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Monday, March 04, 2024

No. 20 Gators squash South Carolina in four-set victory

Kennedy Martin sets Florida single-season freshman record with 441 kills

Florida sets up its defense in the Gators’ 3-2 win against the Georgia Bulldogs on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.
Florida sets up its defense in the Gators’ 3-2 win against the Georgia Bulldogs on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

Florida showed out for senior day with fierce intensity. UF senior outside hitter AC Fitzpatrick fought hard defensively to keep South Carolina off the scoreboard. Fitzpatrick sealed 14 kills on a .323 hitting percentage against the Gamecocks. 

The outside hitter was key defensively during the game when she made powerful blocks during pivotal scoring moments. 

In the final moments of set one, she used her strength to force an attack error off a block for South Carolina which resulted in a set one victory for the Gators. She set the tone for Florida with her ferocity en route to a dominant UF win.

The No. 20 Florida Gators (18-8, 10-7 SEC) beat the South Carolina Gamecocks (10-16, 4-13 SEC) 3-1 Wednesday afternoon in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Freshman outside hitter Kennedy Martin set a new program record for single-season kills by a freshman with 441.

Florida started the game strong with two consecutive kills from Fitzpatrick and Martin. South Carolina worked its way back with a kill from senior outside hitter Kiune Fletcher and a series of Florida attack errors. 

UF senior outside hitter Sophia Victoria triggered three more kills from Martin, Fitzpatrick and junior middle blocker Gabrielle Essix. Forced attack errors off of junior defensive specialist Trinity Adams serves put the Gators on a four-point streak with a 10-5 lead. 

The Gamecocks fought to stay in the game with an aggressive defensive stance. South Carolina blocked Martin, and her effort for a kill was shot back on the Gators side of the court. However, Florida continued to hold a seven-point lead over South Carolina, 17-10. 

Victoria launched a fierce kill to bump the Gators within four of match point. A dual block from Muff and Essix made it difficult for the Gamecocks to find an open gap for a kill. 

Fitzpatrick reached high to seal a kill for set point, and in the final moments of set one, managed to make a powerful block to force an attack error for South Carolina and take the set one victory, 25-16. 

The Gators kept their momentum in set two with an early 5-3 lead. Victoria sealed back-to-back service aces to give Florida a six-point scoring streak and push its lead to 10-5. 

Defensively, Florida found its groove. The Gamecocks struggled to seep past the Gators blocks. UF senior middle blocker Nnedi Okammor sealed a kill followed with a kill from Martin to give the Gators a 18-13 lead. 

Victoria reached high to launch a kill, but the Gamecocks successfully rejected her effort until the ball came back down and bounced off of Essix’s shoulder for a kill. Martin  delivered a service ace to bring Florida within three of match point. 

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A Gamecocks service error allowed Florida to take advantage and reach set point. Fitzpatrick closed out set two with a tip over the net for a kill —- her seventh kill of the game —- and brought the score to 25-20. 

South Carolina took the lead early into set three with two kills. The Gamecocks made it difficult for the Gators to adjust as their serves became shorthanded. Martin fought to keep the momentum fired up, but Florida fell short on point-saving dives to allow USC to take a 12-5 lead. 

Fitzpatrick brought the Gators back to life with a kill. Martin followed with a kill to make the score 13-10. A series of South Carolina attack errors allowed Florida to respond to the Gamecocks' slim lead. 

A dual block from Victoria and Essix tied the game at 16 apiece. Victoria sealed a kill with a slight push over the net to put Florida in the lead 18-17. Fitzpatrick thought the ball was behind her, and the defensive error resulted in a Gamecocks kill. 

Both teams battled to keep the game at a close 22-21 score with South Carolina in the lead. A kill from junior middle blocker Oby Anadi set point for the Gamecocks, and a service ace from junior defensive specialist Hanna Bissler sealed the match point, 25-22, to force a fourth set with the Gators. 

Florida responded to their loss in set three with a quick start and a 5-2 lead. Martin sealed the first kill of set four and a service ace from senior libero Elli McKissock triggered a four-point streak. 

Florida attack errors allowed the Gamecocks to reach within three 13-10. Muff secured her second kill of the game to push the Gators lead to 19-14. 

Fitzpatrick sealed a kill to set point for the Gators, and a South Carolina attack error granted a 25-17 set four victory.   

UF will play No. 10 Kentucky at 1 p.m. Saturday. The game will be streamed on ESPN+. 

Contact Alyssa Britton-Harr at abritton-harr@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @abrittonharr 

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Alyssa Britton-Harr

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. 


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