Florida held a heavy lead against Alabama, but the Crimson Tide managed to climb back from the scoring deficit UF worked so hard to plant.
The score stood tied 20-apiece, and Florida senior outside hitter AC Fitzpatrick swiftly hit two back-to-back kills. Crimson Tide graduate student middle blocker Alyiah Wells responded with her own powerful kill to keep Alabama alive.
UF senior outside hitter Kennedy Martin slammed a kill, and a coordinated dual block from junior middle blocker Gabrielle Essix and graduate student setter Kennedy Muff brought the Gators to match point, 24-21.
In the final rally, Fitzpatrick sealed the match with a deep-center kill to promise Florida's clean sweep victory against the Crimson Tide.
The No. 21 Florida Gators (16-7, 8-6 SEC) swept the Alabama Crimson Tide (10-16, 0-15 SEC) 3-0 Sunday evening in the Foster Auditorium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Alabama kept pace with Florida in the opening set to forge an early tie. The Crimson Tide surged ahead with a 6-1 scoring run as they took advantage of the Gators’ consecutive attack errors.
Martin sparked a Florida offensive run with a fierce kill across the net. The Gators climbed back from their scoring deficit with a seven-point streak to reclaim the lead 17-15.
The Crimson Tide responded with a fight as they refused to let Florida hold the advantage for long. But Martin put an end to their resolute efforts with three kills for the Gators to edge out the opponent on a 25-23 set one victory.
Set two was flooded with UF momentum as they opened with a 6-1 run. Martin served an unanswered service ace, and Fitzpatrick stifled Alabama with a kill.
The latter half of the set was a see-saw battle. Every Florida kill was matched with an Alabama block to constantly tie the score. Sophomore libero Emily Canaan put the Gators back ahead when she forced an attack error on Alabama to make the score 19-18.
Martin shined in the final few rallies with triple kills despite the Crimson Tide’s emphasis on blockers in an effort to bounce back. Florida secured the second set with a five-point win, 25-20.
Set three featured senior middle blocker Nnedi Okammor and Victoria deflecting two Alabama hits with a front-row brick wall defense. Fitzpatrick capitalized on a wide-open gap on the opposing side to slam a deep-center kill and keep the Gators up by four.
Martin slipped Florida’s advantage when she hit her 15th error of the night to tie the score at 16. Wells hit an Alabama kill, but Victoria answered with her own heavy hit to keep them on the run. In the closing rallies, Fitzpatrick hit three kills to wrap up the third set 25-22.
The Florida Gators will play the second game of their three-game road series against the Missouri Tigers at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Columbia, Missouri. The game can be streamed on SEC Network+.
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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.