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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Florida looks to the service line against LSU

Florida recorded a season-high 14 aces in its second match against Ole Miss

<p>UF redshirt senior Holly Carlton highlighted her team’s focus on controlling serves.</p>

UF redshirt senior Holly Carlton highlighted her team’s focus on controlling serves.

Florida highlighted serving as a weakness.

The Gators focused their efforts on controlling serves and locating seams in the defense when they put the ball in play, redshirt senior Holly Carlton said. 

But it's a tightrope Florida has to balance. If players are too aggressive, it could be the match’s turning point. 

The key, Carlton said, is for players to understand their role when they step back to the service line.

“We have some servers who are traditionally a little bit more conservative, and we defend at a higher level on those rotations,” she said. “And then some servers who are given the green light to really try to point score a little bit more.”

It’s obvious the Gators’ efforts have paid dividends as they racked up 19 aces in a sweep versus Ole Miss Jan. 29-30. 

No. 9 Florida (8-2) will need a similar effort in its double-header against LSU Wednesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. in the O’Connell Center. 

When the SEC schedule came hot off the press Dec. 21, UF wasn’t supposed to have a week and a half off after its matches against the Rebels. But Feb. 6-7 matches against No. 17 Missouri were postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test and contact tracing within Florida’s program. It’s unknown if and when these matches will be rescheduled. 

Scouting the Tigers

LSU heads into this midweek series sporting a 3-5 record in an all-SEC schedule. Four out of its five losses were to top-20 teams. The Tigers were swept by No. 8 Texas A&M in their opening fall double-header. Then in their last series, they went toe-to-toe with Missouri and fell in five sets in each match. 

Coach Mary Wise needs to be prepared for senior Taylor Bannister, LSU’s top attacker who records 4.35 kills per set with a hitting percentage of .235. 

The Tigers also have a strong ability to keep rallies alive and rank in the top 100 in digs per set. 

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However, the Gators can exploit their defense. They allow a lackluster .215 hitting percentage, good enough for 156th in the nation . 

Keys for Florida

Wise and her team has been stout on both sides of the net through 10 matches. They boast a top 100 ranking in every major category but one — digs. 

The Gators are slotted at a pitiful 178th out of 250 teams in the country.

Florida has skated by defensively because of its menacing blocking attack led by junior Lauren Dooley and freshman Nnedi Okammor. The tandem in front of the net averages 1.41 and 1.17 blocks per set, respectively. 

The duo guided their team to a ranking of 28th in blocks per set.

Florida possesses a three-headed monster in Carlton, junior Thayer Hall and redshirt junior T’ara Ceasar. The trio have combined for almost 10 kills per set. 

Carlton, a former Tarheel, holds the lowest average among them but tallies the highest hitting percentage at .341. 

LSU and Florida’s first serve is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the O’Dome and can be streamed on SEC Network+. 

Contact Zachary Huber at and follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber

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