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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Saturday's match against No. 19 Santa Clara was supposed to be the toughest test so far for the UF volleyball team.

Someone forgot to remind the Broncos.

No. 7 UF (5-0) controlled the match from the beginning and never let up, defeating Santa Clara 3-0 (30-18, 30-16, 30-24).

The Broncos (5-1) became the Gators' focus after UF swept Georgia Southern (30-16, 30-25, 30-19) and N.C. State (30-15, 30-14, 30-21) in Friday's portion of the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational.

Friday's matches became an opportunity for UF coach Mary Wise to get many players into the lineup.

Sophomore Alli Cecchini served as setter in game three of both matches, her first full games as setter.

But by Saturday it was back to all business.

Wise reminded her players before the game of three keys to beating good teams: passing, serving and blocking.

The Gators excelled in all three and dominated their first ranked opponent of the season.

Good passing led to good hitting and the Gators had a .353 hitting efficiency for the match. Senior outside hitter Marcie Hampton led the way for the Gators, recording her fifth-straight double-double Saturday with 12 kills and 11 digs.

Senior setter Angie McGinnis, 37 assists and 10 digs, hooked up early and often with Hampton, who led the way with six kills in game one.

The Gators jumped out to an 8-2 lead early and never looked back.

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"We knew Santa Clara was a great serving team, so we worked really hard on passing," Hampton said. "That made it so much easier for me to get kills."

Game two was much of the same for the Gators as they again opened an early 5-2 lead.

Santa Clara responded and pulled ahead at 8-7 for their first lead of the match.

Now it was UF's turn to come back and it went on a 21-6 run, helped by four service aces. The Gators had nine aces in the match compared to four for the Broncos.

"The fact that we were able to serve well enough to not only have more aces than Santa Clara, but twice as many œ I wouldn?t have guessed that," Wise said.

Santa Clara stepped up their play to keep it close, but the Gators had too many weapons.

The Broncos held Hampton to only two kills in game three, but outside hitter Janine Williams and middle blocker Kelsey Bowers stepped up with four each.

Each time Santa Clara would make a run, the Gators would clamp down their defense.

UF had its best blocking showing of the season, with 10 total team blocks compared to just two for the Broncos.

The Gators held Santa Clara to a .072 hitting efficiency.

The Broncos? leading hitter coming into the match, Lindsy Evans, was held to only seven kills with a -.083 hitting efficiency.

Sophomore libero Elyse Cusack led the team with 18 digs, but the Gators had four players with ten or more including McGinnis, Hampton and Williams.

Cusack attributed some of the defensive prowess to scouting.

"The way this tournament is set up…we saw them play twice," Cusack said. "We knew their go-to hitters (and) we knew where they were going to hit."

Wise realizes each non-conference victory is key when it comes time for NCAA Tournament seeding."It's an important win because… we only have a few number of opportunities to play teams outside (our) conference that are going to be competing for their conference championships," Wise said. "The way we played today, we could've beaten a number of teams in the country."

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