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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Florida suffers first loss of the season to No. 21 Stanford

The Gators lost to the Cardinal after four close sets and several leads

<p>The Florida volleyball team huddles in a game against LSU in 2019. Florida fell to Stanford Tuesday night 3-1. </p>

The Florida volleyball team huddles in a game against LSU in 2019. Florida fell to Stanford Tuesday night 3-1.

Florida came up two sets short in Tuesday night's match against Stanford. The Gators fell to the Cardinal 3-1 (26-24, 25-18, 17-25, 25-23) at the Maples Pavilion to close their California road trip. 

The first set jumped out to a tight start. The Gators took the first point after an attack error from Cardinal opposite hitter Kenall Kipp, but Stanford quickly got on the board after a sophomore setter Birdie Hendrickson service error. 

Points continued to move back and forth in seesaw-like fashion with each team trading control of the set. The tide turned in the Gators favor after a block assist from senior outside hitter Thayer Hall, senior setter Marlie Monserez and redshirt senior middle blocker Lauren Forte made it 8-7. 

Florida kept the lead until late in the set, when Stanford tied it up at 22 apiece after a block assist from its freshman setter Kami Miner and redshirt sophomore middle blocker McKenna Vicini. The Gators held set point advantage at 24-23, but couldn’t capitalize as the Cardinal scored three straight points to steal the set 26-24.

Stanford swept the floor with Florida in the second set. The Cardinal wasted no time and took the early lead after a four-point run to make it 6-1. The Gators made a slow climb to close the scoring gap with a senior middle blocker Lauren Dooley kill, a Hall ace, a Dooley and senior outside hitter T’ara Ceasar block assist and a Ceasar kill to bring the score 18-12. 

Despite Florida’s best efforts for a resurgence, Stanford shut down the set 25-18 with Kipp kill. 

A switch was turned on in the Gators offense at the start of the third. Dooley snatched the set's first point with a kill, and her teammates followed up with five consecutive points to lead 6-1 before Stanford took its first timeout. 

Out of the break, however, the Cardinal’s offense did a complete 180-degree turn and shot back with four straight kills to make it 9-8. The Gators offense then erupted with three Hall kills and a Monserez ace to regain the lead, 14-11. The Gators concluded the third set with an outstanding 0.522 hitting percentage led by Hall’s five kills. 

A Stanford timeout couldn’t reset the Gators momentum, and Florida’s offense accelerated to a 25-17 third-set victory to keep their hopes alive. 

The fourth set started just exactly like the previous one. Florida kept the pressure on the Cardinal right off the first serve with an ace from Monserez, a block by Dooley, an attack error by Stanford redshirt sophomore Caitie Baird and a kill from freshman outside hitter Merritt Beason to jump ahead 4-0.

Florida’s lead quickly dissipated, however, after Stanford ripped off a 7-1 run to reclaim the set 15-13. The battle resumed, each team seesawing with the lead. Stakes and tensions were high after Stanford called a late timeout with a one point 23-22. Beason tried to edge out the Cardinal with a kill at its set point, but a kill by Stanford’s senior middle blocker Holly Campbell shut down the Gators shot at a comeback. Stanford edged out Florida, 25-23, to win the match 3-1. 

The Gators ended the match with a 0.250 hitting percentage, 53 kills, 20 attack errors and eight service errors. Ceasar led the Gators with 13 kills, followed closely behind by Beason’s 12 and Hall at 11. Stanford finished with a 0.254 hitting percentage, 57 kills, 21 attack errors and 11 service errors.  

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The Gators head back to the East Coast for its home opener Sunday against No. 10 Minnesota. 

Contact Kaitlyn Wadulack at kwadulack@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter at @kwadulack.

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