Kentucky’s Kaz Brown went up for the ball on the right side of the net. With two Gators in front and Allie Monserez crashing to aid them, Brown sent the shot toward the left side of Florida’s defense and found open space, doubling UK’s lead in the third set.
After a short offensive run from UF, Kentucky (16-2, 7-0 SEC) dealt the Gators their first loss of the season, closing out the fourth set on an Avery Skinner kill and winning the match, 25-20, 25-22, 23-25, 25-16, at the O’Connell Center.
On a Sunday afternoon where the Gators’ offense struggled, the Wildcats took advantage and turned the tables on the No. 1 team in the nation. Kentucky’s stellar defense and strong presence at the front of the net gave Florida fits, as the Gators hit .200 during the match.
“I’ve got to give Kentucky a ton of credit,” sophomore Rachael Kramer said. “To come on the road, into our house, guns-a-blazin’ on every single swing, they were killing it across the net. Their setter was doing a great job being balanced and setting all their options.”
That setter, freshman Madison Lilley, had 52 assists, leading all players and nearly doubling Monserez’s total (27). Lilley also had four kills and 10 digs in her outing.
Wildcats outside hitter Leah Edmond led all players with 18 kills on 40 attempts. Brown was also a factor for UK, gathering 11 kills with a .474 hitting percentage and four blocks in the contest.
For the Gators, Kramer had a solid afternoon, converting 15 of her 26 total attempts, while committing only four errors to post a .423 hitting percentage.
Senior Rhamat Alhassan followed her 20-kill outing on Friday night against Ole Miss with another double-digit game, gathering 10 kills and six blocks up front. After the match, Alhassan said Kentucky fought hard and Florida needed to go “back to the drawing board.” Gators coach Mary Wise praised Kentucky’s efforts after the game, as well.
“You can see why we voted Kentucky number one in the league,” Wise said. “They have the most talent in the league. They’re very, very good. And now that they’re healthy, I said before they’re a Final Four team, I think they can win it all.”
With the first loss of the season under their belt, the Gators (14-1, 6-1 SEC) will enjoy an off day on Monday before hitting the court again to prepare for Alabama (14-7, 2-5 SEC) and a trip to Tuscaloosa on Friday. The Gators will stay in Alabama next weekend and travel to Auburn for another SEC matchup on Sunday.
After Sunday’s match, Wise didn’t seem worried but mentioned there are some things to work on.
“It’s so early in the season,” Wise said. “We don’t look at it as the end of the season. We’re not even at the halfway point. So, lots of time left to get better.”
You can follow Justin Ahlum on Twitter @justinn_case1, and contact him at [email protected].