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Monday, June 24, 2024

No. 6 UF will enter Southeastern Conference play undefeated for only the second time in Coach Mary Wise's 17 seasons.

The Gators (7-0) got one last road test Sunday as they defeated Utah 3-1 (30-28, 28-30, 30-18, 30-26).

Opposite hitter Amber McCray led the team with 18 kills, while middle blocker Kelsey Bowers anchored the defense with 10 blocks.

Utah opened with a quick 7-2 lead behind three kills by Whitney Webb, the Utes' kills leader coming into the match.

UF got their first lead of the night at 19-18 after back-to-back blocks, causing Utah to call a timeout.

The Gators opened the lead up to four points at 27-23 after kills by McCray and outside hitter Marcie Hampton (15 kills, 19 digs) and a double block by Hampton and Bowers.

Three straight Utah kills cut UF's lead to 28-27, leading to a Gators' timeout.

Hampton came out of the break with a kill, forcing a game point.

After a kill by Utah's Kathryn Haynie, Bowers would spike the ball to win game one.

"Game one, we did not serve aggressively as I would?ve hoped, and we weren't in a great passing rhythm," Wise said. "We were very fortunate to win game one."

Utah came out strong again in game two, opening a 3-0 advantage.

The Gators gained the lead at 6-5 after two straight blocks by Angie McGinnis and Bowers.

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Utah took a 13-9 lead after two kills sandwiched around a Lauren Bledsoe attack error.

UF then rattled off five straight points behind three kills by McCray and freshman Erin Fleming's first kill.

The Utes took the lead again at 17-15 after a Christina Diaz service error and a Utah ace forcing a UF timeout.

The Gators then rattled off four straight points including two kills by McGinnis.

Utah would tie the game at 19 after two Gators errors.

With the score tied at 28, a kill by Haynie coupled with a Hampton service error gave the game to the Utes.

Wise was surprised the Utes didn't win game two by more considering the Gators? 13 unforced errors.

"We got impatient," Wise said.

Two attack errors by the Utes in addition to a double block by Kisya Killingsworth (13 kills, 6 blocks) and McCray led to a 5-0 advantage early in game three.

A Utah timeout did not stop the momentum as the Gators rolled to a 30-18 victory.

Game four started close, as the teams went back and forth to a 12-12 tie.

The Gators would open the largest lead of the game so far at 16-13 after a kill by Williams and a solo block by Bowers.

A Hampton kill and Utah attack error opened the UF lead to 22-17, resulting in a Utah timeout.

The Utes later scored five-straight points assisted by three blocks to tie the game at 24.

With the score tied at 26, the Gators made a run behind a kill by Killingsworth and two attack errors by Utah's Haynie.

A McGinnis ace sealed the win for the Gators.

Wise was impressed by Utah's ability to return attack after attack.

"There were a lot of balls that in our first six matches would?ve gone down for kills," Wise said.

A radio broadcast contributed to this report.

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