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Thursday, November 30, 2023
<p>Mackenzie Dagostino sets the ball during Florida's 3-0 win against Alabama State during the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in the O'Connell Center.</p>

Mackenzie Dagostino sets the ball during Florida's 3-0 win against Alabama State during the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in the O'Connell Center.

In its first match of the NCAA Tournament, Florida won in typical Florida fashion by sweeping Alabama State on Friday in the O’Connell Center.

The No. 8 Gators showed up to play and it was junior setter Mackenzie Dagostino that set the tone for how Florida would finish the match.

At the starting serve of the match, Dagostino was able to pull Florida ahead 10-0 while grabbing three service aces at the same time.

“We came out, and we took care of business,” Dagostino said. “Like we’ve been saying all year, it’s one game, one match at a time, and we really took the time and put in a lot of focus to prepare ourselves for Alabama State. We have one match out of six done. Now we get to go in and focus on Miami tomorrow (Saturday), and we are more than excited to do that.”

Dagostino wasn’t the only Florida player to make a major impact against Alabama State. Sophomore right-side hitter Alex Holston finished the night with 14 kills and one service ace.

Overall Florida held Alabama State to a -.013 team hitting efficiency. The Hornets struggled against Florida’s height with freshman Rhamat Alhassan blocking against Alabama State’s Myla Marshall – the Hornets biggest offensive weapon.

“I think for sure we’re smaller than Florida, and it actually hurt us on that end,” Alabama State coach Penny Lucas-White said. “I think Florida’s very strong.”

But while ASU struggled to get its best player moving on offense, the Gators didn’t stop their assault against the Hornets. Florida didn’t allow the Hornets to surpass 13 points in a single set.

The clean and technical play Florida exhibited is what Florida coach Mary Wise has been looking for all season.

In the first set alone Florida made four attack errors. The second and third set had four attack errors total.

Florida will be facing Miami on Saturday after the Hurricanes beat the UCF Knights in five sets.

Wise said if Florida hopes to be efficient against Miami, the defense will have to be able to stop outside hitter Savanah Leaf, who had 31 kills against UCF on Friday.

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“You can’t watch Miami and not be impressed with the speed of their offense,” Wise said. “They certainly have one special outside hitter (Leaf) who lit it up… she’s a pretty special player.”

Follow Eden Otero on Twitter @edenotero_l

Mackenzie Dagostino sets the ball during Florida's 3-0 win against Alabama State during the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in the O'Connell Center.

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