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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

When Mary Wise took the helm of the UF volleyball team in 1991, she inherited an average program with no Southeastern Conference championships and an overall record of 155-100 in seven seasons.

Sixteen years later, the Gators are anything but mediocre.

UF recorded its 700th all-time victory in a dominating 3-0 win against Kentucky (30-28, 30-19, 30-22) on Sunday afternoon. On Friday, UF also clinched its 17th consecutive SEC title with a 3-0 sweep against Tennessee (30-20, 30-18, 30-27).

"I work for a guy (UF athletics director Jeremy Foley) who reminds us that these things never get old, and they don't," Wise said.

The No. 8 Gators (24-1, 17-1 SEC) outplayed Kentucky all over the court, hitting .340 compared to the Wildcats' .147.

It was Senior Day for Kentucky, but UF, led by its own senior class, proved superior.

Outside hitter Marcie Hampton ended the match in game three with her 17th kill of the day. She also added a match-high 19 digs to earn the 41st double-double of her career.

Add that to her 18 kills and 16 digs against Tennessee on Friday night and you have the player of the weekend.

"I told her after the match she hit a shot only (former UF player) Aury Cruz could have hit," Wise said. "It wasn't that she just hit it sharp angle, but she hit it sharp angle with big-time pace on it. Marcie was great."

In both weekend matches, she had already earned a double-double before game three.

UF jumped on the Wildcats early in the third game, getting out to a 9-3 lead before Kentucky had to call a timeout. It did little to help, as the Gators quickly expanded the lead to 13-4.

The sweep extended UF's winning streak to eight matches, and the team has not lost even an individual game since Oct. 19 against Auburn, a streak of 23.

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Three UF players reached double digits in kills, with Callie Rivers and Amber McCray each tallying nine. That's especially impressive considering they faced Kentucky's vaunted middle blocker Queen Nzenwa.

"That's really good against Queen," Wise said. "She's the sixth-best blocker in the country, and she only had one block on the match."

UF and Kentucky were tied late in game one at 24-24, but Rivers and Hampton got back-to-back kills to put the Gators up by two. Hampton finished the game with a kill.

Wise also praised the play of senior setter Angie McGinnis, who had 50 assists Sunday and 105 total on the weekend.

"Angie McGinnis was first-team All-American," Wise said. "We've always said great players make everybody else around them look better."

On Friday, UF was ahead from the start. The Volunteers gave little resistance until game three.

UF finished off Tennessee when the Volunteers had an attack go out of bounds.

The Gators jumped off the bench and ran to the center of the court, where they celebrated winning the SEC Championship.

Radio broadcasts contributed to this report.

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