Redshirt junior T’ara Ceasar waited two years to knock off her former squad.
After being named first team All-SEC in 2017, Ceasar decided to transfer from Georgia to its rival school, Florida.
On Saturday evening, before an energetic crowd at the O’Connell Center, the UGA transfer finally got her satisfaction.
Ceasar led Florida with 18 kills, and UF ended its two match losing streak with a 3-1 win over Georgia to conclude its fall season. The Gators finished the campaign with a 6-2 record, including a 3-1 mark in Gainesville.
“There have been a lot of emotions this weekend for T’ara,” junior Lauren Dooley said. “The first night wasn’t great for her, so I was impressed with her turnaround tonight.”
After falling to the Bulldogs on Friday night, Florida’s performance early in the first set felt like a Gainesville summer day — which is to say, hot. It burst out to a 19-15 lead.
But just like the night before, UF allowed UGA to get back in it. Georgia tied it up at 19, and the two teams traded the lead six times before the Gators prevailed with a 26-24 set win.
Florida hit an impressive 0.439 in the first frame but committed three service errors, which kept the Bulldogs in the competition.
No such mistakes were made in the second set. After Georgia came out strong with a 13-7 lead, UF won 13 of the next 15 points to go up 20-15. Junior Marlie Monserez put the set away with a kill and gave Florida a 25-19 victory.
Florida’s defense was the one turning heads in the frame, holding the Bulldogs to a 0.091 hitting percentage.
UF entered the third set looking to pick its sixth sweep of the season. The tide drastically turned in the third set, though, as there was no such Gators comeback. The Bulldogs got an early lead and never gave it away: Instead, they grew it. Georgia held Florida to a hitting percentage of 0.031, one of its worst marks of the season. In turn, UGA hit 0.321 and rolled to a 25-13 win.
The Gators had nearly as many errors as they did kills in the set – seven kills to six errors.
“We just lost our offensive rhythm,” Mary Wise said. “Georgia was putting pressure after the first serve, and we had to swing.”
The fourth set got off to a similar start to the two before it, with UGA taking an early 7-5 advantage. However, UF bounced back with a 9-2 run to take the lead at 14-9.
The Bulldogs followed that with a run of their own, regaining a 17-16 edge. That’s when Ceasar and Thayer Hall took over. Ceasar racked up two service aces in a row, and Hall got two consecutive kills.
Florida was up 24-19 and could smell victory, but the Dawgs put up one last punch and cut the deficit to 24-23.
After an unsuccessful Florida challenge, Hall delivered her last haymaker and knocked out the Bulldogs to get a fourth set dub, 25-23.
“We were really struggling to find kills,” Wise said. “We had to dig down deep, and T’ara was great and we did just that.”
The Gators will return in a couple months with a unique spring campaign. Their schedule has yet to be announced, though.
Contact Noah Ram at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Noah_ram1.
Outside hitter T'ara Ceasar during the Gators' match against the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday, November 20, 2020 at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.
Noah is a third year journalism-sports and media student from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He has been with The Alligator since Spring 2019 and has covered men’s and women’s tennis, gymnastics and volleyball. When he isn’t on his beat, Noah is usually sadden over his beloved South Florida sports teams, such as the Heat and Dolphins.