The No. 4 ranked Florida Gators were pushed to a fifth set Wednesday night. Although the team had the home court advantage behind them, it wasn’t enough to shield off the performance that the Texas A&M Aggies had in store.
The Gators put on an impressive performance early in set one. They took the first five points of the set to earn a 5-0 lead. Three different Gators sparked the early push tanks to kills by Kennedy Martin, AC Fitzpatrick and Anna Dixon. Senior libero Elli McKissock recorded a dig that moved her to top-five all-time in Florida Volleyball history.
The Aggies then cut the lead to 5-3 until Florida went on another run. After UF grasped a substantial 9-3 lead, Texas A&M seemed to find their rhythm. They had a comeback that was led by Logan Lednicky and Ifenna Cos-Okpalla on the offensive end.
The Aggie’ comeback was good enough to take the lead late in set one 19-18. The two teams would trade points until set one was knotted at 23-23 thanks to a timely kill by Martin. A&M took the very next point until Fitzpatrick was quick to answer back with a kill of her own.
The 24-24 score forced a win-by-two scenario. A kill by Fitzpatrick and an A&M attack error allowed the Gators to defeat the Aggies in the first set 26-24.
In the second set, the roles seemed to be reversed. It was Texas A&M who was putting their talents on display early. After UF fell behind 5-1, it would take a comeback of their own to get back in the set. A Martin ace and a pair of kills from Dixon and Fitzpatrick cut their deficit to 13-11.
Trinity Adams produced an ace for the Gators followed by a massive block by Nnedi Okammor tied the score 18-18. Neither team would gain a lead of more than one until A&M earned the victory in the second set 25-23. A late offensive surge led by three kills from Lednicky carried the team in the set.
Moving to the third set, Martin had an early kill to spark a 2-0 Florida lead before the Aggies knotted the score at 4-4. The Gators took off on a 5-2 run that forced a Texas A&M timeout. The Aggies were able to side out after the break to cut the Florida lead to 9-8.
Fitzpatrick continued to be the offensive leader for the Gators throughout the set. Graduate transfer Kennedy Muff added an ace to Florida’s stat sheet to extend their lead to 11-9. A kill by Sofia Victoria forced another A&M timeout as UF saw their lead grow to four.
Lednicky was once again a force offensively for the Aggies. After carrying the team on her shoulders in the third set, the Gators had an answer with a huge block from Fitzpatrick and Dixon to give Florida a 19-15 edge.
Then, Texas A&M earned three-straight points that caught enough of head coach Mary Wise’s attention to call a Florida timeout. The Gators led 21-19 heading in to the timeout and were able to close out a pivotal third set for a 25-21 victory.
As the Aggies had their backs against the wall in the fourth set, they showed signs of being the more desperate team. Two early kills by Caroline Meuth allowed A&M to lead 8-6. Muff posted her second ace of the night that ignited a Florida team back in the set.
The Gators went on a 3-0 run following Muff’s ace to give UF an 11-8 advantage in set four. A trio of kills from Fitzpatrick, Okammor and Victoria extended the Gator’ lead to 14-10. However, the Aggies refused to go down without a fight.
A 9-3 Texas A&M run catapulted them to a 19-17 lead in the fourth set. The run was led by Brooke Jeffery and Ludnicky as they looked to haul their team to victory. Victoria did everything she could down the stretch, recording three kills late in set four to tie the score 24-24. A&M followed with a two-point run to force a deciding fifth and set.
The final set was a first-to-15 affair. The Gators found themselves in familiar territory after being pushed to a five-setter. UF claimed the first two points of the match after a kill by Victoria and a service ace by Emily Canaan.
The Gators held the lead until the Aggies tied the score 4-4. After the score was knotted, Florida went on a 4-0 run. It was highlighted by an ace by Emily Canaan, and kills from Dixon and Fitzpatrick to give the Gators an 8-5 edge in the fifth set.
As A&M saw their chances of victory slipping away, they displayed an impressive amount of grit. They would even the score at nine apiece with the match coming down to the final points. An attack error from Fitzpatrick gave the Aggies a 10-9 advantage. However, Muff was quick to even the score after answering with a dump over the net that caught the A&M defense off guard.
Florida came up short in executing late in the fifth set. An attack error from Victoria and a service error from McKissock allowed Texas A&M to capitalize in route to 15-13 fifth set win. Setting up a 3-2 victory for the Aggies in the O’Dome.
Martin and Fitzpatrick led the way for the Gators offensively. Martin posted a team-high 16 kills in the match at a .263 clip. Following her in kills was Fitzpatrick with 15 kills while Victoria rounded out the offensive attack with 14 kills.
Defensively, Dixon tallied six blocks on the night. Coming off of SEC Defensive Player of The Week honors, Okammor continued to make her presence felt at the net as she posted five blocks.
Elli McKissock capped off her historic night in the backcourt as she totaled a match-high 19 digs. Muff distributed the ball in impressive fashion at the setter position tallying 42 assists.
The Gators will have to regroup from the loss before hitting the road. The team will travel to Columbia, South Carolina, to battle the Gamecocks on Oct. 1 with first serve slated for 2 p.m.