There was a lot of celebrating in the O’Connell Center Friday night as Florida’s volleyball team secured a sweep over the South Carolina Gamecocks to finish off the regular season.
The No. 13 Gators defeated the unranked Gamecocks (19-9, 10-8 SEC) in three straight sets with scores of 25-21, 25-22 and 25-16.
Here are five moments Florida (24-6, 15-3 SEC) celebrated on the night:
1. Senior night
Before Friday’s matchup, Florida honored its own seniors as well as South Carolina’s for the program’s annual senior night, determined by the last home match of the regular season.
Seniors Allie Monserez and Taelor Kellum left their imprint on the court with standout performances.
Monserez racked-up 26 assists and two service aces. Kellum tallied eight kills on 15 swings, tied for the second-highest on the team with Rachael Kramer and Holly Carlton. Kellum also logged a couple of digs and three blocks.
The Gators volleyball program will certainly depend on this duo’s leadership heading into the NCAA Tournament next month, assuming the program is offered a spot in the tournament which it will find out in Sunday’s selection show.
2. Return of Thayer Hall
You could see a look of relief on the faces of every Florida player at the sight of outside hitter Thayer Hall’s return to the starting lineup in Friday’s matchup.
The freshman hasn’t seen the court since Oct. 21 when the Gators played Missouri.
Hall tallied six kills and two errors on 14 swings with a couple of digs.
She split time in the back half of the court with freshman defensive specialist Paula Cerame, who logged six digs on the night.
Hall’s return, however, shouldn’t be taken too far out of context. The young freshman is still working her way back to 100 percent and it’s a high possibility she won’t make that mark before the start of the NCAA tournament.
3. Florida first-set win-streak kept perfectly intact
Right-side attacker Holly Carlton helped secure Florida’s perfect record when taking the first set. UF is 19-0 this season when it wins the opening frame.
This particular statistic is certainly a highlight after losing four All-Americans at the end of last season.
4. Holly Carlton finished off the first and third sets with a kills
Holly Carlton is a special player, and frankly, a great catch for Florida’s program.
The sophomore UNC transfer finished out the night logging the last point in the first and third set of Wednesday’s matchup, which helped her tally eight kills total.
Carlton had to step into multiple roles on the Gators squad this season. Originally, coach Mary Wise planned to use her talents on a more offensive front, but as the season continued and needs arose, Carlton utilized her skills as a setter, too.
During Hall’s absence, Carlton was used more as a setter, which helped her tally 22 assists on the season. Offensively, she logged 2.43 kills/set and 275 kills overall, the most on the roster.
Carlton’s first season as a Gator gives a lot to look forward to in the upcoming years for this program.
5. Hammons logged highest kill count on the leaderboard
Like Carlton, sophomore Paige Hammons had to improve her game during Hall’s absence. Everyone on the Gators squad had to step things up. But as a veteran starter and outside hitter, the pressure can seem a little heavier.
It’s these kinds of obstacles that helped Hammons grow into the leader.
She logged 13 kills against the Gamecocks, the highest of both rosters. She tied South Carolina’s Brittany McLean in total attacks (34) and led all players in points overall at 15.5.
Hammons is a leader on the court and it’s this type of leadership that could take this team past the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sophomore outside hitter Paige Hammons led both the Florida and South Carolina rosters in kills (13) and total attacks (34) on Friday.