Fans in the O’Connell Center stood tall as the Gators reached match point with an eight point lead. A serve by Florida defensive specialist Trinity Adams put the play in motion, the Gators showing no mercy. Outside hitter T’ara Ceasar dove and saved the ball on the Gators’ first touch, then setter Marlie Monserez surprised the Rebels by dumping the ball over the net for the match-clinching kill.
Cheers erupted as the Gators volleyball team added the finishing touch to its second consecutive sweep of the week, this time against the Ole Miss Rebels 3-0 Saturday (25-19, 25-14, 25-16).
Nothing could smother Florida’s offensive fire in the match. The Gators averaged a .444 hitting percentage, overpowering the Rebels’ .107, and Florida slammed down 51 kills compared to Ole Miss’ 30.
Both teams took their time to find their rhythm in the opening set. Florida went on a 4-1 run via three Ole Miss attack errors and a kill from middle blocker Lauren Dooley to make it 12-8 before the Rebels first timeout.
The Gators extended their lead to six with three kills from Ceasar and an additional kill from outside hitter Thayer Hall, now 16-10. Ole Miss responded with two kills from Rebels’ outside hitter Anna Bair and a Ceasar attack error to force Florida’s first timeout, the lead just three points.
Florida’s offense found another gear, not letting Ole Miss within four the rest of the set. Middle blocker Lauren Forte cemented the first with back-to-back kills, 25-19. The Gators boasted a .447 hitting percentage to start while the Rebels could only muster .179, their highest hitting percentage of the afternoon.
Ole Miss played catch-up at the start of the second set, continuously tying up the score to slow down the Gators. It didn’t last long, as Florida rode its first-set offensive firepower to seven straight points with three Forte kills, a Ceasar kill and three Rebel attack errors to open up a gaping 18-11 lead.
A Bair kill only temporarily impeded the Gators’ roll. Florida went on a 7-2 run to end the second set with an explosive kill by outside hitter Merritt Beason at 25-14, her fourth of nine kills on the day, a sweep within reach. Florida increased its first-set hitting percentage to .483 in the second as Ole Miss dropped to a lowly .029.
“When Merritt’s career is over, we’re going to talk about not only her talent, but her volleyball IQ,” head coach Mary Wise said after the match. “She just keeps growing with every opportunity.”
Ole Miss forced an early Florida timeout after dishing out four straight points at 9-5 in the third set. However, two Rebel attack errors proved fatal, as the blunders reignited the Gators' offense. Six Florida kills from Beason (3), Hall (1), Dooley (1) and Ceasar (1) recaptured the lead 13-10 before Ole Miss called a timeout.
The Gators didn’t stop there. Instead, Florida lit up another seven point run to make it 21-12. A Monserez kill shutdown Ole Miss’ chance of redemption 25-16, with Florida tallying a hitting percentage .303 higher than the Rebels.
“We’re feeling really confident,” Forte said. “We are really getting a flow back, so I think we are just going to go in the gym tomorrow and keep fighting.”
Action continues for the Gators and the Rebels Sunday at 1 p.m. in the O’Dome.
Contact Kaitlyn Wadulack at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @kwadulack.