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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Sunday’s match was not the best display of volleyball by the Gators this season.

Nevertheless, No. 1 Florida (16-1, 9-0 Southeastern Conference) took care of business, defeating Georgia 3-1 (19-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-21) in the O’Connell Center.

The win was the 700th of coach Mary Wise’s career. She is the 16th Division I coach to reach the plateau.

“It gives us a chance to say  ‘thank you’ to all those players and their families for choosing Florida, coming here and playing and being a part of this program,” Wise said. “If it gives us a chance to take a timeout and thank all of the players, all of the assistant coaches and the support staff, then it’s worth coming up with that number.”

The Gators started slow against the Bulldogs (11-10, 3-7 SEC), hitting just .172 compared to their rival’s .344 in the opening set — Florida’s first set dropped in the last four matches.

In the final three sets, the Gators improved, hitting .286, .360 and .324, respectively. They ended the day with a .284 hitting percentage. Meanwhile, Georgia was held to just .130, .188 and .281 in the remaining sets to hit .244 in the match.

“I thought it was a really well-played match on the part of Georgia,” Wise said. “They were so low-error, especially in set one. They didn’t give away points, we never got into a good rhythm and I felt like we were a step behind defensively, really, until the middle of the second set.

“I think that was so evident by how few blocks we had in the first set and a half.”

After the Gators recorded just two blocks in the first set, they improved as the match went on to finish with 14.

Middle blockers Lauren Bledsoe and Cassandra Anderson racked up five and seven blocks, respectively.

Bledsoe notched 11 kills on only 14 total attacks to hit a team-high .786 while Anderson recorded seven kills and hit .417.

“The fact that we got 18 kills out of our middle and that’s just a little bit behind the 22 of our left sides was impressive,” Wise said. “Credit the setters because they did a great job of getting them the ball.”

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Setter Kelly Murphy and outside hitter Callie Rivers did a little bit of everything for the Gators on Sunday. Murphy tallied 11 kills, 30 assists, seven digs and five blocks. While Rivers finished with 10 kills, eight digs and four blocks.

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