By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
The No. 11 Florida volleyball team placed four players in double-digit kills led by sophomore Paige Hammons match-high 16 and added 12 team blocks en route to a 3-1 victory over Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas before an Exactech Arena crowd of 2,768 Sunday.
With the win, the Gators improved to 20-5 overall and 11-2 in SEC play while posting their 1,000th program victory.
The Razorbacks, who fell by scores of 25-20, 15-25, 20-25 and 15-25, slipped to 10-12, 4-8 with the loss.
“It was another match where the opponent played error-free in that first set,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “That’s what happens following a tough loss. It plants doubt, and so our team was just a little bit hesitant and Arkansas was playing so well. That’s a bad combination.”
Hammons added 10 digs for a double-double and also had four service aces and four block assists as UF played its second straight match without standout freshman Thayer Hall, who remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
“Credit our players,” Wise said. “I thought Paige Hammons couldn’t have done anymore for us in terms of what she gave us from the back row or the front row. She played a huge role for us in terms of Thayer’s absence.
“We had some young players step up and our seniors played better. Ours is a team without that one player we can just jump on the back of. We need point production out of everybody.”
Hammons noted that Wise had a quick but effective message after the Gators dropped set one.
“Mary really got us together in the second set and said ‘Play for each other. Play not for yourself but for the people next you, and especially Allie Monserez and Taelor Kellum being their senior year.’ We definitely want to play for them.”
The message was definitely received, as UF proceeded to win the next three sets in a row to turn back the upset bid by Arkansas.
“We’ve definitely been working a lot on getting a rhythm and staying in that rhythm,” said Monserez, who finished with a match-high 44 assists and added five digs, two block assists and two aces.
“I feel like the first set we were a little rocky from start to finish, so it was very inconsistent. I think we just started the second set and we decided we needed to get more hitters involved, and Mia Sokolowski did a great job coming in and all of our defensive specialists like Riley Fischer and Paula Cerame did a great job of making plays.”
UF hit .358 in the win, with Kellum posting 12 kills with no errors in 19 attacks for a match-high .632 hitting percentage and adding a solo block and six block assists.
Rachael Kramer had 10 kills to go with five block assists, while Sokolowski added 10 kills and libero Allie Gregory had a team-high 15 digs.
For Arkansas, Logan Brown had 12 kills while Hailey Dirrigi added 10 and Okiana Valie tied UF’s Gregory for match-high honors in digs with 15.
Next up for Florida is a road match at Auburn next Sunday at 1 p.m.