Thayer Hall

Freshman Thayer Hall leads Florida with 123 kills on the season through eight matches. The Gators went 2-1 this weekend at the Lumberjack Invitational in Flagstaff, Arizona.

 

A six-hour turnaround wasn’t ideal for No. 8 Florida volleyball to retake the court in Flagstaff, Arizona, to finish out its three-game stint in the Lumberjack Invitational.

The Gators managed to finish out the weekend 2-1 despite the tough schedule, with the team’s sole loss coming from Friday night’s matchup against Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks had never beaten a top-25 team before.

Looking back at the Gators’ (5-3) weekend, here are three things that can be taken away from their matches:

 

Rachael Kramer stepping up is a huge asset to a young Gators’ team

Maybe it was the work done in the gym during practice last week. Maybe it was the excitement of playing in front of her home state crowd, but whatever it was, Rachael Kramer stepped up her game this weekend.

The 6-foot-8 middle blocker had failed to break 10 kills in a single match since the 2018 season began before Friday’s matchup against Northern Arizona.

However, against the Lumberjacks, the Phoenix, Arizona, native logged 17 kills on 25 attacks, just three kills below her career-high against Nebraska in the Vert Challenge last year.

The Gators will need Kramer to stay on top of her game once again to help secure a win over Florida State heading into the midweek matchup.

 

Thayer Hall continues to impress

It’s not a normal match for the Gators if freshman outside hitter Thayer Hall isn’t on the leaderboard in at least one area.

The Spartanburg, South Carolina, native continued her impressive performance throughout the tournament logging a career-high of three service aces against the California State Northridge Matadors and 36 kills on 107 swings through the weekend’s three games.

That brings her up to 123 kills for the season in which the Gators have only played eight matches (33 sets). The second-highest on the roster for kills is right-side attacker and setter Holly Carlton (87).

If Hall’s performance is this impressive now, it’s hard to imagine how much better she’ll become as her career progresses.

 

Anything can happen this early in the season

It’s hard to argue that the most unexpected part of the weekend came late Friday night when Florida dropped its third match of the season in five sets against unranked Northern Arizona, giving the Lumberjacks their first win over a ranked opponent in program history.

It’s a hard loss for the Gators to handle. It also shows that anything can happen in the world of NCAA volleyball.

No. 10 Southern California — who beat UF on Aug. 31 — dropped its own match in five sets to No. 25 Marquette on Friday in Milwaukee. No. 15 Baylor defeated No. 2 Wisconsin on Friday night in Waco, Texas, in four sets for the Bears’ highest-ranked win in program history.

The Gators’ loss against an unranked opponent isn’t the end of the world. Upsets happen and streaks end. But a team’s response to that loss, in its own way, prepares it for the NCAA tournament in December.

Florida will travel to Tallahassee, Florida, for a midweek matchup against the Seminoles at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

 

You can follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari or contact her at mfaiello@alligator.org.