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Friday, February 03, 2023

Texas eliminates Gators from national tourney, ends seniors' careers

Game two brought hope.

Games three and four yanked it away, and then slammed the door on UF?s season.

After coming back from a 28-25 deficit to win game two, the Gators volleyball team lost to No. 4 overall seed Texas 3-1 (27-30, 31-29, 16-30, 15-30) in the Regional Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.

It took all UF had to simply fight back in game two, and they were spent after that.

BI felt as if we were in a sprint, and that our players gave everything that they had,C UF coach Mary Wise said. BWe needed it to be two out of three. … They can wear you down. It wasn?t lack of effort.C

No. 13 seed UF (29-3) looked completely unable to stop Texas? five-pronged attack - five Longhorns finished with more than 10 kills - and they collapsed in front of 4,619 fans.

Senior opposite hitter Amber McCray led the Gators with 15 kills and senior middle blocker Kisya Killingsworth had 12, but it was not enough as the Gators had an attack error end the match.

After the second game, things looked promising for UF and the match looked like it was going to be close the whole way through, but UF could not sustain that high level of play.

BWe knew it was going to take emotion as well as execution to win this match,C McCray said, BAnd I don?t think any of us thought we gave too much in that game because we needed all of it to win that second game.C

In that game, UF was down 28-25, but Killingsworth stepped up huge in the final five points.

She had three kills and then assisted on a block to give the Gators the game.

UF had 36 attack errors on the match compared to Texas? 20. The Gators hit a lowly .127, their worst performance of the season, while Texas put in an excellent .340. The Gators had only hit in the 100s once all season.

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Coming into the match, Texas was the No. 1 hitting team in the nation, with UF at No. 5.

Killingsworth, McCray and senior setter Angie McGinnis were visibly upset after the loss and it appeared they had been crying. When asked to sum up her senior season, talk about her fellow seniors and her career at UF, McCray started crying again.

BI?m proud of all of (the seniors), and I?m just really sad it?s over,C McCray said.

Wise also gave compliments to the senior class.

BThere isn?t a stat for heart or competitiveness or commitment that this senior class has shown to the program,C Wise said. BWe don?t win all these matches, the SEC Championships…without those intangibles.C

With the Gators already down 20-10 in game three, they took another blow.

Sophomore middle blocker Kristina Johnson, who had just played her first point and earned a kill, landed awkwardly and fell to the floor.

She needed assistance to walk off the court, and she immediately went into the locker room.

Senior outside hitter Marcie Hampton, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon two weeks ago, followed Johnson into the locker room.

Wise said Johnson would have an MRI today.

BWhen KJ went down, that really was like a sucker punch,C Wise said. BIt knocked the wind out of our sails.C

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