Middle blocker Taelor Kellum waited for the pass to come during a long rally in the third set. The dig was good. The set was better. Right in her wheelhouse.
Kellum took two steps and rifled the ball over the net and directly at LSU’s libero, Raigen Cianciulli. The swing was too fast for the defender, and the ball smacked her in the face and hurtled into the scorer’s desk, causing her teammates to wince and the crowd to jeer the fallen libero.
Kellum’s devastating hits Friday at the O’Connell Center were key in Florida’s second sweep over LSU this season (26-24, 25-19, 25-22). The win ended LSU’s four-match win streak, but the play from the UF team was far from perfect.
Florida (22-5, 13-2 SEC) struggled with errors all night, totaling 18 attack errors and eight service errors on the match. Seemingly every time the team went on a run, it was halted by a negligent attack error or a bad hit from behind the line.
This was largely evident in the first set when the Gators accumulated eight attack errors and four blunders from behind the line.
“I thought we were very fortunate to win the first set with the number of unforced errors that happened,” coach Mary Wise said after the match. “Lots of mistakes from the service line and the block timing wasn’t very efficient.”
UF’s error problems in the first set were overshadowed only by LSU’s (11-15, 6-8 SEC) seven attack errors of its own, which allowed Florida to escape the set with a win. Wise remarked that her team got lucky and that the mistakes will still be an area to prioritize heading into the match against Georgia on Sunday.
However, Florida regained its composure and began to hit efficiently. Outside hitter Paige Hammons, who came off a career-high 17 kills against Auburn on Nov. 11, recorded just six kills on Friday but all at significant times. The Louisville, Kentucky, native scored three of Florida’s last four points at the end of the second set.
The solid defensive play from freshmen Paula Cerame and Riley Fischer also garnered praise from Wise for how critical they were in the three-set win.
The duo combined for important 12 digs and helped keep the Tigers’ dominant outside hitter Taylor Bannister, who came into the match ranked fifth in the league in kills per set (4.22), in check all night.
“What really changed the tone was the play by those two freshmen DS’s,” Wise said of the pair. “They made some athletic plays to keep the balls in play. It kind of inspired the entire team.”
And it was the imposing offensive play from Kellum and right-side hitter Holly Carlton that helped UF lead the whole way in the third set and complete the sweep. Carlton iced the game in the set with three kills in a 6-0 run that put it out of reach for the Tigers.
Carlton, Kellum and middle blocker Rachael Kramer each had 12 kills on the match.
“I loved seeing the energy from the team tonight,” Carlton said. “At the beginning of this week, we kind of took a step all the way back to preseason and talked about our team culture and how we react to winning points. I thought we did a good job of that late in this match.”
Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter at @dyrudolph and contact him at email@example.com.
Senior middle blocker Taelor Kellum registered 12 kills in Florida's three-set win over LSU Friday night.