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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Since showing their imperfections against LSU, the Gators have been flawless.

No. 10 Florida (15-3, 9-2 Southeastern Conference) has now won all nine sets it has played since its loss against the Tigers, including an easy three-set win against Arkansas (10-12, 4-7 SEC) on Friday 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 25-16).

"We are definitely getting back in the groove of things," junior setter Brynja Rodgers said. "After losses, you go back in the gym ready to work really hard and sometimes it takes a little kick in the butt like a loss."

Rodgers helped set the tone for the match with nine first-set assists but outdid herself with three service aces in a row in the second set.

"I don't know what happened on the fourth one, her arm must have gotten tired," coach Mary Wise said. "It makes you wonder what if she was a player that we had for four years in the O'Connell Center, what she could do with her serve - we can't play in this gym nearly enough for her."

Only one player finished the match with double-kills for the Gators, but that was a product of their dominance in the serving and blocking battles. They tallied up a season-high eight service aces and blocked 10 balls in the match.

The one player who did find a way to get her share of kills was sophomore outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel. She filled up the stat sheet with 10 kills, 12 digs and three service aces.

But the night belonged to senior libero Elyse Cusack who became the first player in school history to dig more than 1,900 balls in her career, although the records don't matter to her at the moment.

"Maybe looking back later down the road when I'm old I will be like wow, I still hold that record," Cusack said. "But right now it's all about team effort and winning one match at a time."

With an SEC showdown looming between Kentucky and LSU on Saturday, the Gators can gain some ground on the loser with a win in their next match.

UF will try inch its way back up the conference ladder at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday as they go up against Ole Miss (8-13, 2-9 SEC) in the O'Connell Center.

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