By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
For the first time all season, Canadian native Shainah Joseph had both parents on hand for Sunday’s Senior Day celebration at the O’Connell Center.
After leading the fourth-ranked Florida volleyball team to a thrilling 3-1 win over a tough Missouri squad with a career-high 20 kills, Joseph, a fifth-year senior, was understandably excited.
“I’m trying to get them to stay with me and my roommates,” Joseph said. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t want to do that.”
Led by Joseph’s match-high .529 hitting percentage and 21.5 points, UF improved to 22-1 overall and 14-1 in Southeastern Conference play with its eighth straight win, defeating the upset-minded Tigers (17-10, 10-4) by scores of 25-16, 23-25, 26-24, 25-16 before an Exactech Arena crowd of 2,605.
“It had the feel of an NCAA Regional match,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “Points were so hard to come by.
“They’re physical; you see what their middles did, and Melanie Crow is such a difference-maker for them. I told the staff before the match that Melanie Crow could have a bone sticking out of her leg and she’d still play against the Gators and play great. She’s a terrific player.”
Crow, playing for just the fourth time in the last eight matches, led the Tigers with 10 kills and added seven digs and four blocks in leading them with 12.5 points, but it wasn’t enough as Florida’s Rachael Kramer had 14 kills and five blocks while hitting .417 and senior Carli Snyder had her 20th double-double (13 kills, 16 digs) in the last two seasons to finish with 16 and 14 points, respectively.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Missouri,” Kramer said. “They are a tough team, and we didn’t know if Melanie Crow was going to be playing. She’s a fantastic player.
“And their middles are great. We haven’t seen middles that great since the opening weekend. It was kind of a struggle.”
The key point in the match came in set three, when the Tigers had set point up 24-21 and the match tied at one set apiece.
But following a timeout, the Gators responded with five unanswered points behind the serve of Allie Gregory to take the win and go up 2-1.
They never trailed in set four in closing out the match, ending a tight struggle in which Florida won the blocking battle by a mere point, 11-10.
“They’re very well-coached,” Wise noted of the Tigers. “What I hope is they can relive some of the magic in the (NCAA) tournament as they did a year ago.”
UF redshirt junior Allie Monserez had her third straight double-double, tying her season-high with 41 assists and adding 15 digs, while senior libero Caroline “CK” Knop led all players with 18 digs and senior middle blocker Rhamat Alhassan had a match-high six blocks (one solo, five assists)to go with six kills.
Kayla Coffee and Alyssa Munlyn each had eight kills for Missouri while leading in hitting with respective marks of .429 and .304.
Defense was the key for both squads, with the Gators hitting just .213 while the Tigers only hit .154.
Florida travels to face Texas A&M on Wednesday before returning home to play Auburn on Nov. 22, then closes out the regular season at Missouri on Nov. 25. The Gators hold a half game lead over Kentucky in the SEC standings.