By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
Florida’s first match of the Bubly Invitational had a little bit of everything Friday.
Unfortunately for the fourth-ranked Gators, UF did not do enough to come away with a win, as it dropped its top-10 match 3-1 to No. 7 Southern California before a crowd of 4,431 in the O’Connell Center.
The Trojans improved to 4-0 on the season with a 25-18, 16-25, 25-14 and 25-21 win, dropping No. 4 Florida to 1-2.
“When you’ve got two All-American lefts, you’re going to win a lot of matches,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “The difference is when your out of system, they have the ability and the talent with their hitters to take big rips in those situations, and we just don’t have enough of those players. They don’t need to be in system to score, but we do.”
USC’s Brooke Botkin led all players with 20 kills and added 15 digs for an impressive double-double, while middle blocker Khalia Lanier had 14 kills.
“USC is a very talented team,” said right-side hitter Holly Carlton, who led the Gators with 16 kills while hitting a solid .303. “I thought we had a really good scouting report on them and I thought our game plan was in play, but it was just a lot of errors that hurt us.”
Freshman outside hitter Thaler Hall posted her third straight double-digit kills with 12, but also committed nine errors and took 50 total swings, more than 1/3 of Florida’s 145 attacks on the night, while hitting just .060.
“They definitely came out strong on us,” Hall said. “We kind of sat back in the beginning. It was more like they were winning off of our errors. I feel like if we can clean up our side, we’ll have way better volleyball.”
The Gators return to the Exactech Arena to face Louisville at 5 p.m. Saturday, followed by the UCF-Southern Cal matchup at 7:30.
In Friday’s tournament opener, Louisville remained unbeaten by improving to 4-0 with a 3-0 win over UCF, handing the Golden Knights (2-2) their second loss of the season.
The Cardinals, who hit .362 en route to posting the sweep, were led by 12 kills each by Melanie McHenry and Megan Sloan, with McHenry adding10 digs for a double-double.
Jasmine Bennett added 10 kills and Molly Sauer led all players with 19 digs. UCF, on the other hand, only hit .133 and was outgunned 10-4 in team blocks.
McKenna Melville and Kristina Fischer led the Knights with nine and eight kills, respectively.
The round-robin tournament concludes Sunday with Southern Cal facing Louisville at 1 p.m. followed by the tournament finale between host Florida and UCF at 3:30.
As a reminder, fans can get in free to all UF volleyball matches on home football weekends by showing their football ticket.
Florida 0, UCLA 0: At Dizney Stadium, UF (2-2-1) was held scoreless for the third consecutive soccer match, but its defense stepped up to also blank the visiting No. 2 Bruins (2-0-1).
It doesn’t get easier for the Gators at 6 p.m. Sunday when they host No. 7 Southern Cal.
UF senior goalkeeper Kaylan Marckese turned in a collegiate-high eight saves Friday. Her previous high of six saves was turned in seven times.
UCLA outshot the Gators 17-5. Florida’s most dangerous opportunity came with 13 minutes remaining in the second half. Sarah Troccoli’s ball down the middle of the box found Cassidy Lindley. She moved toward goal but her shot was just wide of the near post.
“We just wanted to come out and really battle and show some improvement from last weekend, and I think we definitely did that,” Florida coach Becky Burleigh said. “The level of intensity of what we did was high. I really thought we were going to come on the counter and sneak one in against them. Credit to UCLA for keeping us out of the net.”
The match got off to a late start as an accident on I-75 delayed two of the match officials.