Rhamat Alhassan launched herself straight up in front the net, as if she was on a pogo stick, and did what she does better than all but two players in the country.
The 6-foot-4 senior’s two-handed block gave No. 4 Florida (17-1, 9-1 SEC) a 3-0 lead over South Carolina (10-11, 3-6 SEC) early in the opening set.
It set the tone for another suffocating defensive effort by the Gators, who collected 10 total blocks and held South Carolina to its lowest hitting percentage of the season.
The Gators successfully contained South Carolina’s Mikayla Shields as part of that effort. Shields entered the match in the SEC’s top 10 in kills per set, but didn’t register one until the final set.
“The greatest respect you can give a player is in how hard you work on preparing to play her,” coach Mary Wise said. “It worked well for us tonight defensively.”
Florida’s 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-17) win was also its 11th sweep of the season.
South Carolina stayed within striking distance to start the game, but a late 13-6 run by Florida decided the first set. Alhassan, who ranks third in the NCAA in blocks per set, had four of her six blocks in the opening period.
The second set played out much like the first. South Carolina kept pace with Florida, pulling within two before a Carli Snyder dig ignited an 11-4 Gators run to close the set.
The third set was less competitive. Florida led by as much as 10 before ending the match on back-to-back kills from Shainah Joseph and Alhassan.
Joseph led the Gators in kills for the second straight match, in which the redshirt senior continued her hot streak with 13 kills and two blocks. In the past two matches, against Auburn and South Carolina, Joseph has a total of 26 kills, a stark difference from the two matches before Auburn, against Alabama and Kentucky, where she totaled just six.
Snyder left her fingerprints all over the game. The senior’s three service aces led all players, and she finished second on the team with 10 kills. She was equally productive on defense, where she had three blocks and nine digs.
Alhassan, the reigning SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week, added nine kills to go with her game-high six blocks. Fellow middle blocker Rachael Kramer was dominant at times but finished with just five kills and four blocks.
The Gators return to the court on Sunday at 1 p.m. against Mississippi State in Starkville. Florida is 6-0 away from home this season.
Wise said after the game that she’d prefer not to play back-to-back matches, with the second on the road.
“That’s not the ideal schedule. But you do it with senior experience, and that’s what we’ve got.”
You can follow Andrew Huang on Twitter @AndrewJHuang, and contact him at [email protected].