The last time the Gators swept a conference rival was about two weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
It’s been more difficult to walk out after a match with the same results since the team’s first win over the Crimson Tide on Sept. 30. The last three matches against other conference rivals have all gone to five sets, with the first two played at the O’Connell Center.
The streak ended for the No. 11 Gators (17-3, 8-0 SEC) as they defeated the Crimson Tide once again Sunday afternoon with another sweep, this time with a home court advantage at the O’Connell Center. The team’s win streak extended to 13 matches with the win.
Here are three things Florida did well to take down the Crimson Tide (15-6, 2-5 SEC):
Use of Holly Carlton
Having a left-handed attacker on the right-side is another benefit for the young Gators squad since most teams are not used to defending that kind of attack.
Last season, then-freshman setter Holly Carlton played in all six rotations at North Carolina. Now, the sophomore transfer plays in four rotations for the Gators, but her role on her team has significantly changed in terms of reliability.
The Gators have used Carlton in more of an “offensive role” since the season started.
Her 6-foot-7 frame is a huge asset for the team, putting up a huge wall of arms with 6-foot-8 middle blocker Rachael Kramer on the right-side block when it comes to defending attacks.
In Sunday’s matchup against Alabama, Carlton racked up a team-high nine kills on 17 attacks and logged a career high of four service aces.
She helped her team start its first breakaway from the Crimson Tide early in the first set, setting in four consecutive rallies before Alabama took back the serve.
Carlton’s play has been pivotal all season and will remain so as the team gets deeper into conference play.
Lack of errors
The team that makes the least amount of errors normally wins the match or game in the world of sports. That theory is correct more times than not across the board, and it held true in Florida’s matchup against Alabama.
On Sunday, the Gators racked up 84 attacks as a team making 38 kills and only losing 10 points off of attack errors.
The Crimson Tide, however, took 95 swings and only made 33 points off kills and lost 18 points off of attack errors, practically giving Florida enough points to take an entire set.
Despite both teams logging the same amount of service errors (11), the Gators came out on top with six service aces compared to just one ace for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama stat-lined at zero at the net, logging one block and one block error. Florida held tight at the net with nine blocks compared to one block error.
Errors can make the difference in a match, and it was apparent that they affected Alabama in Sunday’s contest.
In the last three matches, Florida has dropped the third and fourth sets in two of those matches, forcing the game to go to a fifth after holding a 2-0 set lead.
Since entering conference play, the Gators hold a meager 5-3 record in third-set wins while dropping to 1-2 in fourth-set wins. Florida remains undefeated with a 3-0 record for fifth-set wins.
Sunday’s matchup against the Crimson Tide was a huge momentum booster heading into the team’s next matchup Friday in Oxford, Mississippi, where the Gators will take on Ole Miss.
Having their last three matches go to five sets has to be exhausting for a young team heading deeper into conference play.
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sophomore setter Holly Carlton recorded a team-high nine kills on 17 attacks in Sunday afternoon’s win against Alabama. The 6-foot-7 Carlton also set a career-high with four service aces.