By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
The No. 11 Florida volleyball team got all it could handle Friday from Texas A&M, but managed to do just enough to clip the Aggies, 3-2, in a thriller that took 2 1/2 hours to play before an Exactech Arena crowd of 3,225.
It was just the third five-set match this season for the Gators, who prevailed by scores of 25-18, 25-22, 21-25, 22-25 and 15-13 to earn their first five-set win of 2018.
Led by 14 kills and a team-high seven block assists from right-side hitter Holly Carlton and a career-high 13 kills and a pair of service aces from outside hitter Paige Hammons, the Gators won their 10th consecutive match to improve to 14-3 overall and remain unbeaten in Southeastern Conference action at 5-0.
Outside hitter Hollann Hands was superb in defeat, recording a double-double with a career-high 32 kills to go with11 digs for the Aggies, who slipped to 10-6, 3-1.
“A ton of credit to Hollann and the job that she did,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “It wasn’t like we didn’t know the ball was going to her. She really played well, as did their whole team. We’re very fortunate we won that.”
Freshman Thayer Hall added a double-double for UF with 10 kills and 15 digs while senior setter Allie Monserez had one of her own, recording a team-high 33 assists and 11 digs.
Other UF standouts included middle blockers Rachael Kramer (nine kills, five block assists) and Taelor Kellum (eight kills, five block assists), junior libero Allie Gregory (20 digs, six assists and three aces) and freshmam setter Marlie Monserez (11 assists, eight digs).
“That was really a highly-competitive match,” Carlton said. “It was the first time going to five (sets) in the SEC and it was our first five-set win of the season. It’s great to have one of those under our belt, and I think that Texas A&M just played a great scrappy game and just did some really nice things.”
Hans was the lone Aggie in double-digit kills, with Samantha Sanders adding nine while London Austin-Roark and Makena Patterson each had six.
Setter Camille Conner also recorded a double-double, recording a match-high 49 assists to go with 12 digs, while libero Amy Houser added a match-high 22 digs.
“Props to Texas A&M. They served us great and defended fantastic tonight, and Hollann Hans – what a fantastic player,” Hammons said. “She really got us tonight.”
Florida never trailed in winning the opening set, but A&M (10-6, 3-1) made them earn everything they got after that.
After pulling out the win in set two to go up 2-0, the Aggies bounced back to win back-to-back sets and set up a fifth set showdown for all the marbles.
The Gators were looking good up 10-5, but A&M hung tough and fought back to within 14-13 before Hall ended the match with her 10th and final kill.
UF returns to the Exactech Arena to face Georgia Sunday at 1 p.m.