Lauren Dooley stood at the net with a determined look on her face.
As the serve passed the plane of the net from South Carolina’s side of the court, she transitioned behind the 10-foot-line. Simultaneously, Paige Hammons passed a perfect ball to Marlie Monserez at the top of the Gators logo painted on the court.
And with three steps, Dooley pounced on top of the ball, slamming the sphere into the court.
That play established just the kind of game Florida had in store for its midweek matchup against the Gamecocks (11-8, 3-4 SEC).
The win (25-17, 25-19, 25-19) put the 13th-ranked Gators at 14-3 on the season, with a 5-1 record in conference play.
South Carolina struggled defensively in the opening frame, allowing Florida to notch 19 kills. The Gamecocks had a hard time closing blocks and defending the open spots on the floor, prompting the Gators to pick away at their game plan one point at a time.
Dooley, who was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week after performances against Arkansas and Texas A&M, moved fluidly on the court throughout the match. From left to right, she moved in cross-footed patterns to get to each side of the net and then sprinted back to the 10-foot-line to take another approach. She tallied eight kills and one error on the night, contributing to the incredible season the sophomore has had thus far.
Coach Mary Wise reiterated that Dooley was expected to be a key factor for this Gators roster later on in her career. Her 10th-consecutive start as a sophomore is still surprising to some.
“She’s making so many good decisions,” Wise said. “If she can develop an IQ that Rachael Kramer plays with, she’s going to have a whole bunch of records before she’s done here.”
And in a game where Florida could have easily sunk down to South Carolina’s level, it stayed on its own side of the court for most of the match. Through the first two frames, the Gators tallied just four errors on 54 swings and garnered 32 kills.
“We like to be low-error, but we also like to be high kill,” Wise said after the match. “I like hitters that think every swing can be a kill and are aggressive like that, but you have to manage that and understand when to go for it.”
The Gators did, however, slip up during the third frame, allowing the Gamecocks to get some momentum and tie up the score (and even take the lead) a handful of times.
But Florida prevailed, taking the third frame — thanks to multiple South Carolina errors (a combined 11 from attacks and serves) — and keeping its win streak alive at three games.
Up next for the Gators is a quick turnaround where they’ll face the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Sunday afternoon.
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari. Contact her at [email protected]