Thayer Hall

Nothing about Florida’s volleyball team’s match against Ole Miss on Friday night made much sense. 

The Gators came into Oxford, Mississippi, with seven-straight victories, while the Rebels had lost five in a row. A classic matchup between an unstoppable force and a movable object. 

Yet, somehow, despite the mismatch and losing two sets by a combined score of 50-29, Ole Miss took Florida to five sets. 

The Gators escaped with a 15-8 victory in the fifth set to close their most absurd match of the season with a win (23-25, 25-15, 21-25, 25-14, 15-8 ), maintaining sole possession of the top spot in the SEC standings and extending its win streak to eight. 

Sophomore Thayer Hall led Florida (19-3, 10-1 SEC) with 23 kills, her second-highest total in a match this season. Middle blocker Rachael Kramer was even more efficient, logging 18 kills on 30 swings with just three errors. Four UF players hit double-digit kills.

But overall, it was tough sledding offensively all night long. The Gators hit just .208 as a team, their worst performance during the win streak since the Texas A&M match on Oct. 13.

On their last trip to Oxford, the Gators registered 23 blocks in four sets, which was a program record at the time. They weren’t as proficient at the net on Friday night (17 total blocks in five sets), but they were still dishing out blocks like Carron Phillips on Twitter after a hit piece. 

Redshirt junior Holly Carlton was one of the many Gators struggling on offense (nine errors with a hitting percentage of .091), but she was dynamic defensively. Carlton led the team in total blocks with seven, and Hall was second with five. 

Ole Miss (14-9, 6-6 SEC) and the Gators went back and forth in the first set, which featured 11 ties and three lead changes. A 6-1 run in the middle of the frame put Florida ahead 17-14, and it seemed like the Gators were poised to take the first set. 

But the Rebels outscored UF 11-6 to take the set 25-23. 

The second set began with a six-point Florida run that practically ended the frame as soon as it started, thanks to three errors by the Rebels. After narrowing the lead to 7-3, the Rebels never got any closer, and the Gators easily took the set 25-15. 

Just looking at the 25-21 score in the fourth set doesn’t properly explain what actually happened. Ole Miss dominated the early goings of the frame and extended that to a commanding 17-9 lead. Florida coach Mary Wise then called timeout and subbed middle blocker Lauren Dooley for redshirt junior Darrielle King. The 6-foot-3 King registered two kills to kick off a 7-0 run that brought the Gators within one. Friday night was the first time that King played in more than two sets since Sept. 21.

However, that run seemed to sap Florida of any energy it still had in the set, as Ole Miss scored eight of the next 13 points to take the frame. 

The fourth set played out much like the second set. The Gators captured eight of the first 10 points and led by as much as 10 for most of the set. Ole Miss had a late 8-1 run to reduce the lead to just four, but Florida responded with a 7-0 run to close out the set. 

UF carried that momentum into the final set, scoring seven of the first 11 points. After being frustrated and stifled all night long, the Gators hit .364 in the final frame to finally put away the Rebels 15-8. 

Follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter @Bfarrell727. Contact him at [email protected]