By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
The 12th-ranked Florida volleyball team survived a tough challenge from Georgia, pulling out an exciting 3-1 win before an Exactech Arena crowd of 3,005 Sunday.
The Gators, winning their ninth straight match, won by scores of 22-25, 25-21, 25-23 and 25-17 to improve to 11-2 overall and 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play while the upset-minded Bulldogs slipped to 9-4, 1-1.
“It was great to have a team come on the road with a lot of fire, looking to pull an upset,” junior right-side hitter Holly Carlton said. “It was a really fun game to be pushed and be able to respond to that.”
Georgia, which had a six-match winning streak come to an end, won the opening set before UF tied things with a win in set two.
The Gators, who had just one block in each of the first two sets, then turned the tide with a strong blocking effort that produced seven team blocks in set three as they rallied from a 19-11 deficit to post a thrilling win and take a 2-1 lead.
Florida then sealed the victory behind four more blocks in set four for the clinching win. The Gators finished with 13 team blocks, one of their best efforts of the season.
Sophomore outside hitter Thayer Hall led the way for UF with 15 kills and 11 digs for a double-double of her own, with Carlton right behind with 14 kills and six digs.
Senior middle blocker Rachael Kramer, junior outside hitter Paige Hammons and sophomore middle blocker Lauren Dooley each posted seven kills, with Dooley adding four block assists.
Sophomore setter Marlie Monserez had 45 assists to go with eight digs, while senior libero Allie Gregory had a match-high 20 digs and added five assists.
“We grew so much this weekend from Friday through Sunday,” Gregory said. “It was a great sign for our program starting off the SEC schedule.”
UF coach Mary Wise credited the play of Georgia’s senior setter Meghan Donovan, who posted a match-high 47 assists to go with 10 digs for a double-double.
“Over the years, when we’ve played senior setters who were four-year starters, they’ve been very good against us,” Wise said. “Donovan was really on today. She was so good giving her hitters great looks. It wasn’t until we started blocking balls, and that was the difference maker that allowed us to come back in the third set and then in the fourth set. But credit Georgia. They played so clean. They took it to us, but I was pleased with how the players responded.”
The Bulldogs were led by Kacie Evans’ match-high 16 kills.
The Gators hit the road for their next three matches, beginning with a date at 2018 SEC champion Kentucky at 1 p.m. Sunday.