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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Trailing No. 22 LSU 24-21, in danger of going to a decisive fifth game, the Gators turned to who they know best - outside hitter Marcie Hampton.

The senior responded, tallying five of her 20 kills as UF scored nine straight points to win the match 3-1 (30-25, 30-24, 27-30, 30-24).

The Tigers (11-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) looked poised to push the match to the limit after making an 8-0 run to open a 15-7 lead in game four. A pair of 4-0 runs helped close the gap before the No. 6 Gators (11-0, 4-0 SEC) went on their deciding streak to finish off a weekend road sweep.

In a match filled with highly contested calls, UF coach Mary Wise didn't mind two disputable LSU double hits during the match-ending run.

"You're not supposed to get breaks on the road," Wise said. "I think we did get two big-time breaks late in game four. I'm not sure that either of those calls should've gone our way and they did."

Sunday's match featured both SEC division leaders, and the Gators looked to both old and new to carry them.

Senior middle blocker Kisya Killingsworth had a big day, totaling 14 kills and four blocks with a team-high .385 hitting efficiency.

Killingsworth scored her 1,000th career kill, and it couldn't have come at a better time. LSU had taken a 20-19 lead late in game one, when Killingsworth reached the millennium mark, evening the score. UF would not trail again en route to taking the first game.

Wise made a key lineup change late in game one, substituting freshman Callie Rivers, daughter of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, for a struggling Janine Williams. Williams had no kills and one error on four attacks and would not re-enter the match.

Rivers made an immediate impact, scoring a kill and a block by the end of the game and would stay in the rotation for the rest of the match, starting the remaining three games.

She tallied nine kills along the way, one off her career high. Before Sunday, Rivers had seen action in only 15 of 34 games, most of which was for short periods.

"Callie's a competitor," Wise said. "You could just look in her eyes, before this match - she wanted to play. She's taken the best use of this opportunity."

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Wise's decision may have been foreshadowed in Friday's match against Mississippi (12-3, 2-2 SEC) when Rivers saw action in all three games and recorded four kills in the victory.

UF defeated Mississippi 3-0 (30-11, 30-20, 30-23), sweeping the Rebels for the 17th-straight time. Hampton led the team with 13 kills, but it was Killingsworth who stormed out of the gate, tallying five of her eight kills in game one.

Mississippi plays in a smaller auxiliary gymnasium, where the crowd is very close to the court.

"It was almost as if the student section kind of kicked Kisya into another gear," Wise said. "The look on her face - she came to play."

Radio and television broadcasts contributed to this report.

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