By: Shauni Lynch
No. 8 seed Florida Gators have earned its ticket to Ames, Iowa to compete in the the Sweet 16. After defeating Miami (Fla.) 3-1 in the O’Dome Saturday night, the Gators clinched a spot in the Sweet 16 and continued its 22-match victory streak.
The Hurricanes started off strong, taking the first set 25-14 and leaving the Gators shook with nine errors. In the second set, Miami took the early lead at 8-3, but not for long. With help from freshman Carli Snyder and junior Simone Antwi’s game changing kill, the Gators took the lead 16-15. From there, senior Holly Pole served up an ace and kept the momentum going, rallying up the score to 19-16. With a set point notched by sophomore Alex Holston, the Gators came alive and took the second set 25-21.
The energy in the O’Dome remained high throughout the second and third set as the rowdy fans cheered on the Gators. Florida started off with an 11-7 lead and never let the Hurricanes get too close, winning set three 25-20. Set four was an all-out battle with the Gators wanted to end the match and the Hurricanes fighting to stay alive. It was back and forth between the two until Florida pulled ahead 21-17. The Gators closed out the fourth set shortly after, 25-21, marking its victory in the second round of tournament play.
The Gators posted incredible numbers with three Gators registering double-digit kills, including Holston (19), junior Gabby Mallete (12) and freshman Rhamat Alhassan (10). Junior setter Mackenzie Dagostino had 51 assists and Pole served up all four of Florida’s service aces.
Florida’s defense was also producing big numbers with nine digs from Dagostino and senior Taylor Unroe, as well as seven from senior Maddy Monserez and Pole, and six from Holston and Snyder. Alhassan led the Gators again in blocks, this match with four.
The last time the Florida Gators made it into the Sweet 16 was in 2012. The team looks to continue their winning streak and advance in the 2014 NCAA Volleyball Tournament as they travel to Iowa to take on No. 9 seed Illinois (26-7) on Friday, Dec. 12. The last time these two met in tournament play was in 2011 in Gainesville where the Gators beat Illinois to advance to the Regional Final. This game will be one for the books and will be aired on ESPN3.