GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Texas A&M fell behind quickly in the opening set against No. 3 Florida and was unable to completely recover as the Gators downed the Aggies, 25-9, 25-23, 25-17 tonight at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
It was the ninth consecutive victory for the defending Southeastern Conference champions, as the Gators improve to 14-1 overall and 3-0 in SEC play. A&M, playing its highest ranked opponent of the season, drops to 9-4 overall and 1-1 in league play.
A&M repeatedly struggled with serve receive in the opening set, and Florida quickly jumped out to a commanding 10-1 lead. Unable to run an effective offense, A&M was outhit, .433 to -.107 in the frame, and the Gators cruised to the 25-9 win.
The second set also got off to a menacing start as the Gators opened with three consecutive points. A&M, however, quickly turned things around as Sierra Patrick got kills off the block on consecutive plays to provide a spark for the Aggies. Sullivan followed with her first of five kills in the set, and Mariah Agre followed with an ace to give A&M its first lead in the match, 4-3.
Florida ended the run with a kill down the line, but Sullivan countered with a kill and then teamed with setter Allie Sawatzky to reject a powerful attack by outside hitter Ziva Recek to give A&M its largest lead at 6-4.
Florida then went on a 4-1 run to retake the lead at 8-7. A&M twice tied the score, the last coming at 9-9, before the Gators went on a 5-1 run to build their largest lead at 14-10. The Aggies would chip away at the lead and managed to get within 17-16 following a kill off the block by Angela Lowak. A&M was unable to knot the score, serving long on the ensuing play. Jazzmin Babers and Kaysie Shebeneck blocked a Florida attack to once again put A&M within a point, 18-17, but the Aggies, trying to be aggressive with their serves, served the ball into the net on the next play.
Florida eventually built a 22-19 lead before a kill by Sullivan and an ace by Patrick put A&M within 22-21, forcing Florida to use a timeout. The teams began to trade sideouts, with an off-speed kill by Simone Antwi putting the Gators at set point, 24-22. Babers kept A&M alive with a kill before Gabby Mallette recorded the set-clinching point, giving the Gators a 2-0 lead in the match.
Florida built a 17-11 advantage in the third set before A&M mounted a comeback, getting consecutive kills from Sawatzky, Ashley Vrana and Patrick that put the Aggies within 17-14. Florida called a timeout and came back with five unanswered points to go up 22-14. The teams then exchanged points, with an A&M ball handling error putting the Gators at set and match point, 24-16. Patrick recorded a kill to extend the match before Alex Holston blasted a kill down the right sideline to close out the match.
Patrick led A&M with 11 kills and tied for match-high honors in digs with 11 as she completed her second consecutive double-double and the second of her career. Sullivan finished with nine kills while hitting .368. Kelsey Kinley tied Patrick with 11 digs for the Aggies, and Sawatzky finished with 27 assists, giving her 3,889 for her career and leaving her six assists shy of moving into third place in the A&M all-time records.
Antwi led all players with 12 kills while hitting .643 to propel the Gators to a .369 to .172 hitting percentage advantage and a 45-34 lead in kills.
The Aggies continue their SEC road swing Sunday, taking on South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. First serve against the Gamecocks is slated for 1:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m. CT) at the Volleyball Competition. Live audio of the match will be available at AggieAthletics.com with Chelsea Reber and Lindsey Miller calling the action.
Visit AggieAthletics.com for more information on Texas A&M volleyball. Aggie fans also can keep up to date with the A&M volleyball team on Facebook and on Twitter by following @AggieVolleyball.