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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Both the UF and Alabama volleyball teams went into Sunday afternoon's match undefeated in Southeastern Conference play.

Only the Gators left it that way.

The UF volleyball team remains undefeated as it took care of Alabama 3-1 (30-26, 30-28, 30-32, 30-24) Sunday afternoon in Tuscaloosa. On Friday night in Starkville, Miss., UF swept Mississippi State 3-0 (30-26, 30-23, 30-14).

The victories completed back-to-back road trip weekends for the No. 6 Gators (13-0, 6-0 SEC).

The end to the Alabama match was rather anticlimactic as an Alabama player went into the net to give the point to UF, belying the earlier tension and excitement as the Gators struggled to hold leads in three of the four games.

"I felt like Alabama threw everything at us," UF coach Mary Wise said.

Up 27-23 in game three, UF gave up the lead. Alabama scored nine of the next twelve points to take the game and send the match to a fourth game.

The Gators looked to close out game two early. They had game point at 29-19, but then they collapsed.

Alabama scored nine straight points to bring the UF lead to only one point. As the Crimson Tide fans stood up to rally their team, freshman outside hitter Callie Rivers got a kill off the net to finally close out the game for the Gators and silence the crowd.

Rivers had a career-high 13 kills in the match and freshman defensive specialist Erin Fleming had a career-high 4 service aces. Sophomore libero Elyse Cusack set a new season-high with 29 digs.

Wise had to make multiple substitutions before she found a lineup that worked to end game two.

"We tried Janine (Williams), we tried Lauren (Bledsoe), we tried Callie, and then went back to Callie," Wise said. "I really like the progression (Rivers is) making. … I love how hard she's competing and the key is that she gets better each night."

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Rivers also set career-highs in total attacks (38) and points (16.5).

After the match ended, seniors Marcie Hampton and Kisya Killingsworth looked at each other and sighed, visibly glad the match was over.

"It was good stuff," Wise said, "and I can't tell you how pleased I am with the way this schedule worked out this early in the season to have to go four on the road and to be 4-0."

A radio broadcast contributed to this report.

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