GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The 15th-ranked Florida volleyball team closed out the series against LSU with a thrilling five-set victory on Sunday afternoon in Exactech Arena.
The Gators improve to 13-3 overall and 5-1 in the SEC, while the Tigers drop to 10-8 on the year and 4-4 in league play.
Florida opened the match with a decisive 25-18 victory and followed with a 26-24 win in the second frame. LSU grabbed the third set with a 27-25 victory and followed with a 25-21 win in the fourth to force a deciding fifth frame. UF grabbed all the momentum to start the final set and held on for the 15-9 victory to clinch the match.
The Gators were led on the offensive attack by Merritt Beason, who posted a 21-kill performance on the afternoon – tying her career-best. Sofia Victoria added 16 of her own in the five-set match, followed by 14 kills from Marina Markova. Gabrielle Essix posted a career-high 12 kills in the victory to round out the Gators in double-digit kills.
Alexis Stucky anchored the Florida offense, dishing out a career-high 56 assists, along with a career-best 16 digs for her fourth double-double of the season.
The Gators held the Tigers to a .168 hitting efficiency, tallying 16.0 blocks at the net. Essix posted a team-high and a career-high 10 blocks to lead the way, followed by a career-best eight from Beason. Nnedi Okammor and Markova also registered four blocks in the victory.
Florida’s backcourt defense was led by a 20-dig effort from Elli McKissock and Stucky followed with a career-high 16 digs of her own. Emily Canaan added 10, while Beason (9) and Victoria (8) combined for 17 digs in the five-set win.
Canaan and Stucky each posted a team-high two service aces in the match, followed by one apiece from Alexis Stucky and Bre Kelley.
The Gators are back in action on Oct. 14/15 for a two-match series against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss. Friday’s matchup is set for 9 p.m. ET on SEC Network, while Saturday’s match is slated for a 6 p.m. ET start on SEC Network +.
No. 15 Florida (13-3, 5-1 SEC)
LSU (10-8, 4-4 SEC)
How It Happened
- With the first set tied 3-3, the Gators opened up a 6-1 run to take the 10-4 advantage and force an early timeout by the Tigers. Florida continued to keep LSU at a distance, holding at least a five-point lead until the Tigers used a 3-0 run to cut the deficit to four at 19-15. The Gators were able to close out the opening frame on a 6-3 run to take the set 25-18.
- Florida hit an astounding .533 in the first set, led by six kills from Beason and five from Victoria.
- LSU held the edge early in the second frame, pulling ahead 9-6 before forcing a Florida timeout. The Gators pulled to within two at 10-8, but the Tigers went on a 6-2 run to take the six-point advantage over Florida midway through the set. UF battled back to cut the deficit to just three at the 18-15 mark, causing LSU to use its first timeout of the set. Out of the break, the Gators continued their run, eventually pulling ahead 22-18 with a 10-0 run overall. The Tigers responded to tie the set at 23-all, but Florida was able to hold on for the extra points victory, winning 26-24.
- The Gators held LSU to a .041 percentage in the second set and Florida was led by five kills from Markova.
- Behind the serves of Canaan, Florida jumped out to the early 5-0 lead before forcing an LSU timeout. The Tigers chipped their way out of the hole, tying the match at 8-8. LSU continued its momentum swing, taking the 14-12 advantage midway through, but Florida battled back to knot the set at 14-all. The Tigers once again grabbed the slight two-point lead at 19-17, but Florida responded to tie the frame at 19-19. LSU continued to hold the Gators at bay, taking the 24-21 lead, but UF staved off three set points to tie it at 24-24. The Gators were not able to overcome the deficit this time, falling 27-25 to force a fourth set.
- Beason led the way with seven kills in the third frame, followed by four apiece from Essix and Victoria.
- LSU controlled the tempo of the fourth set, pulling ahead 9-5 before forcing UF to use its first timeout of the frame. The Tigers continued to build on their lead, taking an eight-point advantage at 21-13. The Gators did not bow out, cutting the deficit to five at 21-16 to force an LSU timeout. Out of the break, Florida continued on its run to pull within three, but the Tigers closed out the frame with a 25-21 win to force a deciding fifth set.
- Victoria, Beason and Markova each recorded four kills in the fourth set.
- With the fifth set tied 4-4, the Gators went on a 4-0 run behind the serves of Beason to take the 8-4 lead into the media timeout. Out of the break, Florida continued to hold the edge, leading LSU 13-9 late in the frame before another timeout by the Tigers. The Gators came out of that timeout and closed the match with a 2-0 run to move to 5-1 in the conference.
- Florida tallied five blocks in the final set, led by four from Okammor and three from Beason.
- Gabrielle Essix posted the first double-double of her career in the match. She finished with a career-high 10 blocks and a career-best 12 kills
- Alexis Stucky posted her fourth double-double of the season, finishing the match with 56 assists and 16 digs. The 56 assists were a career-high for the freshman. The 16 digs were also a personal-best for the rookie
- Merritt Beason tied her career-high with 21 kills on the afternoon. She also registered a career-best eight blocks in the match
- The Gators improve to 51-14 against the Tigers in the all-time series, including a 48-6 record under Mary Wise
- Florida is now 5-0 in five-set matches against LSU
- The Gators improve to 25-5 against the Tigers in Gainesville, Fla.
- UF improves to 2-2 in five-set matches during the 2022 campaign
Thoughts from Coach Wise
“It is SEC Volleyball in 2022 – it is a battle each night. We just made enough plays in the fifth set to be able to secure that win.”
- The Gators are back in action on Oct. 14/15 for a two-match series against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss.
- Friday’s matchup is set for 9 p.m. ET on SEC Network, while Saturday’s match is slated for a 6 p.m. ET start on SEC Network +.