Army gained some momentum in the fourth set after it scored back-to-back kills to draw within two.
The fast-paced offense had put Florida on its heels, winning the third set and now down only 8-6. The Black Knights’ cheers got louder and louder with every kill. But a smothering block by redshirt sophomore outside hitter Mia Sokolowski and junior middle blocker Rachael Kramer ended the momentum and put the match away for the Gators.
Thundering kills and suffocating blocks were the theme at the O’Connell Center on Saturday as the No. 11 Florida volleyball team beat the Army Black Knights in four sets (25-16, 25-12, 20-25, 25-16) on Day 2 of the Honda of Gainesville Gator Invitational.
“It’s real easy to just look at the win-loss record,” coach Mary Wise said after the match, “We’re trying to spend our energy and time to getting better, and that was the most important thing today.”
Senior middle blocker Taelor Kellum’s five blocks and nine kills were an integral part of the four-set win as she along with Kramer, right side hitter/setter Holly Carlton and outside hitter Thayer Hall stuffed Army at the net for most of the match.
Florida faltered in the third set, however, after it did not register a block, and the Black Knights took advantage. Army notched 16 kills on a .343 hitting percentage in the 25-20 third-set win.
“We did well with the (blocking) today,” Wise said, “but it has to be something we have to continue to work on.”
The UF defense still played well and held Army to a .129 hitting percentage with 11 total blocks on the match despite the slump in the third set.
Offensively, the outside-hitting duo of Sokolowski and Hall carried the load with 24 kills and only four errors between them.
Hall’s 13 kills, combined with her five digs and three blocks, came at clutch times and created big runs, including a big kill in the first set that started a 5-1 run to win it.
The Florida offense swung an impressive .389 hitting percentage and had six players with five or more kills.
Wise expressed her happiness with the team after the match. She said that everyone pitched in on offense and was vital in the victory.
The win over Army completes the tournament sweep after Florida defeated Jacksonville and FIU on Friday, but Wise emphasized the win over Army as a big step in getting her team’s confidence up before it heads into conference play next week.
“Our team will continue to grow with the right mind frame,” Wise said. “This team is nowhere close to peaking.”
The Gators now turn their attention to SEC play where it will face Ole Miss at home on Friday. First serves are set for 7 p.m.
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Middle blocker Taelor Kellum led the Gators in blocks (5) in their four-set triumph over Army Saturday night. Kellum also registered nine kills, good for third on the team.