SEC volleyball: Gators down Razorbacks in weekend series

Special to Gatorsports.com
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The No. 22 Florida volleyball team won a five-set battle over the Arkansas Razorbacks to close out the series at Barnhill Arena on Saturday.

Florida extends its win streak to six matches, improving to 17-6 on the year and 11-2 in SEC play. Arkansas drops to 17-8 in the 2021 campaign and 8-6 in the league.

“What an epic SEC battle," UF coach Mary Wise said. "Arkansas played extremely well and I couldn’t be prouder of this group and how they battled tonight.”

Arkansas took the first set 25-16, but UF answered with a 25-17 victory in the second set to knot the match at 1-1. The Razorbacks took the third frame 25-18, but once again, the Gators responded with a 25-22 win to force a deciding fifth set. Florida took the fifth set in extras, winning 16-14 to clinch the pivotal league match.

T’ara Ceasar led Florida with a 23-kill effort, while Thayer Hall posted 14 kills. Merritt Beason added 10 kills, followed by a career-high nine from Bre Kelley.

Marlie Monserez dished out 55 assists to go along with five blocks.

The Gators tallied 12.0 blocks at the net, holding the Razorbacks to a .191 hitting percentage. Kelley registered a team-high and career-high seven blocks, while Beason and Lauren Forte each tallied three blocks apiece.

Florida’s backcourt defense was led by a 21-dig performance from Ceasar. Beason added a career-high 17 digs, while Monserez recorded 14. Hall’s 12 digs and Elli McKissock’s 10 digs rounded out the performances in double-digits. 

The Gators return to Exactech Arena on Wednesday against Auburn. First serve is slated for 7 p.m. on SEC Network +. 

On Friday

Florida took the first match of the series after a straight-set victory over Arkansas.

"Approaching this series as you have to — it is two matches," Wise said. "Tonight, we scored enough points between our blocks and our kills, but we know tomorrow could look very different."

UF took the first set with a commanding 25-12 victory and followed with a 25-19 win the second frame. The Gators secured the match with a 25-20 victory in final set.

Florida's offensive attack was led by a 17-kill, .552 hitting percentage performance from T'ara Ceasar, while Lauren Forte followed with eight kills. Merritt Beason posted seven kills, while Bre Kelley added five.

Marlie Monserez led the team to a .365 clip, dishing out 35 assists in the process.

The defensive effort at the net was the gamechanger, with the Gators recording 12.0 blocks and holding Arkansas to a .118 clip. Forte posted a team-high 10.0 blocks in the three-setter, setting a season-best mark. Monserez added four blocks, while Ceasar followed with three.

Elli McKissock led the Gators' defensive effort in the backcourt, finishing the match with 17 digs. Monserez pitched in nine, while Beason and Thayer Hall registered eight digs apiece.

Florida recorded four service aces in the win, led by two from McKissock.

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