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Friday, April 19, 2024

In one of their biggest matches of the season, a usual strength for the Gators turned into a weakness.

No. 13 Florida’s youth has been a promising aspect of the team for most of the season, but the lack of experience has proven to be a double-edged sword.

Although the four starting sophomores don’t usually play like underclassmen, their youth showed against LSU.

In Friday’s match against the Tigers, the Gators’ lack of experience was exposed as they lost against a team that featured four starting seniors.

UF (20-4, 14-3 Southeastern Conference)  hit 16 service errors and recorded 25 attack errors in the match, something coach Mary Wise attributed to the team’s youth.

“There were points where I felt like maybe we pressed a little bit too hard which sometimes you see with a young team,” she said. “The service errors and the amount of balls we hit out of bounds were indicative of that.”

The four sophomores hit seven of those service errors and only recorded one ace between them, while LSU’s four seniors only tallied up one error behind the service line.

After the loss, senior libero Elyse Cusack pointed toward the Tigers’ experience as one of the reasons they were able to pull out the win.

“I definitely think so,” Cusack said. “Experienced players play well in tight situations.”

In the final two sets of the match, there was no confusion as to which team possessed the group of seniors.

Both teams struggled in the first two frames with 13 attack errors each, but the third and fourth sets were the ones that set the two teams apart. The Gators hit 12 errors in the final two sets, while LSU was able to make some in-match adjustments and cut their number down to four in the second half of the match.

One of the sophomores, Colleen Ward, noticed that LSU had a different mentality than the Gators during the match.

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“They definitely have a different type of attitude with all the seniors that they have,” Ward said.

However, Cusack does not want the team to start using their youth as a crutch.

“In big matches like last week against LSU, our effort was there and just sometimes we don’t execute,” she said. “We might not be the most experienced team, but we can’t use that as an excuse as to why we aren’t winning matches.”

While the four sophomores were overmatched by LSU’s four seniors on Friday, in a couple of years UF’s group will have the chance to return the favor.

“That core group of sophomores, they are going to be able to do that to a young team some day,” Wise said.

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