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Friday, February 03, 2023

Marcie Hampton stood the entire time.

Despite rupturing her Achilles tendon Saturday night against Long Beach State, the senior outside hitter preferred to lean on her crutches rather than sit down during UF?s opening-round match of the NCAA Tournament.

The Gators, playing without Hampton for the first time all season, gave her something to cheer about as they defeated College of Charleston 3-0 (30-22, 30-28, 30-14).

The No. 10 Gators (28-2) move on to the second round of the Tournament, where they will play No. 23 Oklahoma tonight at 7:00. Oklahoma defeated Florida A&M in the early match Thursday 3-1 (30-25, 32-30, 29-31, 30-14).

UF?s match stayed close at first, but the Gators finished strong.

Charleston?s season came to an end on an attack error in Game 3.Every UF player chipped in for Hampton, and the Gators were even wearing Hampton?s No. 12 on the tip of their shoes. Three Gators finished in double-digits for kills.

Seniors Amber McCray and Kisya Killingsworth had 16 and 13 kills, respectively. Freshman outside hitter Callie Rivers turned in a double-double with 18 kills and 11 digs.

BI think that everyone on our team stepped up, because not only one person can fill [Hampton?s] shoes,C Rivers said. BObviously she was a really big part of our team. I think everyone did something extra to make up for her not being there.CFreshman middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe and junior Christina Diaz, rarely used players when Hampton is healthy, saw plenty of time on the court.

Bledsoe had five kills and Diaz added five digs. Even though Hampton was not directly involved in the action, she played a large role in the Gators? victory.

She helped out Bledsoe with strategy and pointed out weaknesses in Charleston?s defense, UF coach Mary Wise said.

BMarcie Hampton is 24 hours removed from a major surgery, and she?s on the bench,C Wise said. BThat tells you a little bit about Marcie and how much she?s given to this program and how invested she is in our success.C

Game 3 began well for the Gators when they jumped out to a 7-3 edge following a Kelsey Bowers solo block.

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Charleston called a timeout to stop the bleeding, but freshman defensive specialist Erin Fleming continued to serve as UF scored nine straight points to take the lead to 12-4. It was 19-6 before Charleston decided to use its second timeout, but by then it was already too late. Charleston played relatively error free in the first two games, and Wise noticed.

BUsually in a 30-point game, you can expect a team is going to give you anywhere between 7 and 10 points in unforced errors,C Wise said. BThey played very disciplined.C

Charleston was ahead 26-23 late in Game 2, but the Gators rallied behind Fleming?s service run to take a 27-26 lead. They eventually won the game on three straight points, including two kills by junior middle blocker Kelsey Bowers.

BOur ability off of Erin Fleming?s service run, to steal, what I thought was a stolen Game 2, that was really the difference in the match,C Wise said.

The Gators were only up 3 points in Game 1 as late as 20-17, but they closed out the game with a double block from Angie McGinnis and Kelsey Bowers.McCray had eight kills in the first game.UF out-hit Charleston .350 to .143 and also outblocked the Cougars 10 to four. It will take an even better effort from UF to beat Oklahoma tomorrow night.

BTo beat Oklahoma, it will certainly take every one of our 'A? games,C Wise said.

Oklahoma senior outside hitter Mariana Blum had 21 kills for the Sooners on Thursday night, and she is ready to face UF.

BThey?re a really good team, and I guess every team really wants to play against good teams so you can play your best,C Blum said.

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