By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
For the second time in less than 48 hours, the No. 11 Florida volleyball team found itself in another five-set thriller at Exactech Arena.
And, for the second time in that span, the Gators managed to come away with another hard-fought Southeastern Conference win.
In a match that went just shy of the two hours and 40 minutes UF played Friday night in defeating Texas A&M, 3-2, Florida (14-3, 6-0) got 17 kills from Holly Carlton, 13 from Paige Hammons and 11 from Thayer Hall en route to a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Georgia (12-5, 3-3) to win their 11th straight match before a crowd of 3,268.
Georgia was led by T’ara Ceasar, who had a double-double with 17 kills, tying UF’s Carlton for match-high honors while adding a match-high 19 digs.
“Welcome to volleyball in the SEC in 2018,” coach Mary Wise said. “We knew going in this was the weekend of the lefts that included some of the great arms in the league. Women’s volleyball is such that if you’ve got that as your anchor and then how well everybody else on Georgia played – their middles and how well their libero played in the back row. T’ara was pretty special tonight.
“That’s back-to-back matches that just shows where women’s volleyball is.”
Things started off innocently enough as UF cruised to a 25-13 opening-set win, but the Bulldogs responded with back-to-back 25-22 wins that put the Gators in a 2-1 hole.
They managed to force a fifth set with a 25-21 win in set four, and then put Georgia away by taking the final set, 15-9.
But it certainly was not easy.
Chanelle Hargreaves played a key role for UF, coming off the bench to serve and spark a five-point UF run that turned an 8-7 Gator advantage into a 13-7 lead.
Georgia scored twice to pull within 13-9, but Florida clinched it with back-to-back kills from Hall and Carlton.
“We knew Georgia had some fight in them,” Hargreaves said. “We’ve seen them on film all week and saw how they could play.
“I think it was coming out and playing like the Gators can play and playing how well we know we can to battle back into it.”
UF came up big at the net, recording a season-high 20 team blocks.
Taelor Kellum (one solo, 11 block assists) and Racheal Kramer (seven block assists) were both solid in the middle while Mia Sokolowski had eight block assists and four kills. Allie Monserez had a double-double with 29 assists and 14 digs, joining Hammons who had one of her own with 13 digs to go with her 13 kills. Libero Allie Gregory added 14 digs and six assists while Marlie Monserez had 19 assists and six digs. Florida also benefitted from seven services aces, highlighted by three from Carlton.
Next up, the Gators hit the road for a Friday match at South Carolina at 7 p.m. before returning home to face Alabama at 1:30 Sunday.
Soccer: At Columbia, S.C., the Gators dropped to 4-8-2 overall and 2-3 in the SEC after losing 1-0 to No. 12 South Carolina (11-2, 5-1).
South Carolina freshman Selma Sol Magnusdottir scored the day’s only goal in the 11th minute. Elexa Bahr won the ball above the box and sent it ahead to Sol Magnusdottir. She took a touch before scoring on an angled 12-yard shot.
The Gators were edged 14-12 in shots Sunday. In the latter half of the second, Florida had at least five good looks at goal. With eight minutes remaining, Madison Alexander ran to catch up with a ball played into open space in the box. USC goalkeeper Mika Krzeczowski came off her line to make the stop but Alexander couldn’t quite get her strike off before a USC defender was able to step in to get a deflection for a team save. Prior to that in the 78th minute, freshman Cassidy Lindley’s angled cross just missed finding junior Sammie Betters foot eight yards above the goal.
The Gators were in it until the end. With time ready to expire, junior Tess Sapone’s left-footed shot from 18 yards was just wide of the near post.
“There were definitely some chances (to score),” UF coach Becky Burleigh said. “Again, I will always appreciate the fight this team has and never giving up. There were long stretches – especially in the second half – that I felt we outplayed them. In the end, we all know that we get judged by the scoreboard. That’s the end product. We’ve got to continue working to get the end product.”