Libero Allie Gregory lined up for her serve, standing so far away from the net that the heels of her scuffed white shoes seemed to touch the press table. She shot a high-arching serve that landed for another service ace and gave the Gators an 18-9 lead in the third set.
Ole Miss coach Steven McRoberts, in response, threw his papers down to the ground out of frustration and called a timeout to berate his team for another mistake.
That scene was the norm as No. 11 Florida swept Ole Miss 25-17, 25-12, 25-15 at the O’Connell Center on Friday to open conference play of the 2018 season. The win moved the Gators to a 28-0 record in SEC openers under coach Mary Wise.
UF’s aggressive serving was a big factor in the three-set win. The team finished the night with a season-high 13 service aces.
“It was one of those matches that was won behind the service line,” Wise said.
Gregory and sophomore outside hitter Paige Hammons combined for eight service aces. Hammons, at one point, served two aces that helped generate an 8-0 run in the second set to help pull away.
“One thing we’ve been working on is more aggressive serves,” Hammons said. “It was really fun to show that off tonight.”
Florida also impressed with its defense. Rebels outside hitter Emily Stroup entered Friday’s match second in the country in kills. She finished the match with a .000 hitting percentage with six kills and as many errors.
UF’s defense keyed on her early and was a big reason why the Rebels did not find much rhythm offensively.
“The greatest sign of respect for a player is how much time and energy we spend preparing for her,” Wise said. “We put in a lot of time, not just for (Stroup), but Ole Miss’ whole system.”
The Ole Miss team, as a whole, was held to a .094 hitting percentage while Florida swung .363. The Gators opened strong, suffocating the Rebels from the first rally of the match.
“(Starting fast) was another thing we really had to work on and something we didn’t have through all of preseason,” redshirt sophomore Holly Carlton said. “I thought we did a really nice job of having a really strong start and staying steady throughout the whole match.”
Carlton’s efficient offense was the final piece in Florida’s dominant performance.
The 6-foot-7 right-side hitter notched a team-leading 10 kills on only 12 swings. She currently sits second on the team in kills this season behind freshman outside hitter Thayer Hall. She’s expected to get even more looks Sunday against Mississippi State.
Even with a decisive win, Wise said that she knows that the Rebels will be a tough opponent when Florida plays them again on Oct. 19 in Oxford.
“Ole Miss is going to be a tough out in the SEC,” Wise said. “That is not a team you want to meet in the middle of a tournament.”
Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter at @dyrudolph and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Libero Allie Gregory helped spark an 8-0 Florida run with two service aces in the third and final set of the Gators' sweep of Ole Miss Friday night.