In a tournament where perfection means wins and losses, Florida was far from perfect on Saturday.
In the Gators win over the Hurricanes, Florida did everything wrong, and then it did just enough right to pull out a win.
After dropping the first set, in which Florida recorded a dismal -.029 team attack percentage – the worst since it faced Texas on Sept. 6 – the Gators countered and came back to get a heavily contested win.
"Give a lot of credit to their team, their coaches, the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) Player of the Year, Savanah Leaf was all that she’s built up to be," coach Mary Wise said on Monday.
"...We were fortunate enough to at least come out ahead at the final score. ...There was a time when your seeded teams were winning their first and second rounds 3-0, 3-0… teams are too good and matches are too close."
The Mackenzie Dagostino and Alex Holston tandem struggled from the beginning with Holston recording six errors in the first set alone, a vast difference from the night before in which she only recorded two attack errors and one service error in the entire match.
Dagostino also struggled. Many of Holston’s errors came off of difficult sets by the junior setter.
Dagostino wasn’t efficient from the serving line against Miami, making two service errors whereas the previous match she finished with four service aces, three of which came from the first set.
"Obviously Miami was on a roll. We were not anywhere close," Wise said. "We weren’t in rhythm. There are teams that, Florida teams, that would not have the experience or the trust to turn it around as quickly as they did. Some teams would take to the break and the fact that they did it in the second set speaks to their character, to the senior leadership and to the experience of having been there."
While Florida was able to clean up its game just one set into the Miami match, it was to the credit of freshman outside hitter Carli Snyder, who changed the momentum of the match with a block on Miami’s Kelsie Groot.
But even with Snyder’s block it was Dagostino, who — even after struggling in the first set — was able to get Florida’s offense moving again.
"The numbers, hitting over .390 for the next three sets, that’s a reflection of Mackenzie’s play," Wise said.
"She’s distributing and (that’s why our) hitters are hitting at such a high efficiency."
Going forward, Wise said the team is looking to continue with this season’s theme: to get better with every practice and every game.
Heading into the No. 9 seed Illinois will be yet another test of the teams toughness when it faces one of the best outside hitters in the country Jocelynn Birks, who finished with a match high 23 kills against Iowa State on Saturday.
Birks leads her team in kills for the season (505), kills per set (4.04) and service aces (31). With Illinois’ strong outside and Florida’s large middle, Friday’s matchup has the potential to be close.
"We know this Illinois team is a very physical team, they feature one of the premier outside hitters not just in the big 12 but in the country," Wise said.
"We’ll have quite the challenge come Friday night."
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Mackenzie Dagostino sets the ball during No. 8 seed Florida's 3-1 win against Miami in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Dec. 6, 2014, in the O'Connell Center.