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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

No. 10 Gators success from service line swept Ole Miss

Florida moves to 8-2 overall on the season

<p>The Gators celebrate a successful play at home against Texas A&amp;M last year. This season, Florida extended its winning streak to eight games after defeating Arkansas Friday.</p>

The Gators celebrate a successful play at home against Texas A&M last year. This season, Florida extended its winning streak to eight games after defeating Arkansas Friday.

Lefties are rare. Outside hitter Holly Carlton is a part of that 12%. 

It gives her a distinct advantage on the volleyball court. She rises to meet the white-and-blue-striped volleyball shortly after it reaches its peak. The senior then swings her left arm, spiking the ball into the ground that sends ripples through the gymnasium.

Her swings are difficult to defend because many aren’t used to facing a left-handed attacker who stands 6 feet, 7 inches tall.

The lefty recorded six kills and two aces for a .385 hitting percentage, lifting No. 10 Florida to a sweep against the Rebels 3-0 (25-16, 25-16, 25-19). 

Florida proved that it was ready for Ole Miss’s battle in the first set after narrowly taking the first set Friday 25-20.

Coach Mary Wise called outside hitter Thayer Hall’s name early and often on offense, and she finished with four kills on seven swings in the first set. 

She helped Florida outscore the Rebels 14-7 at the start, forcing them to call a timeout. It increased the Gators’ lead some more after a 6-2 run. After another Ole Miss timeout, the team dented Florida’s lead to 24-16 before the orange and blue clinched set point on a service error from the Rebels. 

The Gators have also taken a more aggressive approach from the service line in their opening two spring play matches. They racked up six aces, besting their total amount from Friday in the first set. Being aggressive from the service line is also a double-edged sword because it leads to more errors. They tallied three service errors in their first set and 10 total for the first match. 

Ole Miss threw punches back in the second set after being pummeled in the first, losing 25-16. The second set mimicked the beginning of the first set where Florida claimed an early 8-3 lead. But the Rebels didn’t let their foe get too far out in front. They trimmed Florida’s lead to 15-12, heading into the media timeout. 

The Gators initiated another dominant 7-2 run after the media timeout concluded, carrying them within striking distance of taking the second set 22-14. UF and Ole Miss split the last six points before Florida secured the second-set victory 25-16. 

The third set was much closer than the previous two sets. Florida took the 5-1 lead at the onset of the third frame. Ole Miss rallied back, knotting the score 5-5 through two aces from Samantha Schnitta. The Gators then outscored the Rebels 10-6 into the media break, leading 15-11.

They extended their lead after the break to six at 23-17. After two more Ole Miss scores, kills from middle blocker Lauren Forte and Carlton clinched the third set and the match 25-19. 

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The Gators’ other fearsome outside hitter, T’ara Ceasar, couldn’t keep the ball inbounds Saturday despite leading the team in kills. She finished with 11 kills and two aces for a subpar .103 hitting percentage compared to her blistering .348 Friday. 

But middle blocker Lauren Forte, Hall and Carlton came in clutch. The trio combined for 19 kills and only four attack errors. 

Setter Marlie Monserez helped her team achieve a .357 hitting percentage almost a hundred percentage points better than their .261 average. She also recorded 28 assists. 

Wise’s squad also added a season-high 14 aces to go with five errors from the service line, almost tripling their next highest total. 

“Much of this match was determined behind the service line,” Wise said in a release. “Our serves gave us lots of opportunities to score.”

Defensively, the Gators only recorded four blocks as the Rebels gifted them 16 points through attack errors. 

Florida will return home next weekend for its first ranked matchup of the season against No. 17 Missouri. 

Contact Zachary Huber at and follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber

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