No. 11 Gators open SEC play with quick win

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By Jim Harvin, Correspondent

Florida’s Southeastern Conference volleyball opener against Ole Miss could not have gone much better.

Hitting .363 as a team, the No. 11 Gators (10-3, 1-0) swept the Rebels (10-5, 0-1) while holding them to a .094 hitting mark en route to a 25-17, 25-12 and 25-15 win before an Exactech Arena crowd of 3,345 Friday night at the O’Connell Center.

That was great focus,” coach Mary Wise said. “It was one of those matches that was won behind the service line. We served very well, and Ole Miss has some really good arms. They just never got untracked because of our serving.”

Sophomore right-side hitter Holly Carlton led the way with 10 kills on 12 attacks without an error, hitting a career-high .833 to pace the Gators, but UF had plenty of stars on this night.

Senior middle blocker Taelor Kellum, the reigning the SEC Defensive Player of the Week, finished with seven kills on 10 swings with just one error for a .600 hitting percentage, and sophomore Paige Hammons had a superb all-around effort, registering six kills, seven digs and a pair of block assists while tying her career-high with four service aces.

Other noteworthy efforts were turned in by junior libero Allie Gregory (a career-high four aces to go with a match-high 15 digs), senior setter Allie Monserez (match-high 22 assists and four digs), junior middle Rachael Kramer (five kills, a solo block and four block assists), freshman outside hitter Thayer Hall (five kills, four digs, a solo block and two block assists), and freshman defensive specialists Marlie Monserez (10 assists) and Paula Cerame (two service aces).

We just served really aggressively to get them out of system so we could follow the game plan easier,” Hammons said. “Our passing was on, so it was really easy to run the outsides and get open looks. Allie Monserez had a great night, and the same with Marlie getting us all open looks on every side of the court.”

In winning its sixth straight match, Florida improved to 50-3 all-time against Ole Miss and remained unbeaten (44-0) in the series under Wise (1991-present).

As a team, Florida recorded a season-high 13 aces in the match while committing just six errors.

I just loved seeing everything that we lacked in some games or has hurt us in some tough losses brought into tonight and be really solid all-around,” Carlton said. “That’s what I loved seeing, and then also some things that we specifically worked on in practice including attacking the line and running some different plays and getting more involved in transition.”

The Rebels were led by seven kills apiece by Leah Mulkey and Aubrey Sultemeier.

Their top scorer, junior Emily Stroup, who leads the SEC and ranks second nationally, did manage six kills but also made six hitting errors to finish with a .000 hitting mark.

The greatest sign of respect we have for a player is how much energy we spend preparing for her,” Wise noted.

The Gators return to the Exactech Arena to host Mississippi State Sunday afternoon at 1:30.