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Monday, January 30, 2023

No. 20 Florida extends winning streak to four against LSU

The Gators overcame a first-set loss to take the match 3-1 over the Tigers.

Florida's T'ara Ceasar during a game against Mississippi State on Sept. 24.
Florida's T'ara Ceasar during a game against Mississippi State on Sept. 24.

Florida head coach Mary Wise issued a challenge at match point after an official on LSU’s side of the court raised the red flag to signal outside hitter T’ara Ceasar’s kill was out of bounds. 

After a quick review, the sideline official reversed the call in Florida’s favor, severing the Tigers’ chance of extending the match to five sets and awarding the Gators a fourth straight win. 

No. 20 Florida persevered after a first-set loss to overcome LSU 3-1 (22-25, 25-17, 25-18, 25-19) in the first of two matches in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this weekend. 

Both teams offered similar match performances, but the Gators tallied seven aces compared to the Tigers’ zero. 

Outside hitter Thayer Hall got the ball rolling for the Gators with a kill and an ace to open the first set. Florida extended its lead by three after two kills by middle blocker Lauren Forte and two Ceasar aces, now 8-5. 

The Tigers didn’t falter and responded with five straight points, including three kills and two Gators attack errors, to regain the lead at 12-10. Florida reset the momentum with a 6-1 run after a timeout before LSU was forced to call a break of its own, now down 16-13. 

LSU dug deep late in the opening set to square the score at 21 apiece before Wise called her final timeout of the set. The Tigers couldn’t be beaten and cut the Gators nine-set winning streak short after a Ceasar attack error ended the first set, 25-22. 

Fury fueled the Gators in the second set. They shut down LSU with five kills from Forte (3), Ceasar (1) and outside hitter Merritt Beason (1) to make it 11-5. The Tigers never came close to the Gators lead, always trailing by at least three throughout the rest of the second set. An LSU attack error by outside hitter Kylie Deberg sealed Florida’s fate, 25-17. 

The third set felt like deja vu with the set before for Florida. The Gators kept their foot on the gas with a 7-2 start before the Tigers called their first timeout. 

The Tigers clawed their way out of an eight-point deficit late in the set. A kill from LSU outside hitter Hannah Brister and two Florida attack errors left the Tigers within three. However, LSU’s best efforts weren’t enough to taint the Gators lead. A four-point run secured the third for Florida, 25-18. 

LSU lost middle blocker Whitney Foreman early in the third. The senior’s ankle buckled under her after she landed oddly from a missed block. Foreman was a prominent force for the Tigers in the match with five kills and a .714 hitting percentage before being carried off the court. 

A teetering start to the fourth set left both teams vying to surpass the other. At the media timeout, LSU edged Florida out by two following back-to-back Brister kills. 

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However, the Gators refused to go down easily. Florida went on a 12-4 run that featured four of Beason’s 13 kills on the night. An assist by setter Marlie Monserez set up Ceasar’s game-ending strike to shut down the Tigers' hope of extending the match to five, ending the fourth set 25-19. 

The Gators look to keep their winning streak going Sunday as the two teams tangle again at 1 p.m. and can be seen on SEC Network.

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

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