ORLANDO, Fla. — Sophomore outside hitter Paige Hammons stood at the ready on match point Friday night. She waited on a serve from Florida Gulf Coast’s side of the court.
Hammons took a slight step to her left as the ball came flying toward her arms. She made a perfect platform by bringing her forearms together and watched the ball arc just behind the 10-foot line.
Allie Monserez hustled into position and bump-passed the ball back to the left-side pin.
Hammons was ready for another swing.
The ball made contact with the gold and black plastic tiles at the end line and secured Florida’s three-set sweep over the Eagles Friday night at the CFE Arena (25-17, 25-13, 25-17).
Hammons was the kills leader on the night, scoring 14 points off of kills down the line, cross-court hits and tips right behind the block.
But none of that would have been possible without the defensive effort made by junior libero Allie Gregory, who led the Gators (26-6) in digs out of the back row (16).
“(Gregory’s) just been so steady for us,” coach Mary Wise said.
Right-side attacker Holy Carlton finished second on the team in kills with nine on 20 swings and zero errors. The sophomore also tied senior middle blocker Taelor Kellum in blocks (5).
“We had to play well to beat them and we did,” Wise said. “That was a match that some outside the volleyball community that won’t have any understanding of just how good that Florida Gulf Coast team is.”
The Gators got off to a rough start and trailed 7-3 to the Eagles (27-7) in the first set.
Back-to-back service errors into the net put Florida in a bit of a rut followed by some kills from the Eagles side of the court.
Florida battled back to take control of the set by finding the open court and forcing Florida Gulf Coast to take a time out as the Gators led 8-7.
The rest of the set fell in Florida’s favor as the team took advantage of different roll shots and finding the empty tiles.
“It’s us trying to find ways to tip off our body line and shots we’ve been working on all season,” Kramer said. “Just us trying to take them out of the tool box and use them now in the tournament that we’ll need to go deep no matter who we’re playing.”
Florida took the second set with ease, mostly off of the Eagles’ attacking errors (7) throughout the set.
The highlight of the set came at the very end as Hammons took a swing on the left-side. The outside hitter twisted her wrist counterclockwise and into the court, sending the ball toward the left side.
The sphere rolled across the tape on the top of the net and landed in the sweet spot, just inside the sideline.
The third set was similar to the first with lots of back and forth, but Florida won out in the end on offensive efforts.
“I think the team has really found its identity in understanding about playing freely and playing as the underdog,” Wise said. “And we’ll definitely be the underdog wherever we go next weekend.”
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The UF volleyball team celebrates its sweep of FGCU (25-17, 25-13, 25-17) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament with some fans and the Florida band.