The No. 4 Florida Gators volleyball team fell in a five-set thriller to No. 5 Georgia Tech in the second round of the NCAA tournament Friday in the O’Connell Center.
The Gators (19-10) were eliminated from the tournament to end their season. It was a tight game that saw moments of back-and-forth plays and big runs, but in the end the Gators couldn’t pull through.
The Gators Didn’t Go Down Without a Fight
Momentum shifts were the real difference in this game. In the third and fourth sets specifically, each team was able to make an early run that set the tone for the rest of the set.
Small mistakes like an error seemed to really affect the game and every point made a difference. The third set saw Georgia Teach (24-6) take a 25-21 win and a 2-1 lead in the game. The fourth set saw the opposite with a 25-18 win for Florida to knot the game back up.
Here is what Florida coach Mary Wise had to say about the mindset in the streaky middle sets.
The fifth was a roller coaster, especially for Florida fans. The Gators were able to get out to an early six-point lead in the set before letting up a late run and falling 16-14 in the final set.
Florida was the favorite coming into the game and were given home-court advantage, but their injuries this season have greatly hindered its success. The Yellowjackets came into the game with a better record than the Gators and many of Florida’s strong wins came earlier in the season with a healthy team.
Overall, the game was a tossup that could have gone either way. Georgia Teach will advance to the Sweet Sixteen to face the winner of No. 8 Missouri vs. No. 1 Nebraska.
The attack was on full display on Friday night. Both teams had four players in double digit kills. Georgia Tech’s senior outside hitter Tamara Otene scored 21 kills with a .264 hitting percent while junior Bianca Bertolino notched 18 on a .341 clip.
On Florida’s side, outside hitters AC Fitzpatrick and Kennedy Martin led the way with 16 and 21 kills respectively. Fitzpatrick was also able to provide a lot of pressure with her serving prowess. Fitzpatrick recorded two aces and had multiple other important serving sequences.
Future is Bright
The Gators had to fight through adversity all season. The injury bug took out three Florida starters early in the season, forcing it to adapt. It was a long process to hit its stride, but the Gators eventually found their groove through the leadership of their veterans. Despite their efforts, Florida ended its season with its first sub-20 win season in 32 years.
There is much to look forward to for Gator volleyball fans. This Florida roster is young and most of the team will be returning next season. One to keep an eye on is freshman hitter Kennedy Martin. Martin earned honors for All-SEC and All-Freshman teams while leading the SEC in kills.
Martin looks like she will be one of the top players in the nation soon and all-star setter Alexis Stucky should be back from injury. Florida also currently boasts the top-ranked recruiting class.
It will be a long wait until the start of next season, but it should prove to be a promising one for Florida.