Gators use defense to gain another volleyball sweep

In this file photo, Florida's Shainah Joseph (15) yells in celebration after a point. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

By Jim Harvin

Fourth-ranked Florida got splendid performances all around the court Friday in posting a 3-0 sweep of South Carolina, winning by scores of 25-17, 25-16 and 25-17 to improve to 17-1 overall and 9-1 in Southeastern Conference play while dropping the Gamecocks to 10-11, 3-6 before an appreciative crowd of 2,516 at the Exactech Arena in the O’Connell Center.

“The story of this match was our defense in holding South Carolina way below their average,” coach Mary Wise said. “It’s the story of the season. We’ve been really good defensively.”

UF recorded 10 blocks for the match and hit a solid .296 while holding South Carolina to a .066 hitting percentage, marking the 16th time in 18 matches the Gators have held an opponent below a .185 mark.

Redshirt senior Shainah Joseph set a new career-high for kills and points scored in a three-set match as she led all players with 13 kills and finished with 14 points, just a half-point behind senior outside hitter Carli Snyder’s match-high 14.5 points that came on 10 kills, three block assists and a match-high three service aces.

“I think tonight was just the culmination of us working really hard this week,” Joseph said. “You know, we’re just working on little things getting ready for the big teams we’ll be playing in December.”

Senior middle blocker Rhamat Alhassan had nine kills and a match-high six block assists, breaking former UF standout Benavia Jenkins’ (2000-2003) school record with 508 for her career, while sophomore middle Rachael Kramer added five kills and four block assists.

Other standouts included senior libero Caroline “CK” Knop (team-high 13 digs and four assists), redshirt junior setter Allie Monserez (match-high 18 assists and six digs), sophomore setter Cheyenne Huskey (14 assists, four block assists and two kills), and sophomore outside hitter Morgyn Greer (three kills, an ace and a block assist in just two sets).

Snyder just missed her seventh double-double of the year, adding nine digs, while Abreia Epps led the visitors with seven kills.

South Carolina star Mikayla Shields, who came into the match ranked sixth in the SEC in kills per set, did not score until recording back-to-back kills in set three and hit minus-.111 for the match.

The score was tied three times, all in the opening set, and there were no lead changes.

“We had a really good week of practice,” Snyder said. “We worked on a lot of rhythm with our setters, giving our middles some time, passing a little bit higher, and just giving ourselves some options. I thought the setters did a really great job tonight applying what we did in practice all week.”

The win marked career victory No. 892 for Wise, tying Mike Hebert for sixth place all-time in Division I as she closes in on becoming the third female coach in NCAA history to reach 900 wins.

Next up, UF travels to face Mississippi State for a 1 p.m. Sunday match in the first of three straight road matches.