More than 2,200 fans piled into the O'Connell Center on Thursday, eager for a full night of Florida volleyball. Just 65 minutes later, they were headed home.
The No. 2 seed Gators made quick work of Alabama State in their first match of the NCAA Tournament, sweeping the Hornets, 3-0 (25-9, 25-13, 25-9).
A year later, they haven’t forgotten the game that got away.
"We took care of business," UF coach Mary Wise said.
In its most efficient offensive performance of the season, featuring a season-high 11 service aces, Florida (26-1) advanced to a second-round matchup against Miami (22-5) tonight at 7.
After giving up the first point of the postseason to Alabama State, the Gators wasted no time taking control of the opening set. The Hornets had no answer for Florida’s balanced offensive attack, in which eight Gators scored.
Senior Carli Snyder served two of her three aces in the opening frame, and UF had just one attack error, compared to seven from Alabama State. Florida’s 16-point differential was its second-largest margin of victory in a set this season.
The Gators continued their strong play into the second set. The Hornets took a 1-0 lead to start, but it was the last time Florida trailed in a set throughout the match.
Snyder and senior Rhamat Alhassan took over early and led UF on a 9-1 run to finish the set, putting the Gators up 2-0.
UF completed its sweep of the Hornets after scoring the final six points of the match. In one of the team’s most lopsided victories of the season, Wise gave reserves Lindsey Rogers, Mia Sokolowski and Taelor Kellum significant playing time.
Alhassan said it was nice to see Kellum, a fellow middle-blocker, perform well on the court.
Sokolowski, a redshirt freshman, and Rogers, a senior, accounted for all three set-winning points. Sophomore Morgyn Greer also spent a lot of time on the court, finishing with six kills. Greer has seen her playing time increase over the season and is coming off a season-high nine-kill match in UF's regular-season finale at Missouri.
The Gators don't have much time to rest, as they host Miami tonight at 7. The team is trying to stay focused on the Hurricanes, despite knowing it’s one step closer to an NCAA title.
“We want to go to the Final Four. We want to win a national championship,” Alhassan said. “But, in order to do that, we have to take the small steps.”
Wise has fewer than 24 hours to prepare Florida for a Miami team coming off a win Thursday over the College of Charleston.
“We expect tomorrow to be another one of those really, really hard battles in a second round against this physical Miami team," Wise said.
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