to secure another 25-22 set victory with back to back kills from Elia Rubin.

By the end of the second set, Florida’s Stucky had already tallied 28 assists.

Blocking Comes in Clutch

Elli McKissock opened the third set with a three-point serving run which included an ace to give the Gators the momentum. Florida kept rolling taking a 9-4 lead off a solid block from Markova.

Stucky executed a commanding setter dump that stretched the Gator lead to five points. That wouldn’t be Stucky’s last kill of the night; her next kill gave Florida a 14-9 lead.

A floor miscommunication resulted in a dropped ball between two players: a rookie mistake. Wise wasted no time calling a timeout, despite leading 14-11. Shortly after the break, the Cardinal committed their 12th and 13th service errors of the night. A hitting error from Stanford’s Caitie Baird extended Florida’s lead to 17-13.

Beason delivered a kill to give the Gators a 20-15 lead and force Stanford to call a timeout. Sofia Victoria and Kelley executed a massive block coming out of the timeout to contribute to the Gators’ momentum control.

Set three concluded with back to back double blocks from Kelley and Beason, allowing the Gators to secure a dominant 25-16 victory.

Florida Keeps Fighting

The Gators jumped to a 7-3 lead to start the fourth set. An incredible diving save from Stucky set Markova up for a court-shattering kill to give Florida a 8-5 lead.

Despite being down, Stanford rallied and took a 13-12 lead after a Florida attack error and ace. Wise called another timeout to break up momentum, which resulted in a Stanford service error coming out of the break.

Miner once again caught the Florida defense unprepared for a setter dump, extending Stanford’s lead 17-14.  But then Essix took control of the match, bringing the Gators within one point with  two kills. Beason followed it up with a kill of her own to tie the set at 19 apiece.

Beason’s three-point serving streak allowed Florida to take a 23-22 lead. The Gators pulled out the fourth set on a monstrous kill from Markova to send the match to a tie-breaking fifth set.

Nail-Biter Tie-Breaker

Freshman Emily Canaan rattled the Stanford serve receive corps by delivering back to back to back aces to begin the fifth set. Stanford called a timeout in attempt to ice Canaan, which was unsuccessful as she delivered a FOURTH ace.

A Stanford service error from Rubin extended the Gator lead to 6-2.

With an 8-5 lead, the Gators swapped sides with the Cardinal. Stanford tallied three quick points after switch, forcing Wise to call a timeout. Stanford’s Baird delivered another kill to stretch Stanford’s lead 10-8.

Wise iced Miner from the service line with another timeout. Florida was unable to capitalize on the missed serve and was plagued by attacking errors. The Gators fell to Stanford 15-10 in the fifth set of the match.

Florida looks to bounce back on September 4 in a road math at nationally ranked Minnesota.

About Shailey Klein

Shailey Klein is a second-year journalism major specializing in sports and media at UF.

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