AUBURN, Ala. - The third-ranked Florida volleyball team completed the comeback victory over the No. 24 Auburn Tigers in five sets on Friday night in Neville Arena.
The Gators improves to 9-1 on the season and 1-0 in conference play, while Auburn drops to 10-2 on the year and 0-1 in the SEC.
Since 1991, Florida has won its conference opener each season.
Auburn took the first set 25-20, but Florida used a come-from-behind 26-24 win in the second to knot the match at 1-1. The third set took extra points, with the Tigers claiming it 26-24, but Florida won the fourth frame 25-19 to force a winner-take-all fifth. The Gators won the match with a gutsy 17-15 victory in the final frame.
Kennedy Martin posted a 16-kill performance to lead the offensive effort for the Gators, while AC Fitzpatrick added 15 kills and a .368 clip in the five-setter. Sofia Victoria registered 13 kills of her own, while Anna Dixon pitched in eight in the victory.
In her first starting appearance for Florida, fifth year setter Kennedy Muff dished out 46 assists. Libero Elli McKissock added seven assists of her own on the night.
The Gators tallied 11.0 blocks at the net, led by a season-high seven from Nnedi Okammor. Martin added five in the win, followed by three from Dixon.
Elli McKissock paced the backcourt defense on Friday night, tallying a team-high 15. She moves into seventh place overall in the record books with 1,355 career digs. Martin and Trinity Adams each added 12 digs in the match, giving Martin her third double-double the season. Muff added eight in the win.
The Gators are back in action on Sunday when the team hosts Georgia at 7 p.m. The match is slated to air on the SEC Network with Sam Gore and Missy Whittemore on the call.
No. 3 Florida (9-1) No. 24 Auburn (10-2)
How It Happened
The first set was a tight battle to start, but after finding themselves down 7-5, the Gators used a 3-0 run to take its first lead since 1-0. Auburn then responded with a run of its own, grabbing the 13-9 advantage to force Florida to use its first timeout. Out of the break, the Gators pulled to within two at 13-11, but the Tigers opened up a five-point lead at the 18-13 mark. Florida chipped away at the lead, cutting it to just three at the 21-18 mark, but Auburn held on to win the first set 25-20. Kennedy Martin led the way four kills in the first frame, followed by AC Fitzpatrick's three.
The second set was once again tightly-contested to start, with neither squad holding more than a two-point lead through the first half of the frame. After a 2-0 run, the Tigers grabbed the 15-13 lead heading into the media timeout. Following the break, the next two points belonged to Auburn, forcing a timeout by the Gators. Florida pulled to within three at the 18-15 mark, but the Tigers used a 3-0 run to grab the six-point lead at 21-15. The Gators came storming back to knot the frame at 23-all with an 8-2 run, thanks in part to the serves of Martin, then secured the comeback set victory with a 26-24 win. Four different Gators each registered two kills in the set: Fitzpatrick, Victoria, Martin and Dixon.
With Auburn leading 6-5 to start the third set, the Tigers used a 6-2 run to grab the 12-7 lead and force a Florida timeout. The Gators battled all the way back to within two at the 15-13 mark, but Auburn grabbed the four-point advantage at 21-17. After a blistering kill from Dixon, Florida cut the deficit to two at 21-19, but Auburn took the 24-21 lead shortly after. The Gators responded with a 3-0 run to knot the set at 24-all, but the Tigers closed with a 26-24 victory. Florida hit .244 in the third frame, with Fitzpatrick (5) and Dixon (4) leading the way offensively.
With the fourth set tied 7-all, the Gators used a 4-0 run behind the serves of Emily Canaan to pull ahead at the 11-7 mark. The Tigers cut into Florida's lead, pulling to within one at 16-15, but UF used a 3-0 run to once again take the four-point lead. The Gators continued to keep the Tigers at a distance, taking the 23-16 lead behind another Canaan service run. Florida forced the deciding fifth set with a 25-19 victory in the fourth. Florida hit .278 in the fourth set and limited the Tigers to a .069 clip. Victoria posted five kills in the frame, followed by four apiece from Fitzpatrick and Martin.
The Gators took the early 4-1 lead in the fifth, but the Tigers responded with a 3-0 run to knot the set at 4-all. The teams traded points following that, but it was Auburn that took the 8-7 lead into the media timeout. Auburn took the two-point advantage at 10-8, forcing a timeout by the Gators. Florida found itself down 12-9, but the team battled all the way back with a 3-0 run to tie the set at 12-12. With the teams trading points until 15-15, Florida used a 2-0 run to secure the come-from-behind victory. Florida hit .238 in the final set, led by four kills from Victoria and three from Martin.
- Elli McKissock now sits seventh in program history with 1,355 digs She surpassed Roni Armeda (1986-99 | 1,354 digs) with her 15 in the match She sits just four digs away from tying Rachael Engel (2002-05 | 1,359) for sixth place
- In her first start for Florida in the setter role, fifth year Kennedy Muff finished with 46 assists, eight digs and two blocks Muff is just one of three non-Division I transfers on an AVCA Top-25 team this season She and Baylor's Manuela Bibinbe (JUCO) are the only two non-Division I transfers in their respective starting lineups
- Kennedy Martin has recorded at least 10 kills in all 10 matches this season Martin also registered 12 digs on the night, giving her her third double-double of the season
- AC Fitzpatrick has notched double-digit kills in five matches this season, including the last four-straight
- Sofia Victoria has tallied double-figure kills in three matches in the 2023 campaign
- Since 1991, the Gators have won each conference opener (33 seasons)
- This is UF's fifth come-from-behind victory this season
- Florida improves to 54-2 in the all-time series, including a 50-1 record under Wise
- The Gators are now 3-1 in five-set matches against the Tigers
- Florida improves to 26-2 in Auburn, Ala.
- UF improves to 4-1 in five-set matches during the 2023 campaign
Thoughts from Coach Wise
"So proud of this team to battle under all the adversity we have faced in the last week. To come in here and play as hard as we did, I could not be more proud."
- The Gators are back in action on Sunday when the team hosts Georgia at 7 p.m.
- The match is slated to air on the SEC Network with Sam Gore and Missy Whittemore on the call
- Sunday's match will serve as Georgia's conference opener