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UF Volleyball: Gators Take Down No. 3 Kentucky in Five-Setter

Photo by Chris Kim

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY KATIE CALLAHAN

Florida is now 2-1 against Kentucky when both teams are ranked in the Top 10

The seventh-ranked Florida volleyball team overcame a 2-1 deficit to defeat the No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats on Friday afternoon.

Florida extends its win streak to 12 matches – including three straight wins over ranked opponents – and moves to 17-2 on the year, while Kentucky drops to 16-1 in the SEC-only format.

The first set went Kentucky’s way, with the Wildcats winning 25-18. The Gators answered, evening the match at 1-1 after a 27-25 victory in the second set. Set three went the way of Kentucky, with UK winning 25-17, but the Gators answered with a 25-16 victory in the fourth to force a deciding fifth set in Gainesville. The fifth set was tightly-contested, but Florida got the 17-15 decision to secure the match victory.

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T’ara Ceasar exploded for 20 kills to lead Florida’s offensive attack, while Lauren Forte added a season-best 12 kills with a .579 clip.

Thayer Hall pitched in 10 kills of her own, while Holly Carlton and Lauren Dooley notched nine and seven, respectively.

Marlie Monserez dished out 50 assists in the five-setter, while McKissock added six helpers of her own.

The Gators recorded seven blocks in the match, led by four apiece from Dooley and Carlton.

Elli McKissock was one dig off her career-high, finishing the afternoon with 23 digs.

As a squad, Florida recorded nine service aces, led by three apiece from Carlton and Ceasar. Hall, Monserez, and Paige Hammons each tallied one ace on the afternoon.

The Gators return to action on Saturday at 4 p.m. to close out the series with the third-ranked Wildcats. The match will serve as Senior Day for Florida’s four seniors: Holly Carlton, Paige Hammons, Darrielle King, and Mia Sokolowski.

Records
No. 7 Florida (17-2, 17-2 SEC)
No. 3 Kentucky (16-1, 16-1 SEC)

How It Happened

  *   The two squads started the set battling, trading points until Florida was able to take the two-score lead at 14-12. The Wildcats posted a 5-0 run to take the 17-14 advantage, forcing Florida to use its first timeout of the frame. The Gators pulled to within three at 21-18, but Kentucky strung together a 4-0 run to take the first.
     *   Carlton and Ceasar led the way with three kills apiece in the first, while Hall added two of her own.
  *   The second set began almost identically to the first, with Florida taking a 12-10 lead after the two teams battled back-and-forth through the first portion of the frame. Then the Wildcats went on an 8-1 spurt – taking the 18-13 lead. Florida continued to battle, pulling within one at 20-19 to force Kentucky to use its first timeout of the frame. Behind the serves of Hall, the Gators were able to take their first lead since 12-10, pulling ahead 23-22 to force another UK timeout. The Wildcats evened the frame at 25-25, but back-to-back kills from Ceasar secured the victory for Florida.
     *   Ceasar once again led the way in the frame, recording five kills. Hall and Forte added three apiece, while McKissock tallied a team-high eight digs in the set.
  *   Once again, the set began with UF and UK trading points until the Wildcats were able to pull ahead 15-13 going into the media timeout. Out of the break, Kentucky extended its lead to five at the 21-16 mark, forcing Florida to use its final timeout. The Wildcats closed the set on a 4-1 run to go ahead 2-1 in the match.
     *   Ceasar led the offensive attack in the third, registering four kills. Forte and Dooley each notched two kills apiece.
  *   With the fourth set tied 7-7, the Gators opened up a 9-2 run to take the 16-9 lead, forcing a Kentucky timeout. Florida continued to roll, pulling ahead 10 at the 21-11 mark. Kentucky pulled to within seven at 23-16, but the Gators were able to close out the frame on a 2-0 run to force a deciding fifth set.
     *   Florida hit .481 in the fourth set, while holding Kentucky to a .154 clip. Hall and Forte each notched four kills in the frame, while Ceasar added three.
  *   The fifth set was once again a tightly-contested battle between the squads, but Florida was able to pull ahead 8-6. Kentucky cut Florida’s lead to one at 11-10, but the Gators went ahead 13-10 late to force UK’s first timeout. The Wildcats battled back, tying the frame 15-15, but a Ceasar kill and a stuff block from Carlton and Dooley secured the match for the Gators.
     *   Ceasar finished the frame with a team-high five kills, while Forte, Carlton, and Dooley each added two apiece.

Notables

  *   Lauren Forte registered a season-high 12 kills in the match
  *   Paige Hammons recorded her 118th service ace in the match, putting her just two away from tying for 14th in program history
  *   Florida extends its win streak to 12 matches
  *   UF has now won three straight against ranked opponents
  *   The Gators improve to 52-16 against the Wildcats in the all-time series
  *   When both teams are ranked in the AVCA Top-25, the Gators hold the 11-8 advantage
  *   When both teams are ranked in the AVCA Top-10, the Gators hold the 2-1 series advantage
  *   Florida is now 7-7 against Kentucky in five-set matches
  *   The Gators improve to 25-8 against the Wildcats in Gainesville, Fla.
  *   The Gators improve to 5-0 in the month of March
  *   UF is now 6-1 in matches played on Friday in the 2020-21 season

Thoughts from Coach Wise

  *   “There was some seriously exciting volleyball played today, with a match that could have gone either way. We like to think that both teams are better having played against one another.”

Up Next

  *   The Gators close out the series with the third-ranked Wildcats on Saturday
  *   First serve is slated for 4 p.m. on the SEC Network +
  *   Saturday’s match will serve as Senior Day for Florida’s four seniors

No. 7 Florida vs. No. 3 Kentucky- Broadcast Information – Saturday, March 20
Time: 4 p.m.
Live Stream: SEC Network +
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Radio: FloridaGators.com/watch & ESPN 98.1FM/850AM (after the conclusion of baseball)

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