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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

For two consecutive home matches, the UF volleyball team had come out sloppy and unready to play.

The Gators dropped their first games against Florida State on Sept. 5 and Georgia on Friday night.

But Sunday afternoon against Auburn, UF exploded out of the gate.

Superior play in almost every statistical category and a dominating game one performance led the Gators to sweep the Tigers 3-0 two days after defeating the Bulldogs 3-1.

In 17 seasons, UF coach Mary Wise has never lost to Georgia or Auburn, holding a combined 65-0 record against the two Southeastern Conference opponents.

BWe learned a lot from the Georgia game,C senior outside hitter Marcie Hampton said. BWe came out a little rough at the beginning, and we know that this league nowadays you cannot come out like that, even on your own home court.C

On their home court Sunday, the Gators controlled the match from the opening serve.

Already up 5-4, redshirt freshman Janine Williams served ten straight points while UF extended its lead to 14-5. The team never looked back after that.

BI think there was a conscious effort on behalf of the entire team, starters and non-starters, to work harder in game one,C Wise said. BI think we jumped on Auburn early.C

Game two was closer, tied as late as 16-16, but an Auburn attack error gave UF the lead for good.

The Gators? final game was nearly as strong as their first. They led the match the entire way, and senior middle blocker Kisya Killingsworth scored six kills.

She finished the match with 12, a team high.

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BWhat really helps us is when our team just buckles down and we pass well and we set well,C Killingsworth said.

UF?s hitting percentage dwarfed Auburn?s. The Gators hit .299 for the match while the Tigers hit only .038. UF also out-killed Auburn 54-26 and out-dug Auburn 51-39.

In the first match of the weekend, UF?s slow start enabled Georgia to claim game one.

However, after losing game one, the Gators were in control of the match. Georgia scored fewer points in each of the last three games - 24, 20 and finally 16.

The match was highlighted by senior setter Angie McGinnis? fourth career triple-double as she tallied 11 kills, 46 assists and 15 digs.

BThe passing was so on key,C McGinnis said. BIt allowed me to look at their block and see that (a kill opportunity) was open.C

Coming into the match, Georgia outside hitter Maria Taylor was second in the NCAA in kills per game with 5.39. But the Gators held Taylor to only 10 kills in the four games, cutting her average to 5.06.

BWe had been preparing for her all week,C McGinnis said. BBeing able to stop her was definitely what we needed to do to win.C

The victory was punctuated by a volley that lasted nearly a full minute in game four.

After back-and-forth hitting at the net and several diving digs from both sides, Taylor spiked the ball into the net to give UF the point and a 19-12 lead. Wise jumped off the floor and the fans jumped out of their seats in celebration. At that instant, the match was all but over.

Senior hitters Amber McCray and Hampton led the team with 15 kills each.

The two victories give the Gators another great start to the SEC season. For the 16th time in Wise?s career at UF, the team won its first two conference matches.

The victories also put the Gators in sole possession of first place in the SEC Eastern Division.

BTo compete in this league, you obviously have to hold serve at home,C Wise said. BYou?ve got to win the home matches, and then you?ve got to bring your 'A? game every night on the road because road wins are so hard in this league.

BThis isn?t your mother?s SEC. There just are not any easy wins on the road.C

Hampton will take those first two wins on a long road to a 17th straight SEC Championship.

BI think it was a good first step, a good learning process,C Hampton said. BFor us to come away 2-0 against some pretty good competition, we?re excited about it.C

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