NCAA volleyball tournament: Host Florida sweeps Miami, advances to Sweet 16

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
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Florida outside hitter Thayer Hall (20), libero Elli McKissock (23), setter Marlie Monserez (21) and outside hitter Sofia Victoria (4) celebrate after a point during the NCAA volleyball tourney match at Exactech Arena.

After securing her 1,000th career victory in UF’s win over Florida A&M in the first round of the NCAA volleyball tournament, coach Mary Wise said she was focused on picking up No. 1,001 rather than reflecting on her storied career. 

With Florida facing a quick turnaround, Wise didn’t have to wait long as the Gators downed state rival Miami in straight sets — 25-15, 25-20, 25-16 — in the second round of the tournament Friday. UF will face the winner of top-ranked Louisville’s second-round match-up with Ball State, scheduled for Sunday at 6 p.m. ET. 

“It had to be one of our best defensive performances of the year,” Wise said. “And that’s what it would take to beat a Miami team with the arms they have. That’s a really, really good team, but it was just a night that we played exceptionally well.”

Sofia Victoria, playing a large role following T’ara Ceasar’s decision to step away from the program for postseason play, and Thayer Hall led the way with 13 kills apiece.

Janice Leao and Angela Grieve led Miami with 10 and eight kills, respectively.

“Her energy is just unmatched. I think she plays so fearlessly and so free, and my favorite part of the game is, in the middle of the match she looked at me and she goes ‘I just love playing with this group’, and that just makes it worth it,” senior setter Marlie Monserez said of Victoria. “That makes it worth it, it makes it fun and It makes it really exciting to be a senior with an underclassman who’s just like her.” 

The Gators (22-8) held a comfortable lead for much of the first set before securing the double-digit win, though the second set was far more contentious. Florida opened on a 6-2 scoring run, but Miami (25-5) quickly went on a 7-1 run of their own to take the lead. The in-state rivals traded the lead back and forth until UF closed on a 6-2 run to put Miami on the ropes heading into the third set. 

“They’re a really physical team. They have really big girls, really big blockers. I thought we had a pretty good game plan offensively going in, we just didn’t execute it the way that we wanted to,” Leao said. “So I’m just excited for next year to see if we can do better.” 

UF went up 9-1 to begin the third set and never let the Hurricanes endanger the sweep. Miami finished the game with 21 errors to Florida’s 13 as the Gators prevailed in their final home game of the regular season. It was a memorable moment for many, especially two of the team’s four active seniors, Hall and Monserez, who connected on the game-winning kill. 

“I think it was a blessing to host anyway, and just so being able to have those last two games, it was really cool,” Hall said. “But I think that the final point with Marlie giving me that last ball, and just that connection that we’ve had all four years, and just being able to take that and go into next game, we’ll just be able to cherish that every time we look back.”

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