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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

After beating ranked foes from the Big 12, Mountain West and Southeastern Conferences in the first nine matches of the so-called “Gator Gauntlet,” Florida closed its rough opening stretch by adding a fourth conference to the list.

No. 3 UF defeated Atlantic Coast Conference foe No. 13 Florida State 3-0 (25-23, 31-29, 25-21) Wednesday in Tallahassee, bringing UF’s record to 7-1 against ranked opponents.

Junior Kelly Murphy turned in her second consecutive triple-double — the 19th of her career — registering 11 kills, 11 digs and 20 assists as the Gators (9-1, 2-0 SEC) earned their 19th consecutive win against the Seminoles (9-2, 1-0 ACC).

“I’m so proud of Kelly because when it didn’t come easy, and she was just a little early on her approach, she didn’t get frustrated and she didn’t let it effect the rest of her match,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “Kelly just keeps battling.”

The entire match was a battle for Florida, as the team experienced 26 ties and 14 lead changes despite playing just three sets. 

Although each match and set this season has presented its own challenges, UF might have faced its toughest test in the second set  Wednesday.

Playing in front of a hostile crowd at FSU’s Tully Gymnasium, the Gators clawed back from a 17-10 deficit to tie the match at 21. From there, the score stayed within one before Tangerine Wiggs and Callie Rivers recorded back-to-back kills with the set tied at 29 to give UF the 2-0 lead.

“Talk about a gut check in set two down seven points,” Wise said. “I have to go (back)some to think about when I’ve been more proud of a group.”

“Our team battled and it was just one of those epic Florida-Florida State matches.”

As has been the case in a number of key matches this season, the Florida defense played a major role in the win.

The Gators outblocked the Seminoles 12-9 and outdug them 55-50.

The defense was a total team effort, as four different UF players recorded double-digit digs, led by senior libero Erin Fleming’s 14.

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Fleming also chipped in five assists and led another strong Florida serving performance with two aces.

“Erin playing in this position is really the unsung hero, but she was a big-time hero tonight,” Wise said.

Middle blockers Cassandra Anderson and Lauren Bledsoe gave UF an offensive lift, combining for 14 kills, just one error, and a hitting percentage of .650.

They also played a solid defensive game, as Anderson assisted on six blocks while Bledsoe had a hand in five.

Bledsoe even contributed at the service line. Her ace clinched the match in her third consecutive service point.

“She’s just such a gutsy performer,” Wise said.

Tangerine Wiggs also had an efficient night on the offensive end, hitting eight kills and no errors for a .444 hitting efficiency.

She also assisted on six blocks.

“[Wiggs] gives us that true opposite across from Kelly,” Wise said. “Tangerine has been able to get us points both offensively and defensively this season.”

The FSU match concludes a stretch of six straight matches against ranked teams, the last three of which came on the road.

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