The Gators didn’t have their star player in outside hitter Thayer Hall on Thursday night. But even leaning on its bench players in Hall’s absence Florida was still fine against Alabama State.
Florida swept the Hornets (25-10, 25-16, 25-20) Thursday night to advance to the next round of the NCAA Tournament. No. 12 Florida will host UCF tomorrow at 7 p.m.
Coach Mary Wise said that Hall is day-to-day.
With Hall out, the Gators spread the ball around pretty evenly. Outside hitter Paige Hammons was the only Florida player with over 20 attacks. Redshirt junior Mia Sokolowski stepped up in Hall’s absence, converting on 10 of her 19 swings with two errors. Sokolowski tied Hammons for the team lead in kills with 10.
“For Mia, who had been out with her issues physically and hadn’t played for a while, it was really clean, just to hit the ball at a high contact point and did some really nice things,” Wise said. “And Paige, she’s our rock, just that steady player for us, be it in the front row or in the service line.”
Twelve different Florida players appeared in the match. Players like sophomore Riley Fischer, who played in all three sets and had six digs, and sophomore Paula Cerame received significant amounts of playing time in a tournament setting.
The gap between Florida and Alabama State was wide on paper - the two teams are over 300 spots apart from each other in RPI - but it was most evident in the first set. The Gators pummeled the Hornets to the tune of 25-10. Florida hit .560 in the set and held ASU to a hitting percentage of zero.
The Gators got off to a slow start in the second set and found themselves trailing 11-7. Florida eventually tied it at 13 and then 14. After ASU took a 15-14 lead, the Gators recorded 11 of the next 12 points to take the set.
ASU managed to keep things close in the third set. The Hornets were within four points for most of the set. They had their best set both offensively (.200 hitting percentage) and defensively (Florida hit .312), but it still wasn’t enough to prevent the sweep.
“We have found over the years that your Second Round opponent is dangerous especially so because they’re coming off the win and that adrenaline and emotion rises,” Wise said. “So we fully expect we’re going to play a sky-hot, very, very talented UCF that’s on a roll right now.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
Contact Brendan Farrell at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Bfarrell727.