With the 2021 season barely underway, the Gators volleyball team already found some history to celebrate.
Head coach Mary Wise eclipsed another monumental milestone after the first of two matches Aug. 28. Wise tallied her 900th win at Florida following a straight-sets victory over UC Davis. That total increased just a few hours later when the Gators defeated Sacramento State, once again in straight sets. Wise now sits at 901 wins at Florida and 982 total career victories.
Her historic victories concluded a 3-0 start to the season following the Hornet Invitational which featured victories in nine consecutive sets.
The day began with the Gators facing off against UC Davis for the first time in program history. Florida took the early lead after a kill from freshman outside hitter Merritt Beason before senior outside hitter Thayer Hall’s ace. Hall had the hot hand in the first set with six kills, followed by senior middle blocker Lauren Dooley with four.
The Gators and the Aggies exchanged blows throughout the entire set until the final stretch. Florida netted four straight points to grab the first set, 25-21.
The second set started rough for both squads. Each team acquiesced easy points due to service errors. Florida took control after back-to-back kills from redshirt senior middle blocker Lauren Forte and senior setter Marlie Monserez made it 8-5. The Aggies unraveled afterward as the Gators snagged seven straight points to dominate the second set, 25-11.
UC Davis jumped out to an early 7-3 lead in the final frame. The Gators reclaimed the lead after a run capped off by a service error from Aggies sophomore Lana Radakovic made it 13-12. A pair of blocks from Beason and Forte, a bad set from UC Davis’ Jane Seslar, a redshirt senior outside hitter T’ara Ceasar kill and an ace from sophomore libero Elli McKissock extended Florida’s advantage to 18-12. A Hall kill prevented any chance the Aggies had for a comeback and ended the third set 25-18, leaving Wise to bask in the glow of her historic triumph.
Florida racked up 44 kills during the match led by Hall and Beason, who had 11 and nine, respectively. Monserez was responsible for 29 of the Gators’ 37 assists, and she amassed eight more assists herself than all of the Aggies combined. Forte led the Gators defensively and stuffed 10 UC Davis swings.
Once the celebrations settled, Florida took the court again to end the Hornet Invitational, this time taking on Sacramento State
The Gators got hot quickly in the first set, putting up six straight points before the Hornets could finally break through on the scoreboard. Florida already extended its lead to 16-7 by the time Sacramento State head coach Ruben Volta called his second timeout of the set. The Gators took the opening set 25-14, highlighted by Forte’s three kills and perfect hitting percentage.
The second set was much tighter than the first. The Hornets evened the score multiple times, but Florida never trailed. After leading by two, the Gators took control of the set with a 9-3 scoring run. A Monserez kill, her third of the set, gave Florida a 25-17 victory.
Outside hitter Ellie Tisko earned Sacramento State its first lead of the match when she landed the opening kill of the third set. The two teams kept pace with one another through most of the set. A Hall attack error gave the Hornets a 14-13 advantage and led to a Wise timeout.
Right out of that timeout, Hall responded with her seventh and eighth kills of the game on consecutive points. With the score knotted at 19, the Gators rattled off five straight points to reach match point. A Hornets service error ended the set and match.
Ceasar led Florida with 12 kills and Monserez impressed by surpassing her 29 assists from earlier in the day with 32 against Sacramento State.
These games served as a tune-up for the Gators ahead of their next match Aug. 31 against No. 21 Stanford. The meeting with the Cardinal will wrap up Florida’s season-opening West Coast trip.
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