Freshman Thayer Hall and junior Rachael Kramer jumped up simultaneously in the final rally of the match, rejecting yet another Alabama strike. Florida’s front row held firm from the continuous attacks from the Crimson Tide, who were trying to win its first set over Florida since 2008.
The attacks kept coming and coming, the hitters kept pounding and pounding, but they could not find a hole through the wall in front of the net. Hall and Kramer jumped up one more time to ferociously block the ball back down and win the final point of the match.
That defense was vital as the Gators swept their opponent for the fourth-consecutive time on Sunday when they beat Alabama in three sets (25-20, 25-20, 26-24) in Tuscaloosa to complete their short, two-match road trip. They’ll return to the O’Connell Center on Friday to take on Texas A&M.
Florida (13-3, 4-0 SEC) held Alabama to just a .137 hitting percentage thanks to the 40 digs and 11 blocks by the defense in the three sets.
Kramer led the team with six total blocks while senior middle blocker Taelor Kellum bolstered the front-row defense with four blocks of her own.
Junior libero Allie Gregory shored up the back row with her 12 digs.
“This was a great win against an Alabama team that played really well, especially in their pursuit of balls in the back row,” coach Mary Wise said in a release.
Florida’s offense, however, struggled to get past the stout defense of Alabama (13-4, 1-3 SEC) that entered the match ranked first in the SEC in digs per set (15.37) and second in blocks per set (2.53).
The Gators were held to a measly .217 hitting percentage and made 17 attack errors along with 10 service errors.
Florida struggled with getting past the Crimson Tide’s back-row defense, which seemed impenetrable thanks to sophomore libero Kaylee Thomas. She racked up 17 digs and received 11 serves with only one error.
Alabama’s defense was exposed in the front row, however, when Kramer and Kellum began to dominate the middle offensively. The duo combined for 22 kills on .512 hitting percentage.
“Our pins were struggling a little bit, so they wanted more production to come from the middles,” Kellum said. “We were getting great passes to our setters, and our setters were giving us good sets, so Rachael and I were able to step up.”
It was the Gators’ aggressive serving that resulted in 10 service aces, though, that made the difference.
The team produced clutch aces that generated big runs, including two from fifth-year setter Allie Monserez as part of a 7-0 run in the first set that would help Florida pull away and win it.
This was the second time in the last four matches that UF recorded 10 or more service aces. The team will seem unbeatable if it can minimize the service errors and keep up that production from behind the line.
Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph and contact him at email@example.com.
Middle blockers Rachael Kramer (pictured) and Taelor Kellum combined for 22 kills in Florida’s sweep over Alabama.