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Friday, June 14, 2024

No. 17 Baylor snags the first of back-to-back meetings against No. 7 Florida

The Gators look to bounce back Saturday night after four-set loss to Bears

<p>Florida&#x27;s Thayer Hall spikes a ball against LSU in 2019. Hall recorded 13 kills in a 3-1 loss to No. 17 Baylor Friday night.</p>

Florida's Thayer Hall spikes a ball against LSU in 2019. Hall recorded 13 kills in a 3-1 loss to No. 17 Baylor Friday night.

The Gators volleyball team entered the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Friday night fresh off a huge top-10 victory over Minnesota, but their momentum didn’t phase Baylor. 

Bears’ outside hitters Yossiana Pressley and Avery Skinner took it to Florida with 33 combined kills, and Baylor dominated to win the match 3-1 (27-25, 22-25, 25-18, 25-23)  

The Gators managed to build a 10-5 lead early in the opening set despite three service errors. The visiting Bears called a timeout following a three-point Gators run, their bench attempting to create energy their starters lacked. The set tightened the rest of the way, Florida head coach Mary Wise wanted a word with her team once Baylor cut the Gators lead to one, 17-16. 

The Bears continued to show resilience as the set extended, and they won it 27-25. The former Kentucky Wildcat, Skinner, led her squad with five kills during the opening frame. 

Set two began similarly to the first, with Florida claiming an early five-point lead, 12-7, to force a Baylor timeout. Once again, the Bears refused to go down quietly as they took off on a 7-2 run to knot the set at 20 points apiece. 

A powerful kill from Thayer Hall, her team-leading sixth of the game, and a net violation by the Bears swung momentum back to Florida. A block from freshman Merritt Beason and senior Lauren Dooley secured the set for the Gators, 25-22, to tie the match. 

Baylor was hot to start the third set, extending out to a quick six point lead, the largest of the match to that point. With the Bears leading 14-10, a ferocious block by T’ara Ceasar garnered one of the loudest cheers of the night from the crowd inside the O’Dome. However, it was topped a few points later as the Florida student section mocked the chanting of the Bears’ huddle. 

Baylor ended the set with four straight kills, winning it 25-18 and setting up an opportunity for the Bears to steal the first game in set four. 

For the fourth time Friday night, a set began with one team looking in control. The Gators built a five point lead, 10-5, behind three Ceasar kills. Baylor continued its gutsy performance climbing back into the set and rallying off four straight points, now extending a 19-16 lead. Baylor’s fifth-year senior Yossiana Pressley got the final word in the match with eight kills in the fourth set. 

Florida ended the match with a .183 hitting percentage, 46 kills and 22 attack errors. Ceasar and Hall were the only Gators to crack double-digit kills with 15 and 13 respectively. SEC Player of the Week Marlie Monserez contributed 36 assists. 

The Gators and Bears meet again Saturday night in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center at 7 p.m. on SEC Network+ as Florida hopes to avoid its third loss in four matches. 

Contact Joseph Henry at Follow him on Twitter @Josephhenry2424.

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Joseph Henry

Joseph Henry is a fourth-year sports journalism major and is the Alligator's sports editor. He previously worked as senior news director, assistant sports editor, men's basketball beat reporter, volleyball beat reporter and golf beat reporter. He enjoys sitting down to watch a movie as often as possible, collecting vinyl and drinking Dr. Pepper. 

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