By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
Led by Paige Hammons’ match-high 13 kills, Florida’s volleyball team closed out the regular season with a 3-0 sweep of South Carolina before a loud and appreciative crowd of 3,723 Friday in the Exactech Arena.
It was Senior Night honoring starters Allie Monserez and Taelor Kellum and the No. 13 Gators won by scores of 25-21, 25-22 and 25-16 to improve to 24-6 overall and 15-3 in the Southeastern Conference.
“I thought we made some scrappy plays as did South Carolina,” coach Mary Wise said. “They made some really good plays, but I think we were just able to get the balls to our middles and scored really well from there. That had a ripple effect on everyone else offensively.”
Florida got eight kills apiece from Kellum, Rachael Kramer and Holly Carlton and six from freshman Thayer Hall, who was playing for the first time in the last eight matches.
UF hit a solid .333 in the win, with Kellum and Carlton tying for match-high honors, each with a .467 hitting mark, while Kramer hit .400.
The Gators also came up with 11 total team blocks to just two for South Carolina and limited the Gamecocks to a .132 hitting mark.
Kramer had a solo block and four block assists while Sokolowski and Hammons each had a solo block and three assists.
“We’ve known all along that is our best lineup,” Wise noted. “We just couldn’t play with it with Thayer out. But she got the green light to at least try and practice yesterday, so honestly we didn’t know what we would do. They said it was going to be a matter of how she would feel after practicing, and she didn’t practice very much.
“But I give a lot of credit to Mia Sokolowski for going from left to right. She hasn’t played right side in a month and everything changes. But we felt like if Thayer was ready to go, let’s play and get used to getting our rhythm back with that.”
The Gamecocks (19-9, 10-8) were led by Brittany McLean and Courtney Furlong, who finished with 12 and 11 kills, respectively.
UF has now won at least 24 matches in all 28 seasons under Wise.
“I’m feeling so great,” Kellum said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better Senior Night.
“As far as the team, from now on what we’ve been saying is we’re flipping the story and we’re going to come out a different group. I think that’s what we showed tonight.”
Monserez had 26 assists to go with a pair of service aces while libero Allie Gregory led all players with 17 digs.
“It was definitely an emotional night,” Monserez said. “I thought we did a really good job of starting off strong and really playing together. There were some moments of up and down throughout the match, but I think the third set we really came together.”
The NCAA Selection Show will air Sunday night at 8:30 on ESPNU.