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Thursday, May 23, 2024

After five weeks of relying on strong defense to grind out tough wins, the Gators put on an offensive showcase Sunday.

No. 2 Florida (12-1, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) hit .408 and smacked a season-high 12 aces in its 3-0 (25-19, 25-13, 25-17) win against Arkansas (9-8, 3-3 SEC) in the O’Connell Center.

The offensive outburst was the continuation of a trend the Gators started Friday night, when they hit .323, only put five shots out of bounds and ended No.16 LSU’s undefeated season in straight sets.

UF totaled a season-low 3.5 blocks but still cruised to victory behind its dominating attack.

“I thought the story of this match was definitely our offense,” coach Mary Wise said. “We felt our players did a really nice job attacking the ball.”

Outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel and middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe were Sunday’s leaders, as Jaeckel recorded 11 kills on .524 hitting while Bledsoe notched seven kills on .636 hitting.

Both Jaeckel and Bledsoe were errorless in the match. As a team, the Gators hit just one attack out of bounds, as six of their seven errors were the result of Arkansas blocks.

Five of those blocks came in the opening set, after which the Gators diversified the offense and started feeding the pipeline to keep the Razorbacks off balance.

“Arkansas is a very good one-option blocking team, meaning if it’s a predictable attack on our part that’s what Arkansas defends the best,” Wise said. “We just didn’t make as many smart swings early on and Arkansas took advantage of it. Then we got into a pretty good offensive rhythm and there were a lot fewer blocks by the end.”

While the Gators eventually worked their way into an offensive rhythm, they were also able to keep the Razorbacks out of one with dominant serving.

Junior Kelly Murphy led the way with a career-high eight aces, including four in her first trip to the line, as the Gators smashed 12 on the afternoon.

“Once I got the first two it really built my confidence up so I just went back there and felt pretty comfortable taking a harder rip,” Murphy said.

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Although Florida recorded just 3.5 blocks, the defense on the whole played a solid match.

UF held Arkansas to a .108 hitting efficiency and kept the SEC’s No. 2 kill-scorer, Jasmine Norton, to just four kills and .000 hitting.

With Erin Fleming sitting out the match after potentially suffering a mild concussion in Friday’s tilt, junior transfer Cinthya Roberto got her first start as a Gator.

In her first ever match as a libero, Roberto had what Wise called an “outstanding” performance, recording eight digs and consistently making solid passes for her setters.

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