Sophomore Paige Hammons stood on the black and gold logo that brandished regional host UCF’s letters, awaiting the serve from Florida State’s Madison Sullivan.
The set from Marlie Monserez went right in Hammons' sweet spot, and she blasted a ball that appeared to go too far out of bounds. Every FSU player cheered before they realized Hammons had fired the shot through the attempted block of two Seminoles. Last touch Florida State. Florida’s point. Florida wins.
Hammons’ offense helped the UF volleyball team sweep in-state rival Florida State 25-21, 25-20, 25-13 in Orlando to advance to the second round of the NCAA Volleyball Championships. It will face Florida Gulf Coast tonight at 7.
“This was one of our most complete performances all season,” coach Mary Wise said in a release. “One of our goals has always been to be playing the best volleyball at the end. Tonight was the perfect indication of how this team has grown and evolved. They have fought through adversity and have taken on challenges.”
The 6-foot-1 Hammons found holes in the defense all match, notching 16 kills on a team-high 33 swings while committing only one attack error. She also got help from middle blocker Rachael Kramer and outside hitter Thayer Hall.
Hall, who played her second-straight match after missing the last seven due to an undisclosed injury, looked as good as new as she registered nine kills on 23 swings and had five digs. Kramer hit an efficient nine kills on a .333 hitting percentage, but it was her defensive presence that pushed the team over the top in Round 1.
The 6-foot-8 middle blocker stuffed the Seminole attack at the net for most of the match, tallying nine total blocks and a dig. Her defense gave Florida consistent momentum and sprung offensive runs, including a sequence in the second set when she crushed a kill and made a solo block that started a 7-1 run to help the Gators pull away.
Kramer’s stand at the net helped Florida hold the Seminoles to just a .168 hitting percentage and force 15 FSU attack errors in the three-set win.
Libero Allie Gregory anchored the defense from the back row as she tied her career high in digs with 22 and tacked on two of Florida’s seven service aces. The Louisville, Kentucky, native’s clutch serving came up big in the third set when she went on a 8-0 serving run, collected a service ace and assisted on a kill by Hammons that capped off a 10-1 run.
But the Gators played far from perfect in the sweep. While they were all smiles after the win, they will also have things to work on before the quick turnaround against Florida Gulf Coast today.
The main problem came from FSU outside hitter Payton Caffrey, who gave UF fits the whole match. Florida State fed the 2018 ACC Player of the Year, and she took advantage, totaling 14 kills on 40 swings. Caffrey seemed unstoppable early as she recorded 10 of those kills in the first two sets and started runs on her own to keep her team in the match.
At one point in the second set, Caffrey had three kills in a 7-3 run, which put Florida State up in the set. She later single-handedly went on a 3-0 run with three kills, but it was not enough to win the set. Florida’s defense eventually keyed on her in the third set, forcing FSU to look elsewhere.
Florida will need to make the adjustment earlier against FGCU, who is fresh off a first-round upset over No. 13 seed UCF.
Follow Dylan Rudolph at @dyrudolph and contact him at email@example.com.
Outside hitter Paige Hammons led the Gators with 16 kills and only one error in Thursday's sweep of Florida State.