Last week, it was LSU’s Taylor Bannister who had her way against Florida’s defense.
On Sunday, it was Tennessee’s Tessa Grubbs who took over the game.
Both times, UF had enough depth to counter only one strong player.
Four Gators had double-digit kills in the victory (25-18, 25-20, 20-25, 25-17) over the Volunteers, despite Grubbs’ 22 kills.
“Every team has a go-to player, and the best teams in the league have multiple go-to players,” coach Mary Wise said on Thursday. “There will be nights where we feel we may not be able to contain this talent because she’s going to get hers, but can we keep her teammates from having career nights?”
The Volunteers only had 34 kills on 113 swings with 14 errors (.177 hitting percentage) aside from Grubbs.
It was also Florida’s sixth-straight win and 15th in its last 16.
Outside hitter Paige Hammons led the way offensively with 15 kills. Setter Marlie Monserez amassed 42 assists and tied libero Allie Gregory for the team high in digs (18).
“It makes my job easier because everyone just wants the ball, everyone wants to put it down,” Monserez said. “I just have faith (in) everyone on the court that no matter who I give it to, they can put the ball down.”
Sunday’s first set resembled a Big 12 football game more than an SEC volleyball match. The defenses were mostly absent, and both offenses took turns scoring. The Gators (17-3, 8-1 SEC) registered kills on over half of their swings in the opening set for the second-straight match.
It was a back-and-forth set until a kill from Florida middle blocker Rachael Kramer gave the Gators a 15-13 lead. UF proceeded to outscore the Volunteers 10-5 to win the set 25-18, despite Tennessee (9-11, 3-7 SEC) hitting .294 in the frame.
Florida’s offense fell back down to earth in the second set. Both teams registered the same number of kills (13), but Florida’s offense was more efficient. Kramer and Hammons combined for eight kills in the second set to lift Florida over the Volunteers in the frame.
The Gators were a mess defensively in the third set, and Tennessee took advantage. The Vols took five of the first six points of the set, and Florida never recovered from it. The Gators attempted to make a comeback bid and reduced the lead to three, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Volunteers from taking the set.
Eight of Grubbs’ kills in the match came in the third set, and the Gators couldn’t keep up, snapping a 12-set win streak with the 25-20 loss.
UF rebounded in the fourth set and jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Tennessee never came close to staging a comeback in the 25-17 victory. Grubbs still scored six kills, but the rest of the team had one more kill (five) than it did attack errors (four) on 27 swings.
There will be little rest for the Gators, as they travel to face No. 25 Missouri on Wednesday.
“With so much volleyball still left ahead, what hasn’t changed, no matter the record is, we’re just trying to be better from the match before,” Wise said.
Follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter @Bfarrell727. Contact him at [email protected]