Red-hot UF volleyball sweeps Wildcats
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 1:10 a.m.
Visiting Kentucky found out Friday what so many Florida opponents have discovered this season.
When it comes to playing these Gators, it’s a matter of picking your poison.
Placing four players in double-digit kills led by freshman right-side hitter Alex Holston’s match-high marks of 13 kills and .667 hitting percentage, second-ranked UF (16-1, 5-0) polished off the 15th-ranked Wildcats 3-0, winning all three sets by identical 25-20 scores before an O’Connell Center crowd of 2,512 and a regional television audience.
It was Serve for the Cure night in honor of October being breast cancer awareness month.
UF, which won despite a season-high 18 service errors, hit an impressive .372 as a team and almost doubled the Wildcats (12-4, 4-1) in kills, 54-29, while holding them to a .188 hitting mark.
“They are a tough out,” coach Mary Wise said. “The job we did from a defensive standpoint, limiting Kentucky with their high-powered offense to 29 kills (on 96 attempts), says a lot about our defense tonight. We set the tone early with some key blocks, but just made some plays in the back row.”
The victory extended UF’s winning streak to 11 while ending Kentucky’s win streak at seven in a battle of the SEC’s highest-ranked — and hottest — teams.
It was also UF’s 10th sweep during its current run and eighth in a row.
Sophomore outside hitter Gabby Mallette had 12 kills while senior first-team All-American middle blocker Chloe Mann and sophomore outside hitter Ziva Recek each added 11, with Mann, UF’s all-time career leader in hitting percentage, finishing yet another match without a hitting error.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Wise said. “It doesn’t happen in our sport. You’re going to make hitting errors; it’s part of the game. But obviously no one told her that.”
Holston wasn’t far behind with just one error in 18 attempts.
“Alex has the ability to see the block and hit around the block,” Wise said. “She just has such a huge hitting window, and I think she hit all parts of the court tonight.”
Recek, meanwhile, picked up her fourth double-double of the season with a match-high 14 digs, one of three Gators in double-digit digs along with redshirt junior libero Taylor Unroe (12) and junior defensive specialist Holly Pole (10).
After losing a hard-fought first set that featured eight ties, the Wildcats took the early lead in set two, scoring the first three points and building a 6-3 lead. But UF responded by scoring eight of the next nine points to go up 11-7 and never again trailed although Kentucky got within one on several occasions, the last at 19-18.
“I think that definitely tested our mental focus,” Mann said. “For us to be down and be able to come back from that deficit and stay stable and steady showed a lot of composure and that we’re playing with a lot of confidence.”
The Gators led wire-to-wire in set three, hitting a blistering .500 and closing it out on Holston’s last kill that tied her career-high.
Kentucky was led by senior middle blocker Alexandra Morgan’s six kills and .462 hitting percentage. UF held senior outside hitter Whitney Billings, a 2012 second-team AVCA All-American, to just five kills and a .176 hitting mark.
The Gators return to the O’Connell Center to face a much-improved Georgia team at 2 p.m. Sunday.
The Bulldogs (14-3, 4-1) dropped homestanding South Carolina on Friday by scores of 25-21, 25-20, 27-25 and have already equaled their win total from last season.