Sophomore outside hitter Paige Hammons stood waiting on a serve from Mississippi State’s side of the court at match point.
She transitioned quickly behind the 10-foot line and out toward the coaches on the bench and made eye contact with the ball as it was passed out of the back row.
Hammons started her approach toward the net looking as if she was about to send another swing down the line. Instead she opted for a dainty tip just behind the block and one that landed in the belly of the court.
The tip sealed Florida’s second win of the season against the Bulldogs as the Gators swept the match 3-0 in Starkville, Mississippi (25-18, 25-21, 25-20).
The No. 11 Gators (19-4, 10-1 SEC) had a new look Sunday afternoon when the starters took the court at Mississippi State.
Freshman outside hitter Thayer Hall remained on the sidelines for the duration of the match donning a blue warm-up jacket. Hall logged a start in every contest leading up to today’s match.
Instead, Florida decided to try out a new lineup, which included sophomore right-side attacker and setter Holly Carlton playing in all six rotations.
Sister setters Allie Monserez and Marlie Monserez split time around the court, Marlie taking position at the net for three rotations and Allie subbing in at the service line and taking control of the back half of the court.
Redshirt sophomore Mia Sokolowski also contributed to win switching from a traditional right-side attacker position to the left-side for today’s contest.
Sokolowski played on the left-side pin last season but has since transitioned to a more prominent right-side attacker look with the addition of Hall.
The Gators started off fairly slow in all three sets against the Bulldogs (5-19, 1-10 SEC), never winning the first point.
The different look for the Gators proved its worth when Florida went on an eight-point run and stole the lead from Mississippi State after trailing the Bulldogs 4-1 in the first set.
Having a setter front row in Marlie Monserez opened up options for a slide attack for the middle blockers and running another attack option for Carlton out of the back row.
The freshman setter is also taller than her sister, Allie, providing a more dominant block defense on the net.
Mississippi State adjusted and moved sophomore libero Kendall Murr to the right-back position instead of keeping her in the tradition left-back defensive spot.
The new position gave the Gators an advantage as she hesitated to make the pass on some plays. However, the adjustment also gave the Bulldogs a better defensive opportunity since most of Florida’s hits were swung toward the right-back area, no matter who was hitting on the front line.
“Holly Carlton and Paige Hammons really carried us from an offensive standpoint and we had solid back row play today – especially out of Allie Gregory and Paula Cerame.”
The second set was fairly uneventful, but there was a noticeable difference in the third set as Mississippi State cut down on Florida’s point runs and came close to tying up the score at 20-all.
A kill from Carlton, however, gave Florida an edge as they sailed into the last points of the contest with a four-point run.
Carlton logged 11 kills on the match with Hammons right ahead at 12 kills on a combined 58 swings. Marlie Monserez logged three block assists at the net with Rachael Kramer leading both rosters with six blocks of her own.
The Gators will continue their road trip to take on the Kentucky Wildcats in Lexington,
Kentucky, on Wednesday.
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari or contact her at email@example.com.
Junior outside hitter Paige Hammons led all players with 12 kills in Sunday's match between No. 11 Florida and Mississippi State in Starkville, Mississippi.