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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Florida volleyball claims close win in five-set battle

Sophia Victoria led the win with 16 kills

<p>Freshman outside hitter Kennedy Martin tips the ball in the Gators’ 3-2 win against the Georgia Bulldogs on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.</p>

Freshman outside hitter Kennedy Martin tips the ball in the Gators’ 3-2 win against the Georgia Bulldogs on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

The final moments of set four between Florida and Georgia went back and forth.

If the Gators slipped, the game would be called a Bulldogs victory within seconds. Senior outside hitter Sofia Victoria dived for a kill and brought the Gators to set point, 24-22. 

Her following attack error tallied another Georgia point, but that didn’t faze her. 

She slammed the Bulldog serve with a kill to force a set five and keep the Gators alive as UF would go on to win the fifth set 15-11.

The No. 3 Florida Gators (9-1, 2-0 SEC) defeated the Georgia Bulldogs (9-3, 0-1 SEC) 3-2 Sunday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. 

Georgia’s fierce offense didn’t make set one easy for the Gators. The Bulldogs launched a five-point scoring streak in the early moments of the set to quickly take the lead 7-1. 

After a timeout, Victoria reignited the Florida offense to narrow the deficit 10-8. Three consecutive Georgia kills kept the Bulldogs ahead 14-11.  

Florida senior libero Elli McKissock secured UF’s first lead of the game with back-to-back service aces. Georgia followed with a kill to tie the score 20-apiece, but outside hitter freshman Kennedy Martin’s three point scoring streak reclaimed the lead 22-20. 

Moments later Florida stood at set point 24-22 ready to take home their win. Georgia’s Kacie Evans served the ball as both Kennedy Muff and Anna Dixon answered with a kill. UF won set one 25-22. 

The Bulldogs’ consecutive attack errors offered Florida an early lead 3-1 in set two. The Gators’ defense doubled up on a Georgia serve to force an attack error and a Florida point to bring the score to 7-5.

UF lost its lead after a media timeout, and the opposing team found their momentum. Junior defense specialist Trinity Adams struggled to receive the ball when junior setter Clara Brower launched a service ace across the court and tied the score at 20 again. 

Florida head coach Mary Wise called a timeout to keep the Gators alive, but Florida’s delayed blocks ultimately fell short. The Bulldogs took home set two, 25-22 to tie the match 1-1. 

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Set three turned into a grueling battle as both teams refused to back down. Nine continuous kills from both sides kept the score tight, but Muff’s block held the Gator lead 7-6. Florida began to trail 12-8 when the Bulldogs capitalized on UF’s attack errors. 

Victoria didn’t let their deficit hold her back. She sent three-straight kills across the net and swiftly blocked Georgia’s serve to make the score 14-13 with the Bulldogs in front. 

Martin’s service ace brought the set tied 15-apiece. Florida’s service errors and inability to answer kills gave the Bulldogs’ their lead 22-19. 

UF’s final timeout helped McKissock slam a service ace across the net. Georgia failed to slow down and ran a final service ace to take the set victory 25-22 and match advantage 2-1. 

The Gators did everything they could to stay alive in set four. Their offense upset Georgia with four kills and a block assist in the opening minutes of the set. But the Bulldogs’ heavy kills evened the match at seven each. 

Florida senior middle blocker Nnedi Okammor and senior outside hitter AC Fitzpatrick teamed up for a block assist to cause an attack error. Georgia replied with a five-point scoring streak made up of two Martin attack errors and took the lead 14-13. 

After a much-needed timeout, both teams tightened their defense and evened the score 19-apiece. Fitzpatrick and Victoria’s kills destroyed Georgia’s efforts to seal a match win.

Victoria’s final two kills secured the Gators’ victory 25-23 and evened the match 2-2. 

With both teams desperate for the win, set five was close. Georgia opened with a service ace which Victoria failed to answer. Florida quickly trailed 6-2 when the Bulldogs continually marked kills. 

Wise decided to make some changes when she subbed in freshman outside hitter Madi Grablee and sophomore libero Emerson Hoyle. Her additions fired up the team as they recorded a block assist and another kill to tie the set 7-apiece. 

Fitzpatrick slammed an ace to take the lead 11-9. Georgia claimed two points with a Florida service error and kill to tie it. 

But the last minutes of the match were led by the Gators. Okammor and Martin marked another block assist as Victoria hit her 16th kill of the night to claim the set victory, 15-11 and a game win. 

UF will play Texas A&M on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU. 

Contact Krisha Sanghavi at Follow her on Twitter @krishasang.

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Krisha Sanghavi

Krisha Sanghavi is a third-year public relations and economics major. In her free time, she loves cheering on Miami sports teams and spending time with her friends.

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