Florida Gators volleyball splits series with Kentucky in final regular-season homestand

Ainslie Lee
Gator Sports
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Though the two teams that took the floor of the Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Saturday and Sunday might've been the same, the results couldn't have been more different.

When the 18th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats (18-7, 13-3) entered the weekend's series against the No. 10 Florida Gators (21-5, 13-3 SEC), the stakes were high. 

Both the Wildcats and Gators were 12-2 in SEC play and a weekend sweep would've earned either team at least a share of the 2022 SEC championship. 

But after Florida swept Kentucky on Saturday night (25-18, 25-21, 25-21) and the Wildcats returned the favor Sunday (25-23, 26-24, 25-17), the jury is still out on who will take home the 2022 SEC crown.

Here are takeaways from Florida's final regular-season homestand.

Gators' hitting plummets, errors rise Sunday

After finishing Saturday's match with a .310 hitting percentage, the Gators finished Sunday with a clip of just .163 as errors continued to mount. 

Florida committed 23 errors in Sunday's match, including 11 in the final set alone.

The Gators' 23 errors were the second-most they've committed in a three-set match this season, only being outdone by their 26 errors against Georgia on Oct. 19. 

Leading Florida's turbulent offensive outing was sophomore Merritt Beason, who tallied 12 kills on 31 attacks.

On Beason's heels was Marina Markova, who was joined by Rhett Robinson in Sunday's Senior Day celebration. Markova finished her day with nine kills on 26 attempts. 

Kentucky's Azhani Tealer puts on a Sunday clinic

Immediately following Sunday's sweep, Florida head coach Mary Wise made a beeline to Kentucky senior Azhani Tealer.

The two shared a hug and a brief conversation, which likely entailed Wise commending Tealer for her brilliant performance. Wise was not made available to the media following Sunday's loss. 

Through Sunday's three sets, Tealer recorded 11 kills and seven blocks. Tealer's seven stuffs at the net matched the number of blocks Florida tallied as an entire team. 

And while it was Tealer who led the way, she had plenty of help as fellow senior Adanna Rollins and sophomore Erin Lamb each contributed 11 kills, while junior Reagan Rutherford pitched in five blocks. 

Kentucky finished its stout defensive performance having out-blocked the Gators 12-7. 

Gators look to regroup ahead of regular-season finale

Wise and the Gators will look to clean up their mistakes before heading to Oxford, Miss., where they'll meet with the Ole Miss Rebels in their regular-season finale. 

When Florida gets to Ole Miss, it'll be another pivotal conference matchup for the Gators. With the SEC title still up for grabs, it'll come down to Florida's matchup with Ole Miss and Kentucky's matchup with South Carolina. 

Florida and Ole Miss are scheduled to battle on Friday night at 7:30 and Saturday at 5 p.m. 

Following the Gators' matchup with the Rebels, they'll wait to learn their postseason fate, which will be decided during the NCAA's Women's Volleyball Selection Show, which is scheduled for Nov. 27 at 7:30 p.m. 

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