Gators win top-10 battle against Golden Gophers

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Florida outside hitter T'ara Ceasar smacks the ball Sunday against the Minnesota Gophers at Exactech Arena.

Fifth-ranked Florida opened its home volleyball season in impressive fashion Sunday with a win over No. 10 Minnesota in four sets.

“Against one of the all-time best performances we’ve ever witnessed in the O’Dome, we had to compete so hard to be able to match the play of Stephanie Samedy,” UF coach Mary Wise said.

Florida took the first set 25-20, then followed with another tough-fought 25-19 win in the second set. Minnesota claimed the third set 25-22, but the Gators stormed back take the fourth set 25-23 and secure the win.

Four Gators hit double-digit kills in the match, with T’ara Ceasar leading the way with a season-high 19 kills. Lauren Forte and Merritt Beason each recorded 16 kills, while Thayer Hall added 11. The 16 kills for Beason were a career-high, while Forte’s 16 were a Florida-career-high.

Florida outside hitter Thayer Hall powers the ball Sunday against Minnesota at Exactech Arena.

Marlie Monserez captained Florida’s offense to a .306 clip, while dishing out a season-high 56 assists.

Florida held (3-1) Minnesota (1-3) to a .223 clip and posted 6.0 blocks at the net. Lauren Dooley notched a team-best four blocks, while Hall added three.

Four Gators posted double-digit digs, with Elli McKissock recording a team-high 19. Monserez posted 14 for her second double-double of the year, while Ceasar and Hall each notched their first double-doubles of the season with 14 and 10 kills, respectively.

Florida recorded eight service aces in the four-setter, led by four from McKissock – tying her career-best mark. Hall added three, while Ceasar pitched in one in the win.

The Golden Gophers were led by redshirt senior opposite Stephanie Samedy, who put on a performance for the ages in her home state of Florida. She tallied a career-high 31 kills on 71 attempts and hit .380 for the afternoon. Samedy also led the team with 14 digs while Airi Miyabe added six kills and freshman outside Natalie Glenn added five, a career-best for her.

Florida outside hitters Thayer Hall, left, and T'ara Ceasar pose Sunday with honorary volleyballs celebrating their 1,000th point before the match against Minnesota at Exactech Arena.

The Gators are back in action Friday when the ninth-ranked Baylor Bears come to Exactech Arena for a two-match series. First serve for Friday’s match is slated for 8 p.m. on the SEC Network, while Saturday’s match will begin at 7 p.m. on SEC Network +.