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Saturday, January 28, 2023
Thayer Hall
Thayer Hall

Sophomore Thayer Hall started from the back row, took a few steps, jumped and fired. 

She powered the ball through the Alabama block and into hardwood below. 

It was a familiar script for the Gators and for Hall especially on Friday night. 

The Gators swept the Crimson Tide 25-18, 25-16, 25-16, thanks to a nearly unstoppable attack that hit .391 on the night for Florida’s third-highest hitting percentage of the season.

Hall led the team with 15 kills and didn’t commit a single attack error on 31 swings.

“Thayer couldn’t swing 31 balls without an error in practice a year ago,” Wise said. “Her repertoire is much bigger, she’s killing balls, her cone is much wider.”

The win also moved the Gators into first place in the SEC standings. 

Neither defense could stop a nosebleed in the first set. The Gators (16-3, 7-1 SEC) converted on over half of their attacks and only committed three attack errors. Meanwhile, Alabama (11-8, 3-5 SEC) hit .286 in the set and still found itself trailing by as much as eight. 

With Florida trailing 5-3, Alabama libero Katie Shook’s serve hit the net, handing Florida the point with outside hitter Paige Hammons on the service line. Hammons scored two service aces during a 6-0 Florida run to put UF ahead 9-5. 

The Gators took control after that to claim the set. 

Serving was a big part of Florida’s success offensively against the Crimson Tide. The Gators registered seven aces in the match, including four from Hammons. 

“The serving was very effective for us just in terms of being able to keep Alabama out of system,” Wise said.

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Four of the team’s service aces came in a second set where the Gators dominated from start to finish. Already leading 7-4, Florida went on a 5-1 run that effectively put the frame out of reach for Alabama. UF led by as much as nine in the set en route to a 25-16 win. 

After two sets where Alabama hit over .286 and .310, Florida’s defense finally responded in the third set. The Gators suffocated the Crimson Tide, who hit .091 and committed seven attack errors in the frame. 

Alabama kept things close in the early goings of the third frame, but Florida pulled away to take a commanding 12-6 lead after a 6-1 run. The Gators’ biggest lead was 11, and a run from Alabama late in the set made the final score seem closer than it really was. 

It’s a short turnaround for Florida, as the team plays Tennessee on Sunday afternoon.

“I’m glad that it’s a home-and-home weekend,” libero Allie Gregory said. “We’re going to come into practice tomorrow and really lock into preparing for them and give it our best because we’re going for an SEC championship this year.”

 

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