T’ara Ceasar sent shockwaves through the O’Connell Center, firing a match-clinching kill to vault Florida over Arkansas. The victory brings the Gators’ winning streak to eight games.
Thayer Hall led the way for Florida. The junior tallied 16 kills across three sets and had a hitting percentage of .667. As a team, the Gators notched 44 kills, 46 digs and a hitting percentage of .364.
“That was work she (Hall) put in starting Monday,” head coach Mary Wise said. “It was some tweaks that Dave [Boos, associate coach] had recommended that would help her. And Thayer embraced it… and it does your heart well when you see it paid off.”
Hall didn’t accept any glory after the match and instead gave the credit to her teammates.
“I’ve definitely had a slower start to the spring so it felt good to get back on my feet tonight,” Hall said. “I’m just going to run and end up hitting the ball, but thanks to Elli McKissock’s platform I can do what I can do.”
Florida took control of the match from the opening setand won set one 25-16. They could’ve shut down University Ave. with the block party they were having in the opening set, racking up seven. The Gators had a hitting percentage of .385 compared to just .059 for the Razorbacks, as well as 13 kills to Arkansas’ 10.
The second set began much like the first set ended, with the Gators in the lead. Florida jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, but the Razorbacks weren’t going away that easily. They battled back to take an 8-5 lead. Momentum bounced back and forth like a pinball throughout the set with neither team able to fully seize control.
The Razorbacks looked to be pulling away at one point, going on a 3-0 run to take a 15-12 lead. However, Florida wouldn’t go down, fighting its way back into things to the tune of a 4-0 run. The teams continued to trade blows, and the score was tied at 19 deep into the set. The Gators mustered up one final run to ice things, winning six straight points to take the set 25-19.
Florida entered the third set looking to finish its sixth sweep in seven matches. The Razorbacks weren’t going down without a fight though. The two teams swapped punches early on, and the set was tied at 11. Arkansas clawed its way to a 15-12 lead before the Gators settled down with a timeout.
The timeout worked wonders as Florida rattled off three straight points to tie the set at 15. Then, T’ara Ceasar came alive. The junior added two kills and an ace by herself to give Florida a 19-17 advantage. That was enough room for the Gators to attack, and they did, winning the final set 25-21 off a Ceasar kill.
The win notches the Gators’ sixth sweep in the last seven matches, and the squad seems to be firing on all cylinders as the season enters its home stretch. However, head coach Mary Wise continues to take things one game game at a time.
“I think with each team we’ve played, it's another challenge,” Wise said. “We’re not really looking for the top end. We’re looking to be a better version of ourselves from the last time out. That has been what we’ve embraced.”
Florida will look to add another win to its streak on Saturday as it again hosts the Arkansas Razorbacks at 6 p.m.
Contact Michael Hull at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Michael_Hull33