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Monday, January 30, 2023
<div class="ellip">Darrielle King.</div>
Darrielle King.

The Gators approached the Honda of Gainesville Gators Invitational hoping to right the ship after getting swept in their two previous. They did so convincingly in Friday’s doubleheader, where they only dropped one set of seven against USF and James Madison. UF (4-2) will finish the invitational on Saturday with a match against Long Beach State (3-5) at 5 p.m.  

Here’s how Friday’s action happened: 

Gators tame Bulls but lose Kramer

The Gators started out looking like the team that hadn’t won a set in over a week. The Bulls (3-4) came out hot and led by as much as four points in the first set. 

It wasn’t until about halfway through the first frame that the Gators started to hit their stride. Trailing 11-8, UF redshirt junior Holly Carlton’s kill set the stage for a 6-1 run that put them in the lead for the first time since the third point of the set. 

From there, Florida stayed in control as it mostly maintained a three-to-four point lead for the remainder of the set. Sophomore Thayer Hall smashed a kill to end the set with a 25-22 victory. Overall, Florida was on its game offensively, hitting .343 in the first set.

The second set began much like the first set, with USF taking an early 7-4 lead. However, the Gators then started a 5-0 run that was assisted by three Bulls’ errors. USF responded with a 4-0 run of its own after Florida took a 10-8 lead. With the score 12-10 in favor of USF, the Gators registered nine of the next 10 points to take a commanding 19-13 lead. 

UF led 24-16 before allowing USF to take the next four points. The Gators shut the door on the following rally to take the set. 

Senior middle blocker Rachael Kramer left the match toward the end of the second set and didn’t return, though she was spotted on the sidelines still in uniform with her teammates. 

Without their senior leader, the Gators fell apart in the third set, losing 25-19 in a set that wasn’t even as close the scoreboard suggested. Florida struggled to pick apart USF’s defense like it did in the prior two sets and missed Kramer’s presence defensively. 

UF came back out for the fourth set firing. The Gators tallied 10 of the set’s first 15 points and set the tone for the rest of the match. Florida dominated USF from start to finish en route to a 25-13 win in the final frame to take the match (25-22, 25-20, 19-25, 25-13). 

Florida sweeps Dukes

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The Gators had no problem with James Madison, even without Kramer. Florida was in control throughout the match in a 25-19, 25-11, 25-17 sweep of the Dukes. 

JMU hung with the Gators for much of the first set, but after holding a 7-6 lead, couldn’t get within two points for the remainder of the frame. 

UF scored four consecutive points to take the set and then carried that momentum into the next set. 

Florida was an offensive dynamo in the second, taking 13 of the first 17 points. From that point on, it was a comfortable set victory. The Gators had a sterling hit percentage of .455 and stifled the Dukes’ attack (.071). 

The third set was much like the second one. The Gators had control for most of the set, but JMU was never out of it. The Dukes took a brief lead in the second half of the set, but Florida pulled away late to complete the sweep.

Sophomore Lauren Dooley filled in nicely for Kramer alongside redshirt junior Darrielle King at middle blocker. The two combined for seven blocks and seven kills against JMU. UF didn’t seem to miss a beat defensively, as it held JMU to a .08 hitting percentage. It also helped that JMU only had eight more kills (28) as it had attack errors (20).

“We love Rachael, Rachael’s a huge impact on our team, and not having her on the court is a totally different effect,” Hall said. “But having Lauren Dooley and Darrielle (King) being able to step into those roles and play their game, obviously their game brings so much more in such a different aspect that it obviously didn’t make a difference in the end.”

Follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter @Bfarrell727. Contact him at bfarrell@alligator.org.

Darrielle King.
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