The Gators battled through offensively to take the first two sets in quick fashion. Florida suffered a setback in the third set with a loss but dominated set four to gain a big lead early.
In the final moments of set four the Gamecocks quickly managed to climb back with a five-point scoring run, but a series of service errors allowed Florida to take advantage.
UF senior outside hitter AC Fitzpatrick sealed the match win with her 13th kill of the game and fired up her teammates after the match win.
The No. 4 Florida Gators (11-2, 3-1 SEC) defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks (6-7, 0-4 SEC) 3-1 on the road in Columbia, South Carolina.
Set one proved to be a slow start for Florida after junior middle blocker Oby Anadi sealed the Gamecocks first two kills. UF freshman outside hitter Kennedy Martin responded with a kill to give the Gators their first point.
A powerful block from graduate student setter Kennedy Muff forced an attack error for South Carolina senior outside hitter Riley Whitesides. Another Martin kill pushed the Gators’ lead to 8-6 early into the first set.
UF senior middle blocker Nnedi Okammor forced a series of attack errors for the Gamecocks as she fired up the defense with fierce blocks. A kill from senior right side hitter Kiune Fletcher put South Carolina back in the lead 13-12.
The Gamecocks quickly lost their slim lead after UF senior outside hitter Sophia Victoria secured her first kill of the match for Florida to retake its lead 16-14.
Kills from Okammor and Martin pushed the Gators’ lead to 23-19, and an attack error forced from Kennedy Martin to Fletcher put Florida at match point. A fierce kill from Fitzpatrick allowed the Gators to take the set one victory, 25-19.
A series of self-inflicted attack errors from South Carolina put Florida in the lead 5-3 early into set two.
The Gators stayed dominant offensively but failed to make point-saving dives defensively as sophomore libero Emily Canaan tried to make a save, but the fall flew behind her as it traced the tips of her fingers.
A kill from UF graduate student outside hitter Anna Dixon pushed Florida’s lead to 20-14 within the close final moments of set two. However, the Gamecocks answered with a three-point scoring streak featuring back-to-back kills from Whitesides.
A dual block from Okammor and Victoria set the Gators at match point 24-18, Victoria then sealed the final point with a kill and won set two 25-19.
South Carolina took the lead early into set three 4-2, but back-to-back kills from Canaan put the teams at four apiece. After a back and forth battle with service errors from both teams the Gamecocks held onto their lead 16-14.
A kill from Martin brought the Gators momentum back with two kills to give Florida its first lead 21-20 late into set three. Fitzpatrick sealed a kill to give the Gators a 22-21 lead, but an attack error and a service ace from UF allowed South Carolina to retake its lead 23-22.
The Gamecocks reached match point for the first time in the match, and with a kill from Whitesides kept their chances alive to move to set four with a set three win, 25-23.
The Gators responded to their set three loss and took the lead early into set four 11-4 as the Gamecocks fell into a seven-point deficit. A kill from Victoria and a service ace from Muff pushed Florida’s lead to 14-5.
Offensively the Gators continued to hold onto their run just six points away from match win. South Carolina worked their way back with a five-point scoring streak, but a serving error from junior libero Morgan Carter set the Florida match point.
Fitzpatrick fueled the match win 25-20 with a kill.
UF will play the No. 24 Auburn Tigers at 7 p.m. Frida. The game will be streamed on SEC Network+.
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.