Freshman Thayer Hall stared intensely through the net at Georgia’s side of the court with her hands behind her back.
It was another long rally. A powerful hit by Texas A&M’s Hollann Hans was dug up by libe…
She quickly moved into position as soon as the ball passed over her head from a Florida serve, arms bent at the ready and standing on her toes just toward the left side.
A long rally ensued full of one-armed saves and back-and-forth volleys until Hall finally stole the spotlight with a kill on an improvised play, sending the ball just behind the 10-foot line.
The O’Connell Center floor shook as fans quickly jumped to their feet. Screams echoed throughout the dome as the 37-second rally ended and the Gators went up 13-7 in the fifth set.
Florida used that scrappy demeanor to ultimately defeat Georgia in a thrilling five-set contest Sunday afternoon after trailing the match two sets to one. The Gators narrowly escaped what would have been their first loss of conference play at home.
No. 11 Florida (15-3, 6-0 SEC) jumped out to an early lead over the Bulldogs in the first set, taking a 25-13 victory. Georgia racked up 13 attack errors in the frame while the Gators only logged three.
It looked like smooth sailing from that point on, but Georgia answered back in the second and third sets, taking a pair of 25-22 victories.
“In the second set, especially offensively, we were so disconnected,” coach Mary Wise said. “Then finally, when the offense got better, the defense was disconnected, which is being a part of a young team.”
The fourth set took on a different tone for Florida. Defensive efforts and better choices offensively made the difference as the team stole a 25-21 victory to tie up the match at two apiece.
The Gators dominated the fifth set coming out to a 13-7 lead off Hall’s kill. The momentum from the play led to a victorious ending for the Gators as they stole a second five-set contest win in four matches.
“Welcome to volleyball in the SEC in 2018,” Wise said. “It was a great match, but unlike (Texas) A&M, we play Georgia twice.”
Redshirt sophomore right-side attacker Holly Carlton tied for the most kills on the match (17) with Georgia’s T’ara Ceasar and sophomore outside hitter Paige Hammons finishing right behind with 13. Hall ended the contest with 11 kills, hitting just under .180.
Redshirt senior setter Allie Monserez led the Gators’ offense with 29 assists. She also dominated the back of the court defensively with junior libero Allie Gregory, with both players logging 14 digs apiece.
“We’re just trying to find our way,” Wise said. “And now, I think we have a better idea of what’s our persona, and I think the understanding that in the fifth set you can’t play tentative.”
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari or contact her at [email protected].