The rivalry between Alabama and Florida often offers nail-biting moments.
Both athletic programs have established themselves as true powerhouses, compiling thousands of wins across all sports. In volleyball, though, the story is different. The Gators have never lost a match against the Crimson Tide in 38 years.
That dominant run continued on Wednesday as number 12 Florida (9-2, 1-0) started Southeastern Conference play with a dominant 3-0 win (25-19, 25-19, 25-17) over Alabama (6-7, 0-1) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Win the sweep, the Gators extended their winning streak to six and improved their all-time lead over the Crimson Tide to 51-0. Here’s how it happened.
Straight Dominance in the First Set
In the first frame, the Gators jumped off to an 11-4 start thanks to early kills from outside hitters Merritt Beason and Sofia Victoria. The Crimson Tide couldn’t keep up with Florida’s powerful attacks, missing block attempts and committing errors on offense and defense.
Later in the set, Alabama cut Florida’s lead to three with a 10-6 run. During that stretch, the Gators lost some lengthy exchanges that fueled the Crimson Tide’s comeback hopes.
However, with the score at 20-17, Florida distanced itself with kills from middle blocker Gabrielle Essix and outside hitter Marina Markova. Freshman setter Alexis Stucky sealed the deal with a service ace that Alabama outside hitter Abby Marjama couldn’t save.
Same Game, Same Score in Set Two
Both teams got off to an explosive 6-5 start in the second set. However, the Gators built a 15-7 lead heading into a media timeout. After the break, Florida continued its dominant pace until an Alabama late rally threatened to spoil the Gators’ match point.
The Crimson Tide scored five unanswered points with the score at 24-14, which led to a Florida timeout. The Gators finally took the frame thanks to a service error from Alabama libero Sydney Gholson.
Gators Deliver the Final Blow
Florida took the final set in a similar fashion.
Following an 8-6 start, the Gators started a 5-0 run that led to an Alabama timeout. The Crimson Tide showed signs of life by cutting the Florida lead to 17-14, but it wasn’t enough. The Gators finished strong on an 8-3 run to complete the sweep.
Collectively, the Gators totaled six blocks and 11 service aces that contributed to efficient attacks. In addition, six Florida players tallied at least three kills during the match. Beason led the charge with nine, and Victoria was second with eight.
Stucky finished the night with 25 assists, five digs and plenty of praise from head coach Mary Wise.
“She’s (Stucky) every bit of a freshman, and yet she is so far advanced,” Wise said. “She’s a student of the game.”
Florida now turns its focus to a weekend doubleheader at South Carolina. Game one is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m. and will stream on the SEC Network +.