Gators move within one win of another SEC title

Published: Thursday, November 24, 2016 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 25, 2016 at 12:45 a.m.

The race for the SEC volleyball championship is going down to the wire.

No. 9 Florida stayed in contention for at least a share of its 22nd league title with a hard-fought 3-1 win over Auburn on Wednesday night at the Lemerand Athletic Center before a crowd of 673.

Alex Holston had 13 kills to tie for match-high honors with Auburn's Breanna Barksdale, while Rhamat Alhassan had 11 kills and 10 blocks and Carli Snyder added 10 kills and 11 digs to propel UF (25-3, 15-2) to a 25-21, 22-25, 25-19, 25-14 win over the Tigers (15-15, 9-8).

“They are such a talented team who plays so hard on every single point,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “On a night where our offense really struggled, it wasn't until we started blocking balls that we were able to pull away.”

Freshman Rachael Kramer had seven kills and no errors in nine swings to hit a blistering .778, while libero Caroline “CK” Knop had a match-high 25 digs for the Gators.

“We prepared for Auburn to be chaotic and play really fast, which they did,” Snyder said. “We had to kind of figure them out as the match went on and not let their chaos become our chaos.”

Auburn's Barksdale took home the scoring challenge, adding 11 blocks (4 solo, 7 assists) to her kills total to finish with 20.5 points.

“It was a really good match,” Alhassan said. “Auburn didn't go away. They pushed and pushed and pushed.”

The Gators will close out the regular season with a match at Arkansas at 2 p.m. Saturday. A win there will assure the Gators no worse than a share of the league title. Florida can clinch the conference title outright with a win and a Missouri loss. Missouri ends its regular season against Tennessee later Saturday.

“This is usually how it goes — we play teams late that are playing their best volleyball," Wise said of Arkansas. "It’s a quick turnaround and a huge challenge for our team. But there’s a lot to play for.”

NOTES: For the third consecutive year, the UF volleyball program led all schools with five All-SEC honorees and also placed one player on the All-Freshman Team, the conference office announced Wednesday.

Holston led the way, receiving her fourth All-SEC honor in program history.

She joins former Gator greats Kelly Murphy (2008-11), Angie McGinnis (2004-07), Aury Cruz (2000-03), Benavia Jenkins (2000-03), and Nicole McCray (1999-2002) as the only four-time All-SEC selections in UF history (does not include All-Freshman Team honors).

Joining Holston as a repeat selection was Alhassan, who earned her third consecutive All-SEC honor.

Those two were joined by transfer libero Knop, Snyder, and redshirt sophomore setter Allie Monserez, all of them first-time All-SEC selections.

In addition, Kramer was named to the All-Freshman Team.

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