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Friday, May 17, 2024

Unranked Georgia Bulldogs upset Gators in the O’Dome

Florida was swept for the first time this season

Libero Elli McKissock (left), defensive specialist Trinity Adams (center) and outside hitter Marina Markova prepare for a point during Florida's match with the LSU Tigers Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022.
Libero Elli McKissock (left), defensive specialist Trinity Adams (center) and outside hitter Marina Markova prepare for a point during Florida's match with the LSU Tigers Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022.

Close to 20 Georgia Bulldogs fans stood in anticipation of seeing an upset of their Southeastern Conference rivals in Gainesville. On match point, redshirt sophomore Mackenzie Norris dunked the ball right into the hardwood floor on Florida’s side. 

The upset was complete.

No.11 Florida (15-4, 7-2) was defeated by Georgia (13-5, 4-3) in three sets (22-25, 23-25, 20-25) Wednesday night. The Gators struggled, posting a .090 hitting percentage and failing to adjust to the Bulldogs’ waves of points.

The opening set began with activity from Florida senior outside hitter Marina Markova on the left side of the net. She forced an attack error and grabbed two spiking kills. The Gators led 3-0 early. 

However, the Bulldogs regrouped before the first set went out of reach. They went on a seven point scoring run that was fueled by four UF attack errors ;three of which came from sophomore middle blocker Gabrielle Essix. 

Florida head coach Mary Wise called her first timeout after squandering the early three-point lead, now down 8-3. 

After the break, the Gators went back to Markova. She gave Florida a necessary spark with a kill to slowly climb back into the opening set. 

The Bulldogs matched every point thrown at them, until they began to escape with a four-point scoring run to lead 18-12. Seeing the foreshadowed events from earlier in the set reoccurring, Wise called another timeout.

Fortunately for the Gators, they trended toward a kill streak. Markova started it with an intimidating spike down l. Then came a UGA attack error and a kill by sophomore outside hitter Merritt Beason. A four-point streak brought Florida back into the first set, down 19-17. 

The exchange of points bled late into the opening frame. A spiking kill down the middle by sophomore outside hitter Bre Kelley gave Florida its first lead of the set at 22-21. Georgia head coach Tom Black wanted a timeout. 

For Georgia, the timeout was needed as it finished the first set with a four-point run. The Bulldogs took the first set 25-22.

It was the first set lost by the Gators in 10 days. 

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Florida responded early in the second set with a five-point run that included two service aces by freshman libero Emily Canaan. 

UGA appeared to struggle with the power of Florida’s outside blockers as balls began to rickashay off of Bulldogs and out of bounds into the crowd. 

Midway through the second set, Georgia senior outside hitter Amber Stivrins served the ball and it fell out of bounds, far right. The error gave the Gators their largest lead of the night at 12-6 and prompted Black to call a timeout. 

Georgia broke through a flurry of back-and-forth points and closed the Gators’ lead with a four-point kill streak run; three of which were assisted by Stivrins. 

The match drew closer to even and a block by UGA redshirt junior Alexa Fortin tied it up at 17 a piece. The equalizer was followed by an attack error by Beason. Georgia had its first lead in the second set at 18-17. 

The Gators collapsed under the pressure and their early lead would never be recovered. A Stivrins kill, spiking it deep in the right corner of the Florida side, gave Georgia the victory in set two, 25-23. 

For the first time this season, the Gators were at risk of being swept in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Georgia, now leading two sets to none, went punch for punch with Florida in an intense third set. Both teams beamed every hit at one another until someone wasn’t able to take the beating anymore. 

The Gators were the first to break.

UGA jumped ahead with a five-point run. Three UF attack errors contributed to the streak of points, and the Bulldogs led 7-3. Wise called a timeout to control the situation.

Behind two kills from junior outside hitter Sofia Victoria, the Gators went on a four-point run to draw the set square at seven. Florida wasn’t going to let the challenge of a comeback slip away this easily. 

The competition got hot between Florida and Georgia throughout the third set, as the teams tied four times, eventually landing at 13-13. However, multiple blocks on Beason and Markova by UGA senior outside hitter Kacie Evans cooled off the tension on the court. Georgia rattled off three straight points to take a 16-13 lead. 

Momentum changed fast. Florida kept fading away and struggled to create scoring runs. The Gators’ attack errors breathed life into the Bulldogs lead, which was now 21-18, and Wise called a timeout to search for answers. 

The answers were never found. 

Down the final stretch of the third set, Georgia capped off the set with a kill by Norris. The frame's final tally sat at 25-20. 

Florida was swept for the first time this season.

The Gators will now get a little time off before traveling to Auburn, Alabama, to face the Auburn Tigers Oct. 26. The match will stream on SEC Network+. 

Contact Brandon Hernandez at bhernandez@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @BranH2001.

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Brandon Hernandez

Brandon Hernandez is currently the enterprise sports writer and sports podcast host for The Independent Alligator. He likes long walks on the sidewalk and watching basketball tape in his off time. You can find most of his work @BranH2001 on X and on The Courtside Podcast on Spotify.


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