The No. 16 Florida volleyball team (21-4, 15-1 SEC) battled to take its 15th sweep of the season, taking a three-set win over the Ole Miss Rebels, 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-17). The Rebels fall to 10-15 on the year and 4-12 in conference action.
The Gators were led by freshman Živa Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia), who put down 15 kills on the afternoon. Fellow freshman Berkley Whaley (St. Petersburg, Fla.) was virtually unstoppable with six errorless kills on 12 swings. Seniors Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.) and Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) tallied nine and seven kills, respectively, combining for a .577 hitting clip. Smith and Wiggs also stuffed a team-high three blocks.
“The fact that today’s match was won in three sets may look like it was easy, but Ole Miss played some of its best volleyball today,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “They were swinging with no fear and certainly won the battle of the middles in the first two sets.”
On the whole, Florida hit .365 for the match, courtesy of junior setter Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.), who dished out 40 assists on the afternoon. Sophomore libero Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) scooped a match-high 16 digs to go along with two aces, finding a way to frustrate the Rebels’ offense by touching nearly every attack. Joining her in patrolling the back row was sophomore Holly Pole (Ocala, Fla.), who followed up her impressive performance at Missouri (12 digs) by recording nine against the Rebels.
Florida took the opening stanza, 25-22. The teams traded side-outs and the lead to start the match, with Ole Miss taking a two-point lead at 6-4. The Gators utilized a Recek back row kill and an Ole Miss miscue to take a 10-8 lead in the first. An Unroe ace and ensuing Smith kill forced Ole Miss to call timeout with Florida leading, 13-9. The Rebels fought back out of the break to tie the set at 14-all, as the Gators burned a timeout of their own.
Florida was the first to the double-decade mark at 20-17 off a Recek service ace. Ole Miss stormed back to tie the set at 20-all and scored two straight after the Florida timeout to lead 22-20. The Gators tied the set at 22-all after a Smith overpass kill and a kills by Whaley and Smith set up set point for the Orange and Blue, 24-22. An Unroe ace sealed the opening stanza for the Gators, 25-22.
Florida withstood an Ole Miss rally to take the second set, 25-22.The Gators took a two-point lead in the second set off a Wiggs kill, 4-2, and a Recek slam off the block kept the advantage, 7-5. The Rebels pulled within one, 8-7, but the Gators went on a 4-1 run as the Florida block came alive and back-to-back Mann-Wiggs stuff blocks put the Orange and Blue ahead, 12-8. Back-to-back Whaley kills put the Gators up by six, 16-10, but the Rebels fought back to pull within two, 17-15.
A Florida hitting error cut the UF lead to just one, 19-18, and a Rebel ace tied the set at 19. Recek put away an out-of-system ball to get the lead back on the Gators’ side, 20-19. Recek tooled the block at 21-20 to keep the Florida advantage and a Whaley-Smith stuff block set up set point for the Gators, 24-22, forcing a Rebel timeout. A Recek kill that nicked the sideline tilted the set in Florida’s favor, 25-22.
The Gators were firing on all cylinders in the third stanza, taking the frame, 25-17. The third set started the same as the first two, as the teams battled for the lead. Florida took a slight lead at 5-4 off a Wiggs-Smith stuff block and extended the advantage to two, 7-5, after an Ole Miss attacking error. The Gators pushed the lead to three off a Pole service ace, 9-6, but the Rebs fought to get back in the frame, tying the set at 10-all off a Gator attacking error. Florida went on a 4-0 run behind the serve of Brauneis to take a 14-10 lead and force an Ole Miss timeout.
A Smith-Brauneis stuff extended the Gator advantage to five, 18-13, and the Rebels took timeout after an Ole Miss hitting error, 19-13. A Recek kill got the Gators to the double-decade mark, 20-16, and a perfect connection on the slide between Brauneis and Smith put Florida within two of the set, 23-17. Recek rolled a kill into the campfire defense and set up match point, 24-17. An Ole Miss hitting error put the match win in Florida’s hands, 25-17.
Florida returns home for their final regular season weekend at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. The Gators welcome the LSU Tigers for their first and only matchup of the season on Friday evening. First serve is set for 7 p.m. ET on ESPN 850/900. On Sunday, the Gators host the South Carolina Gamecocks on Florida’s Senior Day. The match, honoring Betsy Smith, Sundai Weston, and Tangerine Wiggs, will air live on Sun Sports and ESPN 850/900. First serve is set for 1:30 p.m. ET.
Florida has a three-match lead in the SEC standings heading into the final weekends of SEC play, and the Gators must win two more matches to take home the Southeastern Conference title outright. Florida can also claim the title with one more victory if SEC foes Tennessee and Texas A&M each suffer a loss next Friday evening.
Courtesy of UF Communications