Photo by Brian Fox | ChompTalk

The Florida Gators once again played host for day two of the Gainesville Invitational. The matchup included the Tigers of Clemson and No. 3 nationally ranked Florida. The 5-2 Clemson team came in looking to shock Florida in their home arena. Meanwhile, the women in Orange and Blue would look to move to 6-0 and stay perfect on the season.

The Gators came out with a high level of energy leading to two kills for AC Fitzpatrick. After a flat start to the match the previous night against Sacramento State, Florida was playing with more of a sense of urgency in set one vs. Clemson. Clemson weathered the storm early and would take the lead in the first set 12-11. Anna Dixon added positive contributions as she tallied 3 kills in the set.

After an ace by Trinity Adams paired with a nasty tip over the net for a point by Gabrielle Essix, the Gators pushed ahead to an 18-14 lead set one. They would use their momentum to get the victory in the first set of the match 25-15.

Moving to the second set, Clemson was looking to even the match 1-1. They jumped out to an early 5-2 lead in set two and seemed to be finding their way offensively. Then, Anna Dixon was left unblocked at the net for a huge kill for her team. Dixon followed that up with a sneaky tip to get the Gators right back into the set. The Gators would continue their offensive surge and go on a run led by three kills from Sofia Victoria and two for Alexis Stuckey.

Florida now found themselves with a 16-10 lead in the second set. Clemson would fight back to cut the deficit to four with the score at 18-14. However, Kennedy Martin and Sofia Victoria were too much for the Tigers to handle as Florida closed out the match strong and eventually won set two 25-17 to gain a 2-0 edge in the match.

The Gators would look to go for the sweep in the third and final set. Clemson was not ready to roll over and take the loss. The Tigers played with a desperate mentality with elimination on the back of their mind. They were in a similar position gaining an early advantage in the set once again over the Gators. Clemson took a 12-7 edge in set three.

Kennedy Martin carried the team as they tried to creep back into the set. Sofia Victoria also chipped in with back-to-back kills as well as the Gators were working towards the sweep. Then, a much needed defensive play seemed to swing the momentum. A key block from Gabrielle Essix got the crowd back into the match. Alexis Stuckey followed up with a clutch ace to even the score at 18-18 in what would end up being the third and final set.

It was a nail-biting final set that continuously went back and forth. As both teams displayed great competitiveness, the Gators firepower was simply too much for Clemson to handle. Although Clemson forced a win-by-two scenario, Florida pulled out the victory in set three. The sweep of Clemson moves the Gators to 6-0 on the season as they remain undefeated.

Kennedy Martin was the offensive leader for the Gators. Martin had a versatile performance as she totaled 14 kills on the match while contributing nine blocks as well. Although Martin seemed to be the star of the night, it was truly a collective effort for UF in the win. AC Fitzpatrick, Anna Dixon and Sofia Victoria all had 8 kills apiece.

Alexis Stucky looked sharp all night. As she continuously looked for multiple teammates to get involved throughout the match, she dished out a total of 37 assists. Stucky also dugout 10 balls defensively. After the game, Head Coach Mary Wise gave her thoughts on the ability Stucky has to get a diverse group of teammates involved. “The more diverse you offense is, the harder it is to defend… There were a couple deep balls that we struggled with but other than that our passes were terrific today and that’s why Alexis Stucky was able to get so many hitters involved.”

Holding down the backcourt was once again Elli McKissock. McKissock was a leader on and off the court all night for Florida. Often rallying her team together during timeouts and in between points all while tallying 13 digs for her squad. Another player who had an elite night on defense was Gabrielle Essix. Essix made her presence felt at the net all night as she had 9 blocks which was good for a match high.

It will be a quick turnaround for the Gators as the Gainesville Invitational continues on Saturday. No. 3 ranked Florida will play Winthrop tomorrow at 3 p.m.

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