By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
Friday night’s Southeastern Conference match between fourth-ranked Florida and Arkansas did not start out well for the Gators.
It could not, however, have ended up any better.
Led by a tremendous defensive effort from middle blockers Rhamat Alhassan and Rachael Kramer and another double-double from outside hitter Carli Snyder, UF improved to 21-1 overall and 13-1 in SEC play with a 23-25, 25-20, 25-13, 25-7 win over the Razorbacks before an enthusiastic crowd of 3,031 in the O’Connell Center’s Exactech Arena.
Florida racked up 84 points in the win on 56 kills, a season-high 18 team blocks (two solos and 32 block assists) and tied their season-high with 10 service aces.
“That’s a whole lot of points,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “It wasn’t like we were scoring on their errors. Those were kills, blocks and aces.”
Snyder and Kramer led the way with 16 kills each, with Snyder adding 13 digs for a double-double and tying her season-high with six aces en route to scoring a match-high 24 points.
Kramer had eight block assists to finish with 20 points, while Alhassan added a solo block and eight block assists for nine points, with six of those block assists coming in the second set when UF bounced back from a tough loss in the opening set to even things up at 1-1.
From there, the Gators allowed just 20 points the rest of the way, capped by hitting a blistering .500 with 14 kills and no errors on 28 attacks in the final set.
Setter Allie Monserez had 34 assists and 10 digs for a double-double, libero Caroline Knop was solid as always with a match-high 25 digs, right-side hitter Shainah Joseph had eight kills and eight block assists, while freshman Paige Hammons had seven kills and added 14 digs.
“We knew Arkansas was going to be a huge test for us,” Snyder said. “They have a very talented outside hitter in Pilar Victoria, and she gave us a lot of problems the last time as did their team as a whole.
“We took a set to adjust to what they were doing, but after that, we had some fluidity, and as the match went on, our offense started to click a little more. By the end of set four, Shainah was grooving and Allie was doing her thing, so I think there was a lot of good things by the end of the match that we really learned throughout.”
Victoria had a match-high 18 kills and added nine digs, but was held to a .101 hitting percentage.
As a team, Florida hit .261 while limiting Arkansas (17-9, 7-7) to a .060 mark.
“It was a really good effort,” Alhassan said. “Arkansas came out swinging, wanting to put balls away with guns a-blazing and they played really well. But in the second set, we started to figure out their offense and getting a jump on it. We were being high-IQ and kind of figuring it out as we go.”
The Gators return to the Exactech Arena to host SEC foe Missouri (18-9, 11-3) Sunday at 1 p.m.
It will be UF’s annual Senior Day, with the stellar five-member senior class of Alhassan, Snyder, Joseph, Knop and defensive specialist Lindsey Rogers being honored in a pre-game ceremony.