BAYAMON, P.R. – Florida defeated its third ranked opponent in four matches this season, sweeping No. 16 North Carolina Sunday to close the SEC-ACC Challenge in Puerto Rico.
The No. 3 Gators (4-0) are the only team in the nation with three wins over top-20 opponents this season. Only one team in the nation amassed three wins over top-20 opponents the first two weeks of last season: Stanford, which won the NCAA title.
Florida’s defense led the way again, holding the Tar Heels to a .109 hitting percentage, the lowest by a Gators’ opponent this year. UF also matched its season high with 11.5 blocks.
Though the offense ground to a mere .270 clip, sophomore Rachael Kramer and fifth-year senior Shainah Joseph were quite efficient. Kramer totaled 10 kills and two errors on 14 attacks to hit .571, while Joseph tallied eight kills and one error on 13 attacks for a .538 clip.
Defensively, three-time All-American Rhamat Alhassan led the way with a season-high nine blocks. Sophomore setter Cheyenne Huskey amassed a career-high six blocks.
The first set saw Florida rattle off an 8-1 run with multiple blocks from Alhassan and Huskey, breaking a 12-12 tie. UF finished the opening set with seven blocks. Set two saw another tie around the midway point (14-14), and the Gators broke it open with a 7-0 run. They scored 11 of the final 14 points in the set.
Florida trailed 19-17 in the third set, but a lengthy service run from Allie Monserez followed by kills from Joseph and Kramer put the match away.
“A great learning opportunity,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “The good news: I think we’ll have the players’ attention in practice next week. We’ll have some growing pains.
“There are some advantages with the two-setter offense, but it’s a little harder to get in the flow, and I didn’t think either setter was particularly sharp tonight. For them to learn how to go back-to-back nights—we didn’t do it that much (last week) against Nebraska—every time out it’s a new learning opportunity. Thought the passing of Paige Hammons was huge there.”
Florida returns to Gainesville, where it will host the Active Ankle Challenge on Friday and Saturday. The Gators face North Carolina-Greensboro and American to open the tournament, and close the weekend against No. 23 Michigan State.
Soccer: At Seattle, the No. 2 Florida soccer team took a 1-0 win over Portland to finish play at the Nike/Husky Invitational Sunday night at the Husky Soccer Stadium
Florida (5-1) took a 1-0 lead into halftime off a 24th minute goal from Gabby Seiler. The play started when Lais Araujo sent the ball to Deanne Rose, standing back to goal above the box. Araujo continued her run, receiving the square ball back from Rose. The right-footed cross from Araujo found Seiler at the top of the six-yard box. Seiler one-touched the ball into the far corner for her fifth goal in the team’s six matches.
One of the best opportunities for the Pilots (2-4) came in the 62nd minute, when Ellie Walker tried to put in the cross from six yards, but Susi Espinoza got quickly into position to make the stop.
For the match, the Gators outshot the Pilots 19-9. Florida controlled much of the play for the match, withstanding a late Pilot push to preserve Florida’s third shutout of the season.
“There were way more chances generated today and that’s definitely a positive. I thought that was our biggest improvement and some of the changes we made from Friday really worked for us,” UF coach Becky Burleigh said.
“We are looking forward to playing in front of our home fans and sleeping in our own beds. This has been a long trip, but I think a really productive one.”
The Gators come home to play host the Fresh from Florida Sunshine Showdown as No. 15 Florida State comes to the James G. Pressly Stadium. That match is Friday at 7 p.m. and admission is free. The Seminoles are 4-1 and won 4-0 over Kentucky in Sunday’s action Tallahassee.
The first 250 fans at the UF-FSU match receive a free performance T-shirt.