Photo courtesy of Floridagators.com

Volunteers Fend Off Gators In a 5-Set Heartbreaker

The No. 20 Florida Gators looked to bounce back at home Friday night in the O’Connel Center with a big win against No. 10 Tennessee Volunteers.

They were so close, yet so far.

Three different Gators recorded double digit kills and edged Tennessee hitting with a .264 clip, but it wasn’t enough to get past the Volunteers as they stuffed 12 blocks compared to Florida’s seven.

Florida moves to 14-6 on the season (6-5 in SEC) and Tennessee moves to 19-3 on the season (10-2 in SEC).

However, the legend of Kennedy Martin continues.

Kennedy’s Kills

Kennedy Martin single-handedly carried the Gators towards the back end of the match, as the 6-foot-6 freshman Outside Hitter recorded a career-high 28 kills against one of the top defenses in the SEC.

Martin finished her stellar night with two service aces and 10 digs on three blocks at the net as well.

Sofia Victoria and Nnedi Okkamor shined as well. Victoria recorded 14 kills and Okkamor tallied 12 along with her team-high 5 blocks.

Set 1

The Gators opened up in the O’Dome with immediate energy, striking first in a 25-22 win.

After the Tennessee went on a 6-2 run, Florida worked back to a 8-8 tie with a huge kill from Martin off a free ball and back-to-back service aces.  This put the Gators out front for good.

Set 2

In the second, the Gators seemed to run out of steam for a moment, losing momentum after a challenge early in the set.

Eight attacking errors eventfully let the Volunteers get away and stretch a 25-14 win to even the match.

Set 3

Set three was Florida’s turn to stretch out a lead. It was a power party as the swift hitting arms of Victoria and Martin came to life, combing for 12 kills in that set alone.

The Gators responded to a 3-0 run by the the Vol’s with a 6-0 run of their own. This sent the Florida faithful into a frenzy of Gator chomps across the arena, that was finished by an AC Fitzpatrick Ace to secure the set, 25-18.

Set 4

The fourth set was the tightest of the match, featuring 11 ties.

Nnedi shined from the beginning, stuffing two hits in a row and following with a kill to help Florida to a 6-4 lead, their largest of the set.

From there, Tennessee would take the lead and force Florida to play catch up, pressing the emergency button to get back in the game.

Martin recorded her 20th kill and Okkamor with her 10th kill, inching back to a 22-22 tie.

However, Tennessee’s Keondreya Granberry came up with a kill and block to save the match and force a winner take all final set.

Set 5

All night these two SEC foes punched each other in the mouth, with the other responding harder and quicker.

The Vol’s carried their fourth set energy to a 10-6 lead, but Florida crept up behind them every point. Sofia Victoria wasn’t going down out without a fight, slamming consecutive kills to draw the Gators within 2 points, 10-8.

This is where Kennedy Martin solidified herself as true leader and competitor, as she would account for four of the Gators’ next five points.

However, Martin ended a career day with the irony of a quick serving error, handing the win right back into the Volunteer’s hands, 15-13.

Next Up

The Gators will be back for another SEC matchup with No. 13 Kentucky on Sunday in the O’Dome  at 3 p.m.

 

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