Florida Volleyball swept the competition Friday and picked up wins in both its games on the first day of the Sunshine Invitational. It took down Georgia Southern in 3 sets and followed by dropping the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles via sweep in the evening.

The Gators bounced back after losing back-to-back games to No. 12 Stanford and No. 4 Minnesota.

Florida’s first match of the day came against Georgia Southern, and the team had all the control through 3 sets. The home team Gators started scoring the first three points and led 10-3 through the first 13 serves.

The Gators stretched their lead to 9 points when they found themselves up, 15-6, and again when it led, 19-10. They ended on a 6-5 run and won the set by a score of 25-15. 

The second set was the closest of the match, but Florida still never found itself trailing. The home team took an early 2-0 lead and never looked back, finding itself up by as much as 7 points.

Georgia Southern’s service error ended the set and gave the Gators a 25-18 second set victory.

The away team held its only lead of the match when it started the third set up, 2-0. Florida quickly took the lead back when it found its groove and went on a 5-point scoring run.

Georgia Southern stuck around and trailed by only 2 points when Florida held a 13-11 lead. The Gators allowed only two more points and won by a score of 25-13, completing the sweep for the team.

Florida never let Georgia Southern into the game and held control from the first serve to the last. 

The away team had more errors than kills on its way to a -.010 hitting percentage. It had 22 kills and 23 attack errors. 

Florida on the other hand hit at a .271 clip. Alexis Stucky led the team with 25 assists on its way to 37 kills on 85 attacks.

Sofia Victoria had a team-high 11 kills in Merritt Beason’s absence. She added on 3 digs and 3 blocks with another team-high 4 errors.

Bre Kelley manages a .625 hitting percentage with 5 kills on 8 attacks and no errors. She also added on a team-high 4 blocks.

Libero Elli MicKissock also made her presence known, contributing 6 assists, 12 digs and the team’s only three service aces.

Florida’s second match of the tournament came against FGCU, and it swept its second team of the day. Despite winning all three sets, FGCU gave Florida trouble throughout.

The first set was as close to the definition of “back-and-forth” as a set could be. FGCU took the early lead with a service ace by Chelsey Lockey.

The lead then changed five times, neither team gaining more than a 1-point lead over the other. The Gators broke this trend when Birdie Hendrickson’s service ace gave Florida a 21-19 lead. 

The team’s 23-20 lead after a kill by Marina Markova was the biggest of the set. The Gators went on to win the set, 25-23, after another kill by Marina Markova.

The second set, while still close, was more in favor of the Gators. Florida took the early lead in the set after Stucky assisted Kelley’s kill. 

The Gators held the largest lead, 2 points, until FGCU tied the set at 12 points each. Florida saw its first major scoring run of the game and closed the set on a 13-7 run, winning the second set, 25-19, on a kill by Stucky.

FGCU scored the first point of the third set when Skylar English got the kill for the away team. Florida broke a 5-5 tie on a FGCU attack error and never slowed down.

The Gators closed on a 20-8 run and won the set, 25-13. The Gators completed the set and won their second match of the day to stay undefeated in the Sunshine Invitational on Alumni Night.

Markova led the team in kills with 12 on 26 attacks. The Gators as a whole tallied more kills than FGCU on less attacks. Florida had 39 kills on 94 attacks compared to FGCU’s 32 kills on 100 attacks.

Kelley led the team in blocks with 5, and Gabrielle Essix and Stucky each had 4. Stucky led the team with 35 assists.

Head coach Mary Wise said VCU is a tournament-level team, so she was really proud of the group for playing the way it did. She said they had not practiced with the lineup without Beason, so she was proud of how they performed. 

“They are competing for a league title every year in the tournament,” Wise said.

She specifically mentioned Hendrickson and AC Fitzpatrick as players that stepped up in Beason’s absence.

This was the alumni’s 25th anniversary, and Wise said it was a lot of fun to play in front of the group.

“Nothing makes me happier than to see alums back here with their families,” Wise said.

Wise said Beason is out for the rest of the weekend, and there is currently no timetable on her return.

The Gators’ next match comes at 4 p.m. Saturday when they play VCU at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

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