Shainah Joseph launched herself upward from the right side of the court. The redshirt senior hung in mid-air, wound up and spiked the ball straight into the middle of Tennessee’s defense. No one on the home team could return it.
The No. 4 Gators (20-1, 12-1 SEC) overcame a performance riddled with self-inflicted errors to sweep Tennessee (11-11, 4-9 SEC) in Knoxville on Sunday (25-23, 25-19, 25-20) as one UF player worked her way into the Gators’ record books.
Rhamat Alhassan, the SEC’s leader in blocks per set, was relatively quiet for the Gators, although she finished with a total of six blocks — enough to set the Florida record for career blocks.
In the second set, Alhassan broke the record set by Benavia Jenkins in 2003 with her 602nd career block.
“Rhamat is doing exactly what we all knew would happen when she came to Florida, and that’s that she would leave her mark in the record book,” Florida coach Mary Wise said in a release.
In the match, the Volunteers went stride for stride with UF in the opening set, where neither team led by more than three points at any time.
Tennessee took advantage of five first-set service errors by Florida to keep the score close, and at one point, the Gators gifted Tennessee three straight points off attack errors.
Wise wasn’t surprised at Tennessee’s effort, saying the Volunteers were well prepared.
“We got a little impatient offensively, but credit Tennessee for their ability to stay in rallies,” she said.
Sophomore Rachael Kramer’s six first-set kills kept the Gators afloat, however, helping them pull away for a 1-0 lead.
The second set was much smoother for the Gators, who jumped out to a quick 10-3 lead. They never trailed, thanks in large part to strong performances from Kramer and Joseph.
Tennessee kept the final set interesting, coming back from a 12-5 deficit to tie things up at 15, but it wasn’t enough against the SEC’s most efficient defensive team.
A 10-5 run by the Gators secured their fourth consecutive sweep as well as their second win against Tennessee this season.
Florida put forth another dominant defensive effort, holding a conference opponent to a sub-.100 hitting percentage for the seventh time this year, including both of its meetings against Tennessee. The Gators also more than tripled Tennessee’s block count.
Joseph and senior Carli Snyder did a little bit of everything for Florida. Snyder shook off an uncharacteristic string of four unforced errors in the opening set and finished the match with a team-high 12 kills, four total blocks and 13 digs.
Joseph had 10 kills, three total blocks and six digs of her own.
Having won three consecutive road matches, the Gators will now return to the O’Connell Center for their next two contests, beginning with a rematch with Arkansas (17-8, 7-6 SEC) on Friday.
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