Paige Hammons stood with her knees bent and at the ready as Auburn’s Mica Allison sent a float-style serve over the net.
Hammons moved toward middle back while dipping her right shoulder toward the net and extended her platform toward Florida’s bench.
She passed a low ball to Allie Monserez who then sent the ball to middle blocker Rachel Kramer.
As the rally ensued Hammons transitioned into middle back. She dug a hit from Auburn’s right side of the court and got ready to attack from the back row.
Hammons found her way in-between two Auburn blockers before the ball struck the hardwood in the back half of the court, which put Florida up 24-21 in the fourth set.
Her kill, and another kill from Monserez at the net, secured a 3-1 win for the Gators on the road at Auburn Sunday afternoon by a margin of 25-21, 25-21, 21-25, 25-21.
Here are the top three stars from the matchup:
Three Stars: Paige Hammons
The sophomore outside hitter has shouldered her fair share of pressure without the presence of her counterpart, freshman outside hitter Thayer Hall.
Hammons needed to step things up as Florida’s most consistent attacker, and she proved as much in Sunday’s matchup. She led both rosters with 17 kills on 34 swings, a new career high.
Hammons also registered nine digs in the back row and three blocks.
When her teammates have needed her most, Hammons has stepped up her play. Before Hall’s absence, she was hitting in the .100s range in kills/match and now the sophomore is hitting in the .300s in every match since.
Her all-around play will continue to be a pivotal aspect of Florida’s performance as the team enters its last few matches of the regular season with a high chance of making it into the NCAA tournament in December.
Two Stars: Florida defense
It’s hard to put a specific number on how many times Florida’s defense saved the rally during Sunday’s matchup.
Many of the defensive specialists in Chanelle Hargreaves, Riley Fischer and Paula Cerame have seen more time on the court and have proven their worth without Hall in the back row.
Junior libero Allie Gregory has led Florida’s defensive efforts all season long, but the addition of these defensive specialists has improved Florida’s defensive play.
Gregory “pancaked” (laid out on the floor with her palm on the ground separating the ball from the court for a dig) a hit from Auburn’s Tatum Shipes. The dig was saved by Monserez and pushed over the net by Morgyn Greer.
Florida’s blocking duo in Rachael Kramer and Holly Carlton finished off the rally, bringing Florida up 15-13 halfway through the fourth set and securing the team’s 19th block on the match.
It’s easy to say that without Florida’s efforts in the back half of the court this could have been a completely different match.
One Star: Rachael Kramer
The veteran middle blocker was relentless in Sunday’s matchup against the Tigers.
Hall’s absence has opened up new options running a 6-1 and 5-2 offense. Kramer proved as much throughout the match adjusting her shots from a quick set in front of the setter to running a play behind the setter and out toward the right-side pin.
Either way, Kramer’s attacks found the empty court with 10 kills on 23 attacks, hitting .304 percent and only logging three errors on the match.
Kramer was also in control at the net with four blocks.
Being a middle blocker is arguably one of the most difficult positions to play on the court, which is why having a 6-foot-8 attacker like Kramer will be a huge asset to this team moving deeper into the season.
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari or contact him at email@example.com.
Sophomore outside hitter Paige Hammons led both the Florida and South Carolina rosters in kills (13) and total attacks (34) on Friday.