Paige Hammons

Outside hitter Paige Hammons at the Gators' home game against Texas A&M last season. In Florida's second game against Auburn Thursday, Hammons contributed six kills off the bench.

Thayer Hall raised her hitting percentage from .198 to .250 in 2019. She has struggled through the Gators’ first two matches this season, leaving coach Mary Wise to find a way to replace her production. 

Enter redshirt senior Holly Carlton. 

She provided a spark when Hall had an off night, finishing the evening with seven kills for a .385 hitting percentage along with four blocks and a service ace. 

Carlton was key in Florida’s 3-0 straight-set victory over the Tigers, in Auburn, Alabama Thursday night to complete a two-match sweep, moving its record to 2-0 in the shortened fall 2020 season.

Coming off its shutout win over the Tigers Wednesday night, UF got off to a slow start as Auburn trailed by only three early on (9-6), but it eventually found momentum to take a 20-9 lead. Kills from Florida redshirt senior Darrielle King and Carlton put the first set away, a 25-14 Gators win.

Florida junior T’ara Ceasar was one of the top performers from Wednesday night’s win, and the Georgia transfer had a strong showing once again. She racked up six kills in the first set. Hall added four kills, while junior Marlie Monserez dished out 11 assists.

Auburn didn’t go down without a fight, however. It came out looking like a different team in the second set, gaining the early lead before the Gators tied it at 10. Both teams battled back-and-forth before the Gators initiated a 5-2 run and forced the Tigers to burn a timeout. An Auburn error and another ace from Ceasar polished it off, and UF went into the third set 2-0 after a 25-19 win.

Carlton and senior Paige Hammons were the stars of the second frame, with three kills each.

The third set followed a similar script as the second because Auburn stayed within striking distance the whole frame. Halfway through the third set, the orange and blue pulled ahead 17-12. Then, Hammons on match point crushed a lob pass from Carlton that AU defenders had no chance at, allowing UF to win the match 3-0 (25-14, 25-19, 25-21).

While Ceasar led the team with 12 kills  — one more than she finished with last night — she was far from alone. Carlton had her seven kills and Hammons contributed six off the bench.

Ceasar also finished with nine digs, one shy of a double-double, just short of the 10 digs from junior Paula Cerame and freshman Elli McKissock. 

The Gators defense was spooky once again, keeping the Tigers from eclipsing a .100 hitting percentage. On offense, they had a .245 hitting percentage, including four players hitting above .300. 

With the win tonight, the Gators moved to an astounding 51-2 against Auburn, including 47-1 with coach Mary Wise at the helm. This success isn’t just limited to when the Tigers come to Gainesville: UF moved to 24-2 on the plains all-time.

Contact Noah Ram at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Noah_ram1.

Noah Ram is the gymnastics beat writer. He previously covered men's and women's tennis. He is a sophomore majoring in journalism and this is his third semester at The Alligator.