UF head coach Mary Wise led the Gators volleyball team into College Station, Texas, with a chance to add onto her impressive 31 consecutive 20 win regular seasons
She did not disappoint.
No. 12 Florida (20-4, 12-2 SEC) defeated the Texas A&M Aggies (12-14, 4-11 SEC) in four sets (25-18, 25-16, 16-25, 25-20) Saturday afternoon. The Gators extended their conference win streak to five games and their overall record against the Aggies to 21-1.
Two errors gave Florida the advantage early.
Beginning an impressive outing, graduate student outside hitter Caroline Meuth quickly responded with two kills of her own.
The Aggies struggled to control the serve, however, allowing sophomore outside hitter Merritt Beason to propel the Gators to a 8-4 lead.
Impressively, Texas A&M clawed back, using freshman setter Alexis Stucky’s service error to even the set at 10-10.
Two emphatic blocks by sophomore middle blocker Gabrielle Essix ignited the Gators’ offense, marking the beginning of a 6-1 run.
Texas A&M struggled mightily to regain possession with a 0.061 hitting percentage, inhibiting them from stringing a scoring run together and matching their Florida counterparts. With their backs to the wall, Aggies head coach Laura Khun called her first timeout of the set, down 19-14.
Immediately following the stoppage, Stucky retained the Gator’s hold on the contest, with a savvy tip in between the Aggies defense.
Stucky continued to make crucial plays, with a diving dig to set up a monstrous Beason kill. Florida claimed set one 25-18.
Beason picked up right where she left off with a ferocious block to open up the second set.
The Gators struggled to pull away, as a service error by freshman libero Emily Canaan evened the score at two.
Upon regaining possession, Beason began an assertive 11-0 run behind her four service aces and gave Florida the lead, 14-3.
Khun called her first timeout of the second set, hoping to rectify the situation.
Consequently, Texas A&M was able to cut into the Gators’ momentum behind two kills from sophomore outside hitter Mia Johnson, but it ultimately wasn’t enough.
Florida continued to hold strong on the back of Beason, who’s contribution of fifteen total kills allowed the Gators to secure set point.
Senior outside hitter Mia Markova ended the illustrious set with a destructive kill on the service line. Florida earned set two 25-16.
Following a near silent set two, Meuth set the tone early for the Aggies with a forceful kill from a sophomore libero Brooke Frazier assist.
Texas A&M continued to apply pressure, culminating in Florida sophomore outside hitter Sofia Victoria losing a physical joust to Aggies junior middle blocker Madison Bowser. In response, Wise used her first timeout of set three, down 5-1.
The break proved to be of no use to the Gators, as Meuth added to her 17 kill performance by placing the ball out of Stucky’s reach.
Consecutive errors by Canaan and Essix served as a microcosm of Florida’s sloppy set three performance. With nine errors in total, the Gators struggled to establish a coherent offensive attack.
Fittingly, a kill by Meuth prevented the Gators from earning a match sweep. Texas A&M won set three 25-16.
Florida wasted no time running out to an early lead in set four, behind two well-placed kills from Victoria. However, the Aggies responded with two more kills by the dominant Meuth.
The back and forth affair would continue until Essix, again, shifted momentum for the Gators. Her two big kills bounced array off of Aggie blockers. The Gators led 12-11 halfway through set three.
Now possessing the serve, Florida started to pull away. Two miraculous digs by Beason kept a long rally alive, ending in a kill by sophomore middle blocker Bre Kelly.
Victoria also contributed in the short run by the Gators with two kills of her own, giving her a tally of 13 kills on the evening.
The Gators pulled away, ultimately silencing Texas A&M following an error by sophomore middle blocker Ifenna Cos-Okpalla. Florida claimed set four 25-20.
Looking to assert themselves on top of the SEC, Florida hosts No. 19 Kentucky Saturday at 4 p.m. The match will stream on SEC Network+.
Zach is a freshman sports journalism major and a sports reporter for the Alligator. When he is not covering UF sports he is often being disappointed by Philadelphia sports teams.