Tears, hugs and smiles filled the O’Connell Center during the pregame ceremony as the Gators honored their seniors. Caroline Knop, Lindsey Rogers, Shainah Joseph, Carli Snyder and Rhamat Alhassan were all joined by family members before defeating the Missouri Tigers in four sets, 25-16, 23-25, 26-24, 25-16 .
Joseph, the redshirt senior from Ontario, Canada, cried as she walked up to coach Mary Wise during the ceremony. Joseph wiped her eyes as she prepared for the photo-op that followed.
“It’s crazy to think that five years have gone by and this is my senior night,” she said. “Being a freshman coming here, I didn’t get it. I didn’t get why it was so emotional but now I understand it.”
Joseph led all players with six kills in the first set and finished with a career-high 20 kills to go along with three blocks and two errors.
After coasting through the first set and riding the high of Senior Day, the Gators were tested in the second and third sets when both frames went to the brink.
Missouri forced Florida into 11 offensive errors (nine attack, two service) in the second.
In the third, Florida came back after trailing by three on Missouri’s set point. Thanks to the heroics of Alhassan and her two blocks in the final moments of the set, the Gators stormed back and took the third by scoring five straight points.
In the fourth, UF secured the victory by riding the wave of stellar play from Joseph. Sophomore Morgyn Greer had two straight kills to send the contest to match point and paved the way for Allie Gregory to finish it off with her first ace of the game. During the fourth set, Joseph had six kills and hit .667, while Knop had six digs and played stellar defense throughout the frame, despite wearing a splint throughout the match.
“It had the feeling of (an NCAA tournament) second-round match,” coach Mary Wise said. “Points were so hard to come by. They were physical. You see what their middles did and Melanie Crow was such a difference maker for them.”
In the middle for the Gators, Alhassan and sophomore Rachael Kramer combined for 20 kills and 10 blocks, as Alhassan led all players with six blocks.
Snyder added another double-double performance (13 kills, 16 digs), her ninth of the season.
For Missouri, Crow led the Tigers with 10 kills and was disruptive on the defensive side of the net, blocking four shots. In addition to Crow’s performance, four Tigers had double digit digs, and the team as a whole held the Gators’ electrifying offense to a .213 hitting percentage on the day.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Missouri,” Kramer said. “They are a tough team… It was kind of a struggle tonight.”
You can follow Justin Ahlum on Twitter @justinn_case1, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.