Florida had something to prove coming off a five-set battle to the Kentucky Wildcats, which ended in an emotional loss for a growing No. 15 Gators team.
“Our biggest reflection was that we were so thankful to have a high-level match coming into the end of the season,” junior Holly Carlton said after the midweek contest in a postgame interview aired on ESPN. “It was an emotional loss.”
Lessons were taught, but Auburn was the first step in seeing if UF had actually learned anything from the UK match. And Florida passed its first test.
The Gators defeated the Tigers in the midweek matchup at Auburn Arena in three sets (25-17, 25-17, 25-17) for their 14th sweep of the season.
Teams like Auburn are often underestimated.
The Tigers (6-20, 0-15 SEC) play with a “nothing to lose” kind of attitude heading into their last few matches before likely missing the postseason in the NCAA Tournament. It was AU’s most threatening quality to a much more poised Florida (22-4, 13-2 SEC) team this week.
Auburn out-killed Florida in the opening frame 14-13, but struggled to convert those kills into any kind of efficiency, logging seven errors compared to UF’s two.
The errors kept up in the second set with fewer kills (eight on the frame) to offset the mistakes. The Gators held Auburn to a .000 hitting percentage on the set, too.
Florida coasted through the third set with little to no hiccups, holding Auburn’s offense to just .096 overall and dismantling the Tigers on their home court.
Carlton played a strong match from start to finish, helping notch the sweep with 13 kills — which led both teams — and just one error on 20 swings, logging a season-high hitting percentage (.600) on the roster.
“Marlie (Monserez) is giving me great balls,” Carlton said.
Carlton struggled to gain some momentum against the Wildcats on Sunday, so she came into this AU matchup knowing the importance of getting back to her normal level of play.
Part of Florida’s game plan coming into Auburn was to utilize one of its strengths in the back row attack.
The Gators often utilize this type of offense when they’re out-of-system (someone passing the ball off the net instead of at the net). However, UF utilized its back row hitters on the perfect passes in addition to the sloppier ones, which will be a necessary component to any kind of success in postseason play.
Florida was also able to play off its bench with pin hitters in Mia Sokolowski and Morgyn Greer and opposite attacker Haley Warner. The Gators also had Carlton set in a handful of rotations in place of Monserez, a lineup that hasn’t been used all too frequently so far this season.
“I think one of our greatest strengths is the spread of talent,” Carlton said. “We do a nice job of balancing the offense.”
Coming off Wednesday’s win at Auburn, the Gators will continue their road stint with a stop at Georgia on Sunday before finishing out their two remaining SEC contests at home.
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari. Contact her at [email protected]