Monday, November 4, 2013

#5 UF Volleyball Beats TAMU in a Five Set Thriller

It is uncharacteristic of me to write about Gator Volleyball games that are on the road because I usually have no means to watch them. But this game against the Texas A&M Aggies was different. Earlier this season, October 4 to be precise, the Gators cruised to a three set victory over the Aggies here in Gainesville. On Sunday, however, a completely different Aggie team showed up. They took the first set from the Gators 26-24. When I tuned into the game via ESPNU, I could not believe the Gators were losing! In the second set, the Gators struggled as they barely escaped with a 25-23. In the third set, the Gators returned to their dominant form and crushed the Aggies by a score of 25-8. Junior libero Taylor Unroe racked up eight straight points while serving and three of those eight points were aces. Up 2-1 going into the fourth, I figured it was over. The Gators are ranked #5 for a reason. They put teams away to win games. But the Aggies would not go away. They put up a valiant fight and staved off a match point to win the fourth set 26-24.

It came down to a fifth set. The Gators had not played a fifth set all year and as an avid follower and reporter of the team I was indeed nervous. I had to mute the volume because the ESPNU announcers were very bias and seemed to be rooting for Texas A&M. I had dealt with enough annoying announcers after watching the Gator football team on CBS with those "geniuses." The fifth set was a back and forth affair as the Aggies matched the Gators for every point they scored. Suddenly, the Aggies went on a run and went up 11-8. For those not familiar with volleyball, the fifth set is only up to 15. The Gators dug deep and began to trim the lead down, but the Aggies soon found themselves with a match point up 14-13. I held my breath as the ball was served. The only thing going through my mind was the Aggies 0-8 all time record against the Gators. I was devastated when I saw the ball hit Chloe Mann and fall to the court because I had never actually seen the Gators lose before. But my spirits were lifted as the point was Florida's because Mann had blocked the ball! With a second life and the score 14-14, who else but Taylor Unroe was serving. The Gators promptly went up 15-14 and it all came down to one last serve from Unroe. She threw the ball high up and hit a rocket that skimmed over the net and fell to the floor. It was an ace. The game was over. Florida won 16-14. I put my arms up to celebrate the victory and lauded Taylor for coming up clutch when the Gators needed her. This win was a big one because the Gators could not afford to lose any SEC games since they lost to Missouri earlier in the season. Missouri has not lost a single game this year and had also beaten Kentucky in three sets on this day.

As customary, here are the players who stood out to me. It would be impossible to not mention Taylor Unroe as the junior libero had six aces, one being the game winner. Sophomore Ziva Recek scored a double double with 10 kills and 14 digs. Offensively, Senior Chloe Mann (22 kills) and freshman sensation Alex Holston (21 kills) rose to the occasion as the combined for 43 kills on the day. Sophomore Gabby Mallette had 10 kills of her own as well as two solo blocks. The stellar performances aside though, it took a complete team effort to pull this win off. The Gators now enter their bye week and will resume play Wednesday, November 13, against the South Carolina Gamecocks at 6 p.m. in the O'Connell Center. This is the start of a three game home stretch for the Gators. On the other side, the Texas A&M Aggies will look to regroup after their near upset of the #5 team in the nation. They will hit the road to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Friday, November 8, at 7 p.m.

*Stats accredited to

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