The Florida Gators followed up their win against Auburn Wednesday with a victory against the Auburn Razorbacks Saturday. Florida won (25-20, 25-20, 25-21) in its first match of this weekend’s two-game series with Arkansas.

Freshman Alexis Stucky started the match strong for the Gators. She put the home team out front first with a service ace. That followed by a bad set by the Razorbacks and a kill by Marina Markova put Florida in front by three.

Arkansas’ Hailey Dirrigl got a kill, but the Gators stayed strong early with a kill by Gabrielle Essix and a black by Merritt Beason and Essix. Florida led 5-1, but the Razorbacks scored three in a row to bring the set within one point.

The teams got caught in a game of tug-of-war as Arkansas tried to take the lead from the Gators. Florida struggled to take complete control as they kept at least one point in between the two teams but couldn’t extend their lead to more than three points. 

This was until UF caught fire and scored five in a row to take a 16-10 lead. Arkansas committed four errors to assist Florida’s run.

The Razorbacks tallied back-to-back kills to stay alive, but the next seven of the next eight serves were in favor of the Gators. Beason had two kills and Sofia Victoria had one to keep the momentum with Florida and give the team a 23-13 lead.

Despite a strong rally attempt by Arkansas in which it scored seven in a row to bring the set within three, Florida closed out the set with a kill by Victoria and a block by Markova and Bre Kelley to give it a 25-20 victory in the first set.

The second set had a similar trajectory as the first. Florida got on the board first after Markova came up with a block. Arkansas won five of seven serves to take a quick 5-3 lead.

A 5-point run by the Gators gave the lead back to the home team, 5-8. The Razorbacks had back-to-back points but two kills by Markova and a kill by Kelley extended Florida lead to 11-7.

The teams took turns winning serves and adding to their scores until the Gators won three in a row to hold a 18-13 lead. The set slowly approached an end, and the Razorbacks weren’t going away.

The Gators held a 22-16 lead, but Arkansas scored three in a row to come within three of Florida. UF closed the set strong, winning three of the last four serves to take the second-set victory, 25-20.

Florida stayed with their strategy from the last two sets and took a quick lead. A block by Beason and Essix put the Gators on the scoreboard first, and they kept scoring to find themselves with a 5-2 lead.

Arkansas brought it within one after back-to-back points but fell back to down four after a 3-point run by Florida. The away team crept close to the Gators and trailed 9-7, but a run for Florida gave them a greater lead.

The team scored five in a row, with Markova hitting two kills, to give it a 14-7 lead. Both squads found 3-point runs to see the score sitting at 17-10.

Florida managed to hold onto a consistent lead and the score was at 22-17. Arkansas turned things around to keep the set, and match, interesting by going on a 4-point run to trail by one point, 22-21.

The Gators stopped the run and didn’t allow another point to win the set 25-21. 

UF completed a sweep against the team in large part due to playing the cleaner match. Arkansas had 24 attack errors compared to Florida’s 17. 

The Gators had 38 kills on 103 attacks, and the Razorbacks had 28 on 111 attacks. Florida’s .204 hitting percentage also bested Arkansas’ .036 hitting percentage.

Markova and Beason both tallied double-digit kills, scoring 11 and 10 respectively. Stucky led the offense with her 27 assists while also adding two service aces.

McKissock’s 14 digs led the way for Florida’s defense, but Beason also added 10 of her own to give her a double-double. Markova and Kelley each had 4 blocks to anchor the defense’’s frontline.

The Gators play Arkansas again at 12 p.m. Sunday in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to complete the weekend’s two-game series.

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