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Saturday, January 28, 2023

When it was all over, Amber McCray used her jersey to wipe the tears from her eyes.

She?d had quite a day.

Her mother, Darlene, sang the national anthem before she watched her daughter rack up 11 kills on 19 swings during UF?s 3-0 win (30-23, 30-19, 30-26) over Mississippi State.

The volleyball program recognized McCray?s career achievements after the match in front of a crowd of close to 2,500 people.

Sunday afternoon was Senior Day, and UF presented its seniors with framed jerseys, a list of their accolades and video highlights of their careers after the victory.

Setter Angie McGinnis, middle blocker Kisya Killingsworth and hitters Marcie Hampton and McCray played their last regular-season home match.

BThat senior class will leave here as one of the most decorated senior classes in the history of Florida volleyball,C UF coach Mary Wise said.

It was an emotional afternoon, with more than McCray crying during the ceremony.

BIt was a pretty good decision to do [the celebration] after the match,C Wise said. BI don?t know how long it would have taken us to recover had we done the celebration prior.C

Kari Klinkenborg, a former volleyball player who did not player her senior season because of an ankle injury, was also honored before the match.

BShe was a huge part of our program,C Wise said. BThe lesson we learned in Kari?s case is that you can?t control the injuries, so enjoy every moment. I think these four seniors have done that.C

The victory wrapped up the Southeastern Conference schedule for the No. 7 Gators (26-1, 19-1 SEC). After the match, the players gathered at the center of the court to celebrate winning the conference, all clad in blue, long-sleeved BSEC ChampionsC T-shirts.

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BTo go through the double round-robin with as many good teams as there are in this league, and to do it with only one loss, I think speaks volumes to the talent level of these players,C Wise said.

The younger players stole a little bit of the spotlight from the senior class during the match.

UF won the match in the third game when junior middle blocker Kelsey Bowers spiked her seventh kill of the afternoon. She had five kills with only five swings through the first game of the match.

Freshman outside hitter Callie Rivers had a match-high 12 kills and also added four service aces, tying her career high. UF had 10 aces in the match, six coming from freshmen.

BTheir turn is coming,C Wise said. BFor us to be playing our best volleyball in November and December, we need that type of performance out of everybody.C

In Friday?s match, UF defeated Alabama 3-0 (30-21, 30-25, 30-28). The match was much closer than the sweep shows, and Alabama seemed to get better as the evening went on.

McCray also played an important role in that match, coming off the bench late in games two and three to get the game-winning kills.

BI knew that when I did come back in, though, I needed to just stay warm and everything so that if I did get set, I could get a kill,C McCray said.

UF has two more regular-season matches before the NCAA Tournament begins.

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