By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
No. 11 Florida and No. 23 Florida State met in a Top-25 college volleyball showdown Tuesday night at the O’Connell Center, with the Gators taking a 3-0 win before an Exactech Arena crowd of 2,615.
Sophomore Thayer Hall had a match-high 15 kills while hitting .467 and added 11 digs for a double-double as the Gators (6-2) won their fourth straight match by scores of 25-21, 27-25 and 25-14 to claim this year’s Sunshine Showdown.
The Seminoles fell to 5-3 with the loss.
The match marked the 63rd meeting between the two rivals, with UF now owning a 43-20 advantage, highlighted by a 36-6 mark under head coach Mary Wise.
“The Florida State-Florida rivalry is always such a huge deal,” said junior outside hitter Paige Hammons, who had 10 kills and just missed a double-double with nine digs
“It started out very intense, but once we calmed down and got settled it all just seemed to be smooth sailing from there.”
The second set was key.
UF fell behind early, 6-2, but battled back and eventually took a 23-20 lead.
FSU then reached set point by reeling off four straight points, but a kill by sophomore middle Lauren Dooley tied things again at 24-all.
A UF attack error gave the ‘Noles their second set point, but this time redshirt junior Holly Carlton came through with a tying kill, followed by a Hall spike that gave the Gators a set point up 26-25.
Carlton followed with a service ace, and the Gators had a 2-0 lead.
The outcome of that set seemed to take the fight out of the ‘Noles as the Gators raced to an 8-1 lead and led by as many as 12 points several times before settling for the clinching, 11-point win.
Sophomore setter Marlie Monserez had a match-high 40 assists and added six digs and four kills, senior libero Allie Gregory registered a match-high 12 digs and Dooley finished with nine kills while hitting a season-high .692.
“It was a great team effort tonight,” Monserez said. “Everyone came in ready to play, ready to compete, and we all knew our game plan and our roles.”
FSU was led by 12 kills by junior outside hitter Payton Caffrey while redshirt freshman Morgan Chacon added seven kills and a team-high 10 digs.
“From an offensive standpoint, I thought Marlie was her best today, and it’s pretty heroic what she’s doing with the bandaged finger,” Wise noted. “She was able to control the ball and give our hitters such good looks, and Thayer and Paige really took advantage of it.”
UF, which had five service aces, hit .322 in the win while holding FSU to a .150 mark.
Next up, Florida hosts the Gator Invitational as Liberty, Northern Arizona and Louisiana join UF for a four-team, round-robin event Friday and Saturday.
The SEC schedule begins the following weekend, with the Gators hosting Auburn Sept. 27 and Georgia Sept. 29.