Darrielle King stood at the net with her knees bent and arms down by her sides. The middle blocker stared fiercely through the net toward her opponents as the ball crossed the net’s plane from her own baseline.
The ball was in UCF’s hands. A pass followed by a set gave the Knights a good setup for a kill.
But UCF was sorely disappointed when King put up a brick wall at the net with her block, forcing the blue and grey sphere to bounce off her hands and fall to the court before UCF could get it back up into play.
She helped the Gators make a comeback halfway through the third set on her debut in Florida’s five-set exhibition match against the Knights Saturday afternoon in the O’Connell Center, helping her team to a four-set win over the in-state rival.
King didn’t get a whole lot of playing time last season, normally standing on the sidelines as fellow middle blockers Rachael Kramer and now-graduated Taelor Kellum filled in the holes for Florida’s offense.
But that was a different time, and now it’s King’s time for the spotlight as she enters her senior season.
Coach Mary Wise said she had paid her dues and improved greatly over the spring and pre-season training. It helped her earn a starting position in the Gators’ lineup Saturday afternoon.
King finished off the match with five kills off of 12 attacks and five blocks, the second-highest mark on the team. She wasn’t necessarily a leader on the stat chart for the Gators, but still gave a strong performance in her first start since 2016. King also succeeded in finishing the match without an attack error, a huge feat for a middle blocker.
Florida started off the match in strong fashion, taking the first two sets with ease 25-16 and 25-17. But the third didn’t see the same Gators team as subs started rolling in, and Florida dropped the set 20-25.
UF kept things tight with UCF in Set 4 as the two teams stayed within reach of each other. It wasn’t until redshirt junior Holly Carlton took the service line that the team really revved things up with back-to-back aces. Florida took the set 25-21, stealing the match.
The fifth set left little doubt about the capabilities of this Gators squad as the team took a commanding lead in the final frame, winning 15-7.
The libero jersey was passed around between Allie Gregory, Paula Cerame and Riley Fischer before it made its way back to Gregory for the fourth set. Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Dooley and senior outside hitter Morgyn Greer also made their way onto the court for a pair of frames while pin hitters Mia Sokolowski and Haley Warner stuck around for a few rallies in the third set.
Marlie Monserez showed what this Gators offense can do with a 5-1 offense, pushing her back to the front row every three rotations. Her 6-foot frame puts up some hands at the net for the block against the opposing outside hitter. Anaya Martin also made her Gators debut in the fifth set after Wise decided to let her run the offense in the final frame.
Paige Hammons and Thayer Hall were among the mainstays with Rachael Kramer, playing in every set and dominating the leaderboards in typical fashion.
Wise couldn’t have had too many complaints about with the four-set win on Saturday. It gave a good glimpse at what her team has in store for the rest of the season.
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Middle blocker Darrielle King registered five kills and five blocks in Florida's exhibition victory over UCF.