Right-side attacker Holly Carlton quickly transitioned back behind her setter and the 10-foot line after coming down from a block on the right-side pin.
She brought her arms slightly forward as she balanced most of her weight on her back foot and started her approach. A set from redshirt senior setter Allie Monserez arched high in the air simultaneously as Carlton took her first step toward the net.
She met the ball mid-air as it started its descent, brought her left arm back into position behind her head and snapped it forward like a rubber band.
The ball found the court as quickly as Carlton landed, giving Florida a 14-13 lead in the fifth set. Her team was fired up in the middle of the court, exploding in excitement.
But it wasn’t enough.
Neither the energy from her kill nor the energy from the crowd could put No. 11 Florida (18-4, 9-1 SEC) quite over the hump, as it lost against Missouri 3-2 in the O’Connell Center on Sunday afternoon.
“Credit to them,” coach Mary Wise said after the match. “They made great plays.”
With the loss, Florida’s 14-game win streak ended as the Gators also logged their first conference defeat of the season to the Tigers (18-4, 8-2 SEC).
Florida’s defense, however, continued to thrive as the team took control of the net, much like in their matchup Friday against Ole Miss.
The Gators outblocked Missouri 23 to 9, both teams logging one solo block and four block errors a piece.
Much of Florida’s troubles came from a lack of consistency when it came to putting out an efficient offense. Hitters were early to their sets, or sets weren’t on time for the hitters. Either way, the Gators looked like they were struggling with unforced errors.
“I think sometimes we overthink it,” Kramer said. “We have to go to things that are working, and we made some not smart IQ errors tonight.”
Much of the first set was a challenge for Florida solely because of unforced errors, which helped the Tigers keep a strong lead until the teams were tied at 19-all. Then, a kill from freshman outside hitter Thayer Hall put Florida ahead by one.
The glory was short-lived, however, as Missouri closed out the first set 25-23, capitalizing on back-to-back kills, a Florida ball handling error and a Florida service error.
The Gators came back strong in the second set, depending mostly on extended service runs. Monserez recorded a six-point service run, which put Florida up 14-7.
Hall followed suit with a four-point service run of her own, which gave the Gators a 10-point lead (18-8), the largest lead of the entire match for either team. Florida went on to take the set 25-16.
The biggest deficit for the Gators squad came in between the second and third sets. Missouri took advantage of eight combined Florida attack errors and some offensive inconsistencies, taking the set 25-17.
Florida rebounded in the fourth, holding the Tigers to just 13 points on the set and forcing the match to go to a fifth.
The odds appeared to be in Florida’s favor as the team switched sides halfway through the fifth set, up 9-4 against the Tigers, but the Gators couldn’t hang on.
A timeout from Missouri pushed things over the edge as the Tigers battled back to take a 12-11 lead over the Gators. A kill from Missouri’s Kylie Deberg, who led both rosters with 21 kills, helped secure the five-set win for the Tigers.
“A loss like this doesn’t help us in the long run,” Kramer said, “but I think we’re going to grow from this.”
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attacker Holly Carlton recorded nine kills and a service ace on 26 attacks in Florida’s five-set loss to Missouri on Sunday afternoon. The loss snaps a 14-match winning streak stretching back to Sept. 7.