FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - For the second time this season the Gators went five sets and, like the first time around, they made a late run to earn a gritty victory. Florida held off Arkansas, 3-2, in Fayetteville to improve to 9-0 overall Sunday (Sep. 24).
The No. 3 Gators hit .400 in the final set and scored six of the match's last nine points to win their 27th consecutive Southeastern Conference opener. Florida hit .299 on the match and was led offensively by three-time All-American Rhamat Alhassan, who doubled her season high with 20 kills, hit .516, and notched six blocks.
Alhassan's six blocks tied her with Jenni Patterson (1986-89) for the second-most career total blocks in school history (540).
Senior outside hitter Carli Snyder tallied 17 kills and 15 digs for her third consecutive double-double. The Macomb, Mich. native has 16 double-doubles in her last 40 matches after only logging seven in her first two seasons. Alhassan and Snyder combined for five of Florida's 10 kills in the fifth set.
Senior libero Caroline Knop led the defensive effort with a season-high 23 digs.
Aside from the third set, which saw the Gators take a 25-16 win, the match was a thrilling back-and-forth affair. In the deciding set, Florida trailed 4-1 before rattling off a 4-1 run of its own to tie the match. Three ties later, the Gators won three straight points. Arkansas later staved off two match points before Snyder crushed a set from Allie Monserez to close it.
(COACH) WISE's WORDS
Head coach Mary Wise on the match and where the team stands after this match..
"I felt like we did a lot of things we were capable of and Pilar (Victoria) still had 30 kills. It was high-level volleyball that could have easily gone either way. But this is what it's like to go on the road. This is exactly how it is in the SEC."
Wise on winning another five-set match...
"We've only played two, and we've made the plays in the abbreviated (set) both times." Wise on Rhamat's season-high 20 kills... "There were a lot of pieces to that, one being the first contact. Our passing was so good. Both setters did a really good job of getting her good looks. She just didn't make any mistakes. Those are pretty impressive numbers for a middle."
Wise on the defense in the sets Florida won...
"The first set we didn't do much defensively. We had no answer for (Pilar Victoria). There were some defensive plays we had to make in the fifth set, especially when we got down early, to hold them (off). There was only one set I felt we were on track defensively."
Wise on how the match came down to a play or two...
"That's volleyball in the fifth set. Now you're playing an abbreviated version, and it's just one play here ... (Carli) Snyder took a great swing out of the back row that Arkansas brought back. It was just such a high level of effort."
- Florida is 2-0 in five-set matches this year, with its other victory coming over No. 5 Nebraska (Aug. 26)
- The Gators' 65 kills were a season high, eclipsing their previous season best of 56 in the five-set win over Nebraska
- Five different Gators had a service ace, and they combined for six aces, the second-highest total of the season
- This is the first match of the year in which Florida's opponent hit over .180
- The Gators recorded 10-plus blocks for the seventh time this season, and it's the second time this year they had at least 12
- Florida's 65 digs were its third-highest total in a match this year
- Rhamat Alhassan has 40 kills in the Gators' last three matches
- Paige Hammons set career highs in kills (11) and points (12), topping the career highs of eight and 10 she set in Tuesday's win over No. 19 Florida State; Hammons also logged nine digs, leaving her one short her first collegiate double-double Florida improved its all-time record against Arkansas to 40-3, along with a 17-2 mark in Fayetteville
Florida continues SEC play with a pair of matches in the O'Dome this coming weekend. The Gators face Tennessee Friday (Sep. 29) at 7 p.m. and LSU Sunday (Oct. 1) at 3 p.m.