Florida powered through offensively against Clemson in all three of their set victories. Freshman outside hitter Kennedy Martin and junior middle back Gabrielle Essix led the Gators to their first two set wins with fierce kills.
Martin and Essix finished with a combined 19 kills.
The Gators trailed to being set three due to attack errors. In the final moments, UF powered back in front and led 25-24 after a service error from Tigers sophomore outside hitter Mia McGrath. With one point left to secure the match win, Clemson could not make a comeback and an attack error led to Gators’ win for the final point of the match, 26-24.
Unforced errors caused the Gators to have a slow start early into the final set, UF head coach Mary Wise said.
“It's been a great learning experience to give away that many points, and to grind your way back up with a chance to win,” Wise said.
The No. 3 Florida Gators (6-0) swept the Clemson Tigers (5-3) 3-0 Friday evening in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in their second game of the Gators Invitational.
Florida dominated early in set one with two fierce blocks from Martin and a kill from senior outside hitter AC Fitzpatrick. Clemson battled through but continued to fall short on point-saving dives from Martin.
The Gators fell short on deep center hits from the Tigers which left them with a slim 15-13 lead in set one. However, Florida responded in dramatic fashion with an ace from junior designated setter Trinity Adams.
Essix hit a fierce kill to bring the Gators close to a match win with a 19-14 lead. Clemson failed to claw back into the set after a series of attack errors. They could not get the ball past the net because of the dynamic duo of Essix and sophomore setter Alexis Stucky.
Essix brought the O’Dome to its feet when she hit a kill to secure a set point. Martin then secured the match point with a kill to win, 25-15.
The Tigers held the lead early into set two 3-2 after two attack errors from Martin and senior libero Elli McKissock. Clemson responded to its loss in set one with two kills by Tigers redshirt freshman Katie Hurta and sophomore opposite side hitter Mia Moore.
Florida reclaimed its lead 10-7 after graduate student outside hitter Anna Dixon hit three consecutive kills and triggered a kill from Stucky. UF senior outside hitter Sophia Victoria motioned three kills early in set two to continue their five-point streak and push the Gators’ lead to, 16-10.
The Tigers stayed resilient in set two. Deep center hits caught Florida by surprise where McKissock failed to make the point-saving dive and get to where she needed to be in time.
A service error from Stucky and unstoppable blocks from Clemson made it difficult for the Gators to score points, but Martin fought to bring the offense back to life with a kill and pushed the score to 23-17.
Fitzpatrick, Essix and Martin combined for a powerful block assist that caused the Tigers to lose focus and forced an attack error to win the match point, 25-17.
The Gators started slow in set three as they fell behind to a slim 4-2 lead due to multiple attack errors. Errors from both teams continued to keep the score close, but Florida preserved their four-point deficit to try and reclaim their lead with two consecutive kills from Victoria.
An attack error from Clemson freshman middle hitter Kate Slimington and a service ace from Stucky tied the game to 18 apiece.
Florida took advantage of an error-filled Tigers offense and won the match 26-24 in the final moments of set three.
UF will play Winthrop at 3 p.m. Saturday for its final game in the Gators Invitational.
Alyssa Britton-Harr is a second-year journalism major and a sports reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she enjoys cheering on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and spending time with her friends.