Florida volleyball ended its match against in-state rival Florida State Wednesday night with 22 total attack errors, almost half the amount of kills recorded, along with 14 service errors.
That contributed to the Gators volleyball team’s (4-4) crumbling at the hands of the Seminoles (7-2), 3-1 (24-26, 25-15, 25-19, 25-20). This is the Gators’ third consecutive loss.
The Seminoles paid tribute to former FSU middle blocker Brianna Barry, who died in June of 2021, before the match. Fans crowding Tully Gym raised donuts high to toast her legacy, highlighting her love for finding local donut shops wherever she traveled. Her No. 5 jersey was retired, and the Barry family was presented with Brianna’s framed jersey and a medallion to commemorate her induction into the Florida State Athletics Hall of Fame.
No team led by more than two in a back-and-forth opening set until a block by Seminoles’ middle blocker Khori Louis gave Florida State a three-point lead at 20-17. The teams exchanged three points apiece, with two kills from Gators outside hitter T’ara Ceasar and one from outside hitter Sofia Victoria, but the Gators still trailed by three as set point neared.
Head coach Mary Wise called a timeout at 23-20 in a last effort to reset her team’s offense. Two consecutive Seminoles attack errors led them to call a timeout, but the Gators were already on an offensive roll. On their four-point run to victory, Victoria recorded three kills to secure the Gators first set, 26-24.
The rivals teetered the score for the first half of the second set, no team leading by more than one. Florida State’s offense awoke after a service error by Florida senior setter Marlie Monserez at 9-9. The Seminoles went on a crushing eight-point run to steal the lead 16-9, four points tallied due to Florida errors.
The Gators continued to unsuccessfully pass or communicate with one another on the court. Despite kills from freshmen Gabbi Essix (2) and Merritt Beason (1), the Seminoles prevailed to a 25-15 second-set win.
The Seminoles didn’t lift their feet off the gas in the third. Florida State divvied out five straight points with two kills from outside hitter Morgan Chacon and a Louis kill. A Ceasar kill got the Gators on the board, but the Seminoles never let the Gators within arms reach.
FSU middle blocker Skye Ekes sealed the third set for the Seminoles 25-19, a match win now in sight.
The Gators generated the early momentum in the fourth set with their backs to the wall. An early run highlighted by two service aces from sophomore libero Elli McKissock and a trio of Victoria kills gave Florida a 7-3 lead.
However, the Gators couldn’t contain the Seminoles’ synergy for long. Florida State exploded for nine of the next 13 points and stole the lead with a Chacon kill, now up 12-11. The Seminoles pushed their lead to three at the media timeout, now 15-12 and on the verge of victory.
Florida scrambled offensively. The Gators closed within one at 16-15 via two more Victoria kills, but Florida State never wavered. Its 6-2 run forced a Florida timeout at 22-17, and the Gators offense failed to recover. Chacon’s kill raised Seminole fans from their seats as Florida State took the fourth set 25-20 and the match victory.
Victoria was the breath of fresh air the Gators offense needed. The sophomore led with nine of the team's 16 overall kills in the opening set, and she tallied 24 of Florida’s 55 kills by the end of the match. She ended the night with a .241 hitting percentage.
The Gators are back in the O’Connell Center this weekend in back-to-back matches against Coastal Carolina starting Saturday at noon.
Contact Kaitlyn Wadulack at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @kwadulack.