Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Sunday, April 21, 2024

The Gators will not win the Southeastern Conference for the first time in 19 years, but on Sunday, Florida prevented Kentucky from claiming a share of the title.

After being eliminated from the conference race Friday with a loss against Tennessee (22-7, 15-4 SEC) in four sets 3-1 (22-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-22), No. 13 Florida (21-5, 15-4 SEC) didn’t have much time to regroup.

On Sunday, UF traveled to face Kentucky (27-3, 17-2 SEC), which could clinch at least a share of the SEC with a victory over the Gators. But UF implemented some new wrinkles and delayed the celebration with an impressive 3-1 victory (31-29, 25-23, 24-26, 25-21) over the Wildcats.

“This group is a special group and I know that some of our alumni are disappointed that our streak ended, but there are very few teams that I have ever been as proud of as I am of this team at this moment,” coach Mary Wise said.

Despite playing in a two-setter offense for most of the season, the Gators switched to using only one setter for most of the match against Kentucky and benched struggling senior middle blocker Kristina Johnson for junior Lauren Bledsoe.

The results of the changes were encouraging to say the least.

Sophomore setter Kelly Murphy thrived in the new offense as she finished with 43 assists and helped four players reach double-digit kills.

“The first person I told we were going to do this was Kelly, and she looked me right in the eye and it was like a sense of excitement – she was all over it,” Wise said.

The other change to Bledsoe not only led to increased offensive production from the middle blocker position, it also led to improved defense.

Before the switch was made, Johnson was averaging four kills a match, but Bledsoe more than tripled that amount with 13 kills against Kentucky. She even recorded three blocks as her and middle blocker Cassandra Anderson made it tough for the Kentucky hitters.

The Gators got off to a quick start early in the match thanks to the play of junior opposite hitter Callie Rivers, who finished with 11 kills and eight digs. She tallied up five of those kills in the first set, but the emotion displayed after each point helped jump start the team was equally as important.

“It all starts with Callie Rivers,” Wise said. “She is the most competitive player that I have ever had the pleasure of coaching, and the team just fed off her emotion.”

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

The match marked another milestone for senior libero Elyse Cusack as she finished with a season-high 33 digs to give her sole-possession of second-place on the all-time SEC digs list.

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.