Roundup: Gators sweep Alabama to stay atop SEC volleyball

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By Jim Harvin, Correspondent

The No. 11 Florida volleyball team got a sweep of Alabama before an Exactech Arena crowd of 2,545 Sunday, winning by scores of 25-23, 25-18 and 25-16 to record their 13th straight win and improve to 18-3 overall while remaining unbeaten in the Southeastern Conference 8-0.

“The difference between the first time we played them and today was how well Alabama passed,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “They passed very well, and it was compounded with our service errors. We had to back off because we were so high-error, which really helped them. You can see that when they’re in system, they’ve got great arms, and they have found a lot of success out of the middle.

“What we did do a good job of was when they weren’t in system, we did a really commendable job against their left side. That is a full team effort to do that.”

Sophomore right-side hitter Holly Carlton led the way with nine kills and a .471 hitting percentage while senior middle blocker Taelor Kellum added seven kills and a team-high .583 hitting mark as the Crimson Tide fell to 15-6, 2-5.

Outside hitters Paige Hammons, a sophomore who hit .308, and freshman Thayer Hall each had six kills, while junior middle blocker Rachael Kramer had five while hitting .400.

Defensively, UF had a big advantage with nine team blocks to one for Alabama, led by Kramer’s five block assists and three each from Hammons, Kellum and Carlton.

The Gators also owned a 42-33 edge in digs, led by junior libero Allie Gregory’s match-high 12.

After playing three straight five-set matches, all of which they won, the Gators were pleased overall with their second straight sweep of the Tide, who were led by Hayley McSparin’s nine kills and 11 digs from libero Kaylee Thomas, a former Ocala St. John Lutheran standout.

“Alabama played a great match, and this was our first repeat opponent in the SEC,” Carlton said. “We knew that they were going to have some new tactics and a little bit of an extra edge coming into this match, so we were just ready for the fight they were going to bring.”

UF hit a solid .333 while holding the Tide to a .158 mark.

Both teams, however, struggled with their serves, each recording 11 service errors.

The Gators did record six aces, four of them by Carlton, while the Monserez sisters recorded 29 assists – 19 by senior setter Allie and 10 from freshman Marlie.

“There were areas where we struggled and we could have played much more clean than what we did today,” Kellum said. “But we executed when we needed to. When the ball was there, we did great and put it away.”

UF improved to 46-0 all-time against Alabama, with Wise now 44-0.

Next up is a road trip to face Ole Miss at 7:30 p.m. Friday before returning home to face Missouri on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Soccer: In Tuscaloosa, Florida (4-8-2, 2-3-2 SEC) and Alabama (7-7-2, 1-5-1) settled for a 0-0 tie after two overtimes.