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. 

 After taking two wins from Friday’s matchups, Florida’s volleyball team scattered around its home court and waited on anxious Gators fans eager to have the players take some photos or sign some posters.

“It’s been our tradition for decades,” coach Mary Wise said. “We want to keep doing it.”

The decades-old tradition was how No. 11 Florida celebrated its wins over Jacksonville and Florida International in Friday’s doubleheader at the O’Connell Center.

The Gators (8-3) used the matches to prepare for their most difficult test of the Gator Invitational. That’d be Saturday’s matchup against Army.

Here are the top-three stars from Friday’s matchups:


Paige Hammons

Most of the hype on the left-side attack has revolved around freshman Thayer Hall. But junior Paige Hammons showed she deserves some of that attention as well.

The 6-foot-1 attacker racked up 18 kills on 36 swings and only two errors. She also set a season-high .450 hitting percentage against the Dolphins.

The veteran continued to change up her shots from the top of the net, switching between cross-court shots, deep line shots and a tip behind the block.

“We’ve definitely been working a lot in practice,” she said, “working on different sets and just changing our mindsets more for game time.”


Taelor Kellum

Last year, much of the talk regarding Florida’s middle blockers revolved around now-graduated All-American Rhamat Alhassan and then-sophomore Rachael Kramer.

Wise repeated nearly every day last season that Alhassan improved because of who she was competing against every day in practice. The competition Wise always referred to was Taelor Kellum.

Now, it’s difficult to talk about Florida’s offense without bringing her up. The 6-foot-2 middle blocker has brought a spark to Florida’s court so far this season with her powerhouse kills and positive energy.

In Friday’s first matchup against the Dolphins, Kellum racked up three kills and two errors on eight swings.

It wasn’t good enough for her.

“I think (Friday) morning, I had a pretty slow start,” she said. “Everyone else was doing so well and I thought I could pick up my game a little bit.”

Kellum’s night improved significantly against the Panthers. She logged eight kills on nine swings without committing any errors.


Thayer Hall

The highlight of the evening had to have been freshman Thayer Hall serve 19 straight points.

FIU couldn’t deal with Hall’s standing float-serve on its way to a 19-0 deficit in the third set.  “The most impressive thing was that she was doing it out of timeouts, she was doing it after substitutions,” Wise said. “She was doing it after every opportunity to distract her and her level of focus was indicative of the entire team”

Hall’s serving streak shattered the previous school record of 14 first set by Abby Detering against Georgia in 2015.

Hall racked up 18 kills on 46 swings and six service aces on the day. Five of those aces came against Jacksonville.

Florida will return to the O’Dome Saturday afternoon at 2 to finish off the Gator Invitational as its plays Army.


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