Paige Hammons

Junior outside hitter Paige Hammons led all players with 12 kills in Sunday's match between No. 11 Florida and Mississippi State in Starkville, Mississippi. 

It only took 42 points for Florida volleyball to kick its game into high gear.

After dropping the first set to unranked Southern Illinois (3-7), the No. 8 Gators came back in dominant fashion winning the next three sets (17-25, 25-12, 25-10, 25-16).

The opening set was full of many errors for Florida (5-3) as the team was held to a meager .185 hitting percentage, only scoring 10 kills off of 27 swings.

Heading into the match, coach Mary Wise said the key for the team taking away a second win in the Lumberjack Invitational was scoring efficiently and making kills on the front line.

However, the Gators weren’t the team that came out swinging the way Wise had hoped.

Southern Illinois immediately took advantage of a tired Gators team after watching Florida drop its match against Northern Arizona late Friday night. The Salukis realized there was nothing to lose and gained the confidence it needed to take the first set, logging a team hitting percentage of .367.

On Florida’s end, sophomore outside hitter Paige Hammons racked up two serve-receive errors within a three-point spread in the first set.

The Louisville, Kentucky, native didn’t contribute much offensively, only logging three kills on 12 attacks throughout the match. However, she did make her presence known in the back row securing 14 digs, only two behind junior libero Allie Gregory (16).

Sophomore right-side hitter and setter Holly Carlton struggled to find the open court, failing to notch her first kill of the match until 30 points in, an unusual instance for the UNC transfer.

However, she made up for lost time logging seven kills on 16 swings, the third-highest on the roster for the four-set match.

Junior middle blocker Rachael Kramer also had a dominant performance on the front line logging the highest number of kills (15) on the team on just 22 swings.

Florida’s reserves had their fair share of playing time with today’s match, which allowed all 17 players on the roster a chance to hit the court for at least one play during the match.

In the fourth set, the Gators held a 24-9 lead over the Salukis heading into the match point, but six attack errors by Florida’s reserves and a Southern Illinois kill limited the Gators’ lead to just eight points.

After struggling with a seven-point run for the Salukis, Florida junior outside hitter Morgyn Greer was able to close out the match with a kill of her own.

“You’re on the bench for so long, it isn’t easy,” coach Mary Wise said in the post-game media on Sunday afternoon.

Overall, the Gators split the weekend in Flagstaff, Arizona, 2-1 after dropping their only match to unranked Northern Arizona late Friday night, giving the Lumberjacks their first win over a ranked opponent in program history.

“What we asked of these players to do (this weekend) is ridiculous,” Wise said, taking the fault for a schedule that had the Gators playing two Friday matches, one of them at 10:30 p.m., and a noon match Saturday.

“I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen again.”


You can follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari or contact her at [email protected]