Florida volleyball came out firing in set one with kills from freshman right-side hitter Kennedy Martin and unstoppable blocks from junior middle back Gabrielle Essix.
After a continuous battle between both squads in set three, fans in the O’Dome brought Florida to life as they battled through and kept Minnesota on its toes in the final touches.
An assist from sophomore setter Alexis Stucky to graduate student outside hitter Anna Dixon motioned the game-winning point as Minnesota fell short on the hit.
The No. 8 Florida Gators (4-0) swept the No. 5 Minnesota Golden Gophers (2-2) 3-0 in their first home match of the season at the Stephen O’Connell Center Sunday afternoon.
“Being back in the O’Dome and having it absolutely packed was so exhilarating and was everything we could have asked for,” senior outside hitter AC Fitzpatrick said.
Gators senior outside hitter Sophia Victoria motioned the first kill for Florida in set one. UF held a slim lead until Minnesota sealed three kills to take the lead. However, Martin tied the game at four which fired the Gators up.
Florida reclaimed its lead after a series of service errors from Minnesota. Fierce kills from Essix and a powerful block pushed the Gators’ lead to 11-7.
The Gators capitalized on service errors from Minnesota. UF managed to keep the ball from quickly passing far over the net with blocks from Fitzpatrick. A back-and-forth battle continued late into set one with the Gators just four points away from win, 21-17.
The Golden Gophers fought to stay alive with two kills from redshirt junior outside hitter Taylor Landfair. Martin sent over a pair of kills to give UF a 24-22 lead, and she secured the final kill to seal the win, 25-22.
Florida brought the energy early in set two with a vicious block from graduate student outside hitter Anna Dixon. Minnesota fought to stay alive but a fired-up Essix and Martin took advantage of their slow start and secured the next round of four points.
Senior libero Elli Mckissock sent the ball over and the Gators capitalized off their errors after the Gophers sent the ball out of bounds on multiple occasions. Stucky motioned a kill to give the UF a five-point lead, 17-12.
Florida maintained its lead in the latter half of the set after a tough battle. Dixon motioned the final point, and Minnesota failed to mount a comeback. The Gators secured the win in set two, 25-18.
Florida continued to respond in quick fashion in set three. Essix sent the ball over the net, and Minnesota failed to make point-saving dives. Dixon prevented any action for Minnesota as she sent every ball right back over the net to give the Gators an 11-7 lead.
“With little preparation time, they showed such resilience in how they responded,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “We have great leadership both on and off the court from a group of six leaders, and all you need to know about this team is seeing their celebrations.”
Martin hit back-to-back kills in the final moments of set three to lead 21-17. Stucky and Dixon sealed the final point in the game., Dixon’s point won the game 25-22.
UF will play Sacramento State at 7 p.m. Thursday in the O’Dome for its first game in the Gator 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.