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Friday, May 27, 2022

Florida volleyball is back in the win column with sweep of Texas A&M

The Gators returned home and trounced the Aggies in straight sets

Florida's T'ara Ceasar serves against Texas A&M on Oct. 16.
Florida's T'ara Ceasar serves against Texas A&M on Oct. 16.

Head coach Mary Wise and the Florida volleyball team (12-6, 6-2) returned to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center for the first time in 13 days on Saturday evening, and the Gators left with their fourth sweep in six games. 

Middle blocker Lauren Forte’s team-high .643 hitting percentage propelled the No. 23 Gators to a straight-sets win over Texas A&M (25-12, 25-19, 25-15). 

The Gators dominated the opening set. They laid down 19 kills and a .621 hitting percentage as a team. Florida ended the set on a 12-2 run, punctuated by a fiery kill from outside hitter Merritt Beason, her fifth of the set. Outside hitter T’ara Ceasar and her six kills led the Gators to a 25-12 set win. 

Set two began tight, but the scoring eventually broke open. Florida clung to a 12-10 lead midway through the set before it caught fire. A six-point run highlighted by back-to-back thunderous kills from outside hitter Thayer Hall forced a Texas A&M timeout. The Aggies retaliated later in the set, stringing together five points and cutting into the Gators’ lead. Florida’s initial burst provided enough cushion, and it took the set 25-19. 

Texas A&M surged out to a 6-2 lead early in the third set, sparked by two kills from outside hitter Morgan Christon in hopes of extending the match. However, the Gators hunger for a sweep proved unbeatable. Florida went on another six-point run to take the lead, 8-6 and never trailed again. The scoreboard eventually read 24-15, prompting the crowd inside the O’Dome to rise to its feet one final time for match point. The Gators delivered the set, and match, win on an Aggies attack error. 

Florida concluded the match with 47 kills, 43 assists and 39 digs. A .438 hitting percentage marked the team’s third-best clip of the season. Ceasar was the only Gator to eclipse double-digit kills with 12, but Forte wasn’t far behind with nine. 

Setter Marlie Monserez didn’t miss a beat Saturday evening, averaging 11.33 assists per set against Texas A&M. 

“Marlie was in the zone today,” said Wise. “[She] gave her hitters such good looks.” 

Throughout the match, Florida went on eight runs of four or more points. 

“They really help us build momentum,” Ceasar said. “It gives us that luxury or that leniency to maybe get one error, then it's just one and done. That play is over with and lets be good on the next play.” 

After snapping a four-game win streak on Oct. 10 against LSU, the Gators got right back into the win column. 

“The hitters did their jobs, the setter did hers, the passers did theirs and collectively it just all came together for us,” Wise said. 

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Florida gets little downtime before they hit the road to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for a mid-week match next Wednesday Oct. 20. First serve against the Crimson Tide is set for 8 p.m. on ESPNU. 

Contact Joseph Henry at jhenry@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @Josephhenry2424.

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