By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
The Florida volleyball team ran its winning streak to seven straight matches while posting back-to-back sweeps for the first time this season, as the Gators took care of Mississippi State with a 25-12, 25-21, 25-14 win before a crowd of 2,650 Sunday in the O’Connell Center.
No. 11 UF, which swept Ole Miss on Friday, improved to 11-3 overall and 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play while the Bulldogs fell to 4-11, 0-2.
Paige Hammons had a match-high and career-best tying 11 kills with no errors en route to a match-high hitting percentage of .550, adding a pair of service aces for a match-high 13.5 points, while libero Allie Gregory had 11 digs to go with a match-high three aces.
“The highlights of this match would have to be the continuing performance of Paige Hammons – especially her offensive numbers – and the way Allie Gregory took control over the backcourt defense,” coach Mary Wise said. “At the end of the season, we’ll look back and go ‘That was the weekend that we should win these matches because we’re at home and it’s early season as young teams are still trying to find their way.’
“We play both these teams a month from now when they’re older, more experienced and they’re playing at home. They will look very different.”
Also having solid matches for UF were senior middle blocker Taelor Kellum and redshirt sophomore Mia Sokolowski, each with eight kills, with the latter hitting a hefty .545.
The Monserez sisters, Allie and Marlie, combined for 30 assists with Allie’s 16 leading the way, while right-side hitter Holly Carlton added five kills, an ace and three block assists.
Paige Shaw led the Bulldogs with seven kills but had seven errors to finish with a .000 hitting percentage.
Taylor Haskins added six kills, and Deja Robinson and Amarrah Cooks each had five in the loss.
“All week in practice we have been talking about finding the answers to how we win a game and how we can execute our game plan,” Gregory said. “We did that this weekend and made a name for ourselves as an aggressive serving team. We executed really well this weekend.”
Kellum noted the Gators are continually improving.
“We did a good job following the game plan as a team this weekend,” she said. “One thing we want to be known for is when (assistant coach) Dave (Boos) sets up the plan, we want to really execute that. We are doing a great job of that so far. We can be a bit more physical, but other than that, I think we are doing well.”
Next up, UF hits the road for a pair of matches this week. The Gators travel to face LSU at 8 p.m. Wednesday and will later head to Alabama to take on the 25th-ranked Crimson Tide on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Soccer: Florida claimed a 4-1 win over Louisiana State at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
The Gators (4-6-1, 2-1 SEC) tied the match late in the opening half. Three unanswered second-half goals gave Florida the final margin.
LSU (6-4-1, 0-2-1) took advantage of their second scoring opportunity in the 23rd minute when Shannon Cooke sent a sharp pass to Lindsey Eaton just above the six-yard box. Eaton evaded her defender and scored from eight yards on a right-footed shot.
Senior Alyssa Howell gave the Gators a lift with her score shortly before halftime. Carina Baltrip-Reyes brought the ball through the Tiger half. Nearing the LSU defensive third, Baltrip-Reyes sent the ball ahead to Cassidy Lindley at the top center of the box. She immediately sent the ball into space down the center of the goal. Howell ran the ball down and just beat the on-coming LSU goalkeeper to score at 42:33.
Florida took the lead for good early in the second half. The play started when Lindley sent the ball out wide to Mayra Pelayo. She bought the ball to above the corner of the box and played it into space for Briana Solis making an angled run through the box. Solis took a touch toward end line and her centering pass was touched in to the upper netting by the right foot of Lais Araujo from four yards in the 50th minute.
The Gators’ third goal came in the 61st minute. It started with some passing back and forth between Solis and Araujo as Solis moved toward goal. From the top of the box, Araujo’s angled ball found Madison Alexander making a run. Alexander’s one-touch from six yards scored at the far post.
The final goal came off an Araujo corner kick. Courtney Douglas leaped and headed in her first collegiate goal from six yards in the 84th minute.
“I really think a big part of it is just our continued persistence at practice,” Florida coach Becky Burleigh said. “The schedule we that we played in non-conference season was really really difficult. I think that helped us prepare for SEC play. More than anything, I would give it to our players again for staying positive during the adversity we faced.”
Florida has one match next weekend and it is at Mississippi State.