Down 23-22 in the fourth set, Florida freshman Merritt Beason landed back-to-back kills before an attack error on Minnesota gave the Gators match point at the O’Connell Center Sunday.
Florida dominated the first two sets — outhitting Minnesota by 12 kills combined while committing fewer errors — but the Golden Gophers’ resilience shined in the third set. They landed 15 kills and committed only a pair of errors en route to a three-point victory.
Though the Gators won the fourth and final set, it marked Florida’s lowest hitting percentage of any set (.239). Minnesota’s inefficiency (.182) in the fourth set allowed Florida to hop out to an early 7-1 advantage before clinching the win.
Florida middle blocker Lauren Forte landed 16 kills on 24 attempts with no errors, which marks a new program record in single-game efficiency (.667). Forte is one of only two SEC players with a season hitting percentage north of .500 (.563).
“Me and Marlie [Monserez] have been really working all week on our connection and I think it really showed up tonight,” Forte said. Senior setter Marlie Monserez had a whopping 56 assists — just shy of her career-high 63 — and added 14 digs.
Florida’s 69 kills and 69 digs mark season-highs in both categories. Four different Gators recorded double-digit kills and sophomore libero Elli McKissock tallied a season-high 19 digs. Redshirt senior T’ara Ceasar matched her career high in kills (19) and is the first Gator to record 60 kills this season.
While Beason filled the stat sheet and landed those clutch pair of kills in the fourth set, her serving struggles continued as she made three more service errors to add to her season total of 13.
No. 10 Minnesota: 20-19-25-23
No. 5 Florida: 25-25-22-25
The Gators will return to the O’Connell Center Friday to face another top-10 opponent: No. 9 Baylor. The match is scheduled for 8 p.m and will air on the SEC Network.