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Friday, April 16, 2021

Gators return to action against Tennessee

Florida will look to build on its five-match winning streak in Knoxville

<p>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.</p>

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.

After their last set of matches against Mississippi State was postponed, the Florida volleyball team will return to action on Thursday and Friday against the Volunteers in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The Gators are 10-2 on the year and have won five straight matches —their last loss came in November against Georgia. 

Florida’s strong start to the spring has been led by T’ara Ceasar. The junior from Panama City, Florida, is fourth in the SEC in kills per set (4.05) and fifth in the conference in points per set (4.66). She won SEC offensive player of the week on Feb. 15 for her performances against LSU, totaling 34 kills over the seven sets played.

Florida’s win against LSU bumped it up to No. 8 in the AVCA poll. The team ranks 20th nationally in hitting percentage (.278). The Gators are also within the top 50  for assists per set (12.83, 39th), blocks per set (2.60, 33rd) and opponent hitting percentage (.154, 47th). In fact, Florida has led the SEC in blocks per set each of the last three seasons and are currently in first again.

Lauren Dooley has led the charge for an elite Gator defense. . The junior leads the SEC in blocks per set with 1.38. 

The Volunteers currently have a record of 6-4. The Gators historically own this series, leading Tennessee 51-13.

However, this Volunteers team should not be taken lightly. They average more digs per set (15.9) than the Gators (14.1) and have nearly the exact same amount of kills per set (13.5 for Florida, 13.4 for Tennessee.) 

UT has won each of its last four matches, beating Auburn and Missouri.. The Volunteers are led offensively by Lily Felts. The junior is averaging 3.59 kills per set and 3.05 digs per set, leading the team in both categories. 

Junior Ava Bell leads the Tennessee defense. The Austin, Texas, native averages a block per set and has totaled 30 blocks this season. She is also third on the team in points with 101, trailing Felts and junior Danielle Mahaffey.

First serve on Thursday is expected to be at 2 p.m. and will be shown on  SEC Network+.  Friday’s match will start at 1 p.m. and will be broadcasted on SEC Network. 

Contact Michael Hull at mhull@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @Michael_Hull33

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