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Friday, March 31, 2023

Friday's match was not only a long-awaited return to the O'Connell Center for the Gators after a lengthy and successful road trip, it also marked Callie Rivers' return to the starting lineup.

The junior outside hitter played a key role in helping No. 5 Florida (9-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) dominate Mississippi State (4-10, 0-3 SEC) 3-0 (25-12, 25-14, 25-18). The sweep improved the Gators' all-time set record against the Bulldogs to a one-sided 105-3.

In her first start of the season, Rivers had nine kills to go along with a .500 hitting percentage. But the most impressive part is that she played out of position as a right-side hitter for most of the match.

"The right side is a position she has played all of about a month," UF coach Mary Wise said. "There are times that it doesn't look as smooth as it does when she plays on the left side, but that's because that is the position she has played her entire life."

However, Rivers wasn't the only reserve to get some playing time. Elissa Hausmann, Betsy Smith and Sundai Weston were also able to make appearances in the match.

"Our coaches are just trying to switch it up and do some different looks," Rivers said. "So, it was good to change it up and still be successful."

Although Mississippi State was not able to put many points on the board, most of the Bulldogs' scores came off Gators' errors. Wise attributed this to UF's aggressive style of play.

"If you play aggressively, then you are going to make aggressive errors, but I can live with that as long as they are also smart," she said.

Sophomore setter Kelly Murphy had another one of her patented all-around matches, as she ended the night with 12 kills, 28 assists and seven digs, just short of her third triple-double of the season.

Florida will return to the O'Connell Center on Sunday as it will host Alabama (5-8, 3-0 SEC) at 1:30 p.m.

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