T’ara Ceasar traded in her red and black for the orange and blue on Nov. 19, 2018, and ever since she stepped foot in Florida’s gymnasium, her teammates and coaches have raved about her.
“T’ara is just a fierce competitor,” now-redshirt senior Holly Carlton told reporters at media day in 2019. “It’s really fun playing with her.
After sitting a year due to NCAA transfer rules, she finally made her Gators debut. And she didn’t disappoint.
She was everywhere, finishing the match with 11 kills, five blocks, an ace and eight digs.
Her performance helped Florida sweep the Tigers 3-0 in Auburn, Alabama, in match one of a double-header.
The No. 4 Gators traded blows back and forth with the Tigers until the score settled at six apiece. But, then a kill from redshirt junior Ceasar ignited a 5-0 run that gave Florida an 11-6 lead, forcing first-year Auburn coach Brent Couch to call a timeout.
Auburn answered with three straight points to trim UF’s lead to two. Its lead wouldn’t shrink any further, though.
Florida (1-0) launched a 14-5 run that helped it secure the first set, 25-14.
In the first set, the Gators had ten kills, four blocks and an ace. But, they were also gifted 14 points from the Tigers on unforced errors.
Their miscues continued in the second set, allowing UF to grab a 14-7 lead. Ten of Florida’s points were gained through Auburn mistakes.
Florida cruised through the rest of the set to take the second set, 25-14.
The Gators third set was much more competitive than their previous sets because coach Mary Wise subbed some of her freshmen in to give them valuable experience.
Wise elected to start three of her four freshmen: Outside hitter Sofia Victoria, middle blocker Nnedi Okammor and defensive specialist Elli McKissock.
Auburn and Florida were neck-and-neck in the third set. Neither team jumped out to a lead larger than five points throughout their final set.
UF eventually captured a 17-14 lead it never relinquished. The Gators clinched the match when Auburn’s Payton White hit a serve several feet north of the end line 25-20
On offense, Wise’s squad was carried by Ceasar and outside hitter Thayer Hall. They had 20 of Florida’s 33 kills on the night.
Hall still had an off night, though. After raising her hitting percentage to .250 last season, she finished with nine kills on 34 attempts for a .088 hitting percentage.
Ceasar, on the other hand, flourished. She had a .364 hitting percentage against the Tigers.
Defensively, setter Marlie Monserez and libero Paula Cerame led the team with 11 and 10 digs, respectively. Monserez also orchestrated Wise’s offense masterfully, adding 29 assists.
Florida will be back in action to play the second match of a double-header in Auburn, Alabama, Thursday at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.
Contact Zachary Huber at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber.