Volleyball in the huddle

The Gators congregate in a huddle formation at their game against LSU last season. Florida dropped its second match of the season Friday night when it lost to Georgia, 3-1.

One Florida student yelled “wake up,” encouraging the Gators to play better after Georgia’s Kacie Evans clinched the first set for the Bulldogs. The orange and blue faithful in attendance tried to jumpstart Florida, cheering loudly every time it strung together a few points. 

But nothing worked.

Florida’s struggles aided Georgia to a 3-1 victory Friday night in the O’Connell Center. 

No. 5 Florida started off hot like Guy Fieri on the grill, taking the 6-1 lead. But the Bulldogs wouldn’t give up. They fought back, cutting UF’s lead to two at 12-10. The Gators (5-2) extended their lead back to five once more, but Georgia (4-3) ignited a 14-4 run to seize the first frame 25-21. 

Georgia freshman middle blocker Phoebe Awoleye was the star of the first set, scoring three kills and three blocks. The Bulldogs blocked six swings total and hit .250 as a squad.

Florida’s duo of Thayer Hall and T’ara Ceasar added three kills each. But the Gators recorded 10 errors and had a measly .049 hitting percentage. 

UGA started better in the second set, preventing UF from jumping out to an early lead. The lead changed hands multiple times with each team, grabbing a small two or three point lead. 

But the Bulldogs, after tying the set at 10 apiece, outscored the Gators 15-8 and beat them 25-18. This put Florida in a 2-0 hole on the verge of being swept and losing its second-consecutive match. 

UGA’s sophomore outside hitter Amber Stivrins lifted her team, adding six kills. Florida continued to struggle, recording eight kills on 32 swings in the second set and gifting the Bulldogs 10 errors like it did in the first set. 

In the third set, Florida regained its footing. It blasted out to a 6-2 lead. UGA trimmed the Gators’ lead to one at 16-15, but UF started a 9-4 run to force a fourth set, winning 25-19. 

Hall contributed four kills and led the team to a .346 hitting percentage. Freshman middle blocker Nnedi Okammor carried the Gators defensively, blocking all six shots Florida tallied in that frame. 

The fourth set felt like a  weight scale, where the momentum of the match tilted back and forth. Florida captured the advantage in the first half of the set, taking an 11-6 lead. 

Then, the scale swayed in favor of UGA. The Bulldogs stormed back with an 11-4 run, grabbing a 17-15 lead. 

UF responded back, sending the O’Dome into a frenzy when it reclaimed the lead 23-22. But Georgia scored three-straight points via an ace, a kill from Evans and a blocking error.

Stivrins and Evans led the Bulldogs in kills with 16 and 15, respectively. They also hit .220 on the night, blocking 11 swings. 

Florida, on the other hand, was led by Hall and Ceasar, who had 14 and 13 kills, respectively. However, UF had a season-low in terms of hitting percentage at .152 and 27 errors.

No one within the Florida volleyball program was made available to speak with members of the media after Friday's loss.

The Gators return to the O’Dome for the second half of their double-header with the Bulldogs at 5 p.m Saturday on SEC Network+.

Contact Zachary Huber at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber.

Zachary Huber covers men's tennis for the Alligator. This is his first semester working for The Alligator. He's a junior studying journalism at UF.