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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Four match points.

Four chances for victory.

Four failed attempts.

Arkansas defeated the UF volleyball team in a thrilling five-game match 3-2 (29-31, 30-32, 30-20, 30-12, 18-20), handing the Gators the first loss of their season Friday night.

No. 5 UF (16-1, 9-1 Southeastern Conference) is still one and a half matches behind LSU for the SEC lead as of Saturday afternoon.

Up 14-10 in game five, the Gators looked like they were finally going to put away the pesky Razorbacks.

That's when Arkansas called a timeout and rallied off five straight points to take the lead.

UF had two attack errors during that time and allowed two Arkansas kills and a block. The teams traded points after that, tying the game at 15, 16, 17 and 18 points before Arkansas got two straight kills to claim the match.

"We had chances to win, but we let them go by the wayside," UF coach Mary Wise said.

UF won the third and fourth games easily after dropping the first two, looking like a completely different team.

The Gators got out to a 15-4 lead in game four and went on to dominate Arkansas.

Game three was also lopsided. After a 10-10 tie, UF scored 20 of the next 30 points to win the frame.

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Senior outside hitter Amber McCray led the team with 20 kills, her highest total on the season, and senior outside hitter Marcie Hampton chipped in 18 of her own.

But attack errors and service errors doomed the Gators in games one and two.

The team finished the match with 24 attack errors and 11 mishit serves, six of them in games one and two.

UF hit .132 and .263 in games one and two respectively, and ended the night with only a .247 hitting percentage.

The inability to finish games when ahead was a recurring theme night.

The Gators had two game points in the second game when they got ahead 29-27, but Arkansas recovered with a kill and then a service ace to tie the game at 29. After the game was tied at 30, the Gators committed a hitting violation and then an attack error to give the game to the Razorbacks.

UF was also up 27-24 in that game but let Arkansas score three straight points to tie it at 27.

The Gators had a huge lead toward the end of game one, and the night looked to be going the way all of UF's other SEC matches had gone.

Ahead 20-13, the Gators allowed Arkansas to get back into the game. The Razorbacks scored eight of the next nine points to tie the game at 21.

The game was tied at every point starting with 24-24 until the Razorbacks eventually pulled away with two kills and a block to win the game.

Arkansas outside hitter Jessica Dorrell led the match with 23 kills and Arkansas had two other players with more than 10 kills.

Arkansas' unorthodox serving motion also seemed to cause problems for UF. Arkansas players faced the sidelines and then swung their bodies around to face the Gators before serving.

"Preparation time, that's the challenge," Wise said before the match. "We play Wednesday night, so Thursday players are in class all day. Then we have to practice before we went on the plane. Not the ideal situation.

"Sometimes I wish we had the football schedule-just play on Saturday and have all week."

A television broadcast contributed to this report.

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