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The Battalion

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A&M volleyball swamped by Gators, 3-1

The+Gators+celebrate+after+winning+against+the+Aggies+3-1+on+Friday%2C+Oct.+20%2C+2023.+%28Pranay+Dhoopar%2FThe+Battalion%29
Photo by Pranay Dhoopar

The Gators celebrate after winning against the Aggies 3-1 on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. (Pranay Dhoopar/The Battalion)

Riding a four-game win streak, A&M volleyball returned to Reed Arena on Friday, Oct. 20, to take on No. 17 Florida for the second time this season.

The Aggies came into the match fourth in the SEC with a 6-2 conference record. On the other side, Florida came into the matchup looking to bounce back from a loss to Mississippi State while also to avenge its earlier 3-2 defeat to A&M in Gainesville, Florida.

This time, the Gators took home a 3-1 victory over the Aggies. The first three sets were close, but the Aggies struggled to find gaps in Florida’s defense and the Gators eventually ran away with the game in the fourth set.

The game was a disappointing loss, coach Jamie Morrison said, adding that there were good things happening, but it felt like someone let the air out of the building.

“We’re a young volleyball team,” Morrison said. “We need to learn how to be in those moments, but hats off to Florida, I thought they played really well. Defensively, they were unbelievable; there’s a couple plays in there I haven’t seen people make.”

The first set started off back-and-forth, but the Aggies took an early 5-3 lead after a service error by Florida’s freshman outside hitter Kennedy Martin and a kill by freshman outside hitter Bianna Muoneke. The Gators took a 1-point lead, but the 12th Man forced Florida into its third service error of the set to even things at seven.

Florida coach Mary Wise then called her first timeout after the Aggies took a 12-8 lead off a 5-0 run led by sophomore middle blocker Ifenna Cos-Okpalla, who recorded two kills and a block in that stretch.

Despite the early lead, Morrison was also forced to call timeout after the Gators leveled the score at 12 thanks in large part to two kills by Martin and two service aces by senior outside hitter AC Fitzpatrick.

Both teams traded kills, but the Maroon and White went up 17-14 after miscommunication by Florida resulted in a point for A&M. The Gators tried to get back into the set, but a block out of bounds by Florida and a block by sophomore opposite hitter Logan Lednicky gave A&M a late 23-20 lead.

The Aggies went up 24-20, but Florida scored three-straight points, forcing Morrison to use his last timeout. Although the Gators gave A&M a late scare, the Aggies won the set 25-23 after a Muoneke kill finished off a fantastic rally.

Florida took an early 4-2 lead to start the second set after two Aggie service errors, but A&M tied the score at eight after a Cos-Okpalla kill and block. Later in the set, the Aggies went on a 4-0 run thanks to freshman setter Margot Manning’s serves to take a 15-11 lead. Once more, Florida clawed back, going on its own 4-0 run to tie the set at 15-a-piece.

The teams split the next four points, but the Aggies took a 19-17 lead after a service ace by sophomore middle blocker Morgan Perkins and a Florida hit out of bounds. Then, a 4-1 Gator run gave Florida a late 21-20 lead, prompting Morrison to call timeout.

Florida maintained a 1-point lead until a kill by Lednicky found the ground to even the score at 23-23 into a Florida timeout. The Gators then scored the next two points off of a kill and block by Martin to take the set, 25-23.

Florida carried its momentum into the third set by taking a quick 5-1 lead, forcing A&M into an early timeout. The Gators continued their early dominance and took a 10-3 lead before a service out of bounds by Fitzpatrick ended their run.

The Gators were then forced to call timeout after kills by Lednicky,Muoneke and a service ace by sophomore libero Ava Underwood capped off a 10-4 Aggie run. Out of the timeout, Florida settled back into the set to take a 17-14 lead, but kills by graduate outside hitter Carolina Meuth, sophomore outside hitter Brooke Jeffrey and a Cos-Okpalla block tied the score at 18.

Both teams split points, but the Gators scored four-straight to go up 24-20. The Aggies got a point back, but Florida took the set 25-21 after Martin’s kill was blocked out of bounds by A&M.

Florida started off the fourth set by taking a 6-2 lead off of multiple blocks against A&M’s hitters. The Aggies tried to close the gap, but Florida maintained a 4-point lead until senior middle blocker Nnedi Okammor blocked Meuth’s kill attempt to give the Gators a 11-6 lead.

Florida kept its foot on the gas as the Gators cruised their way to a 19-9 lead into A&M’s last timeout of the set.

The Aggies couldn’t close the gap, as the Gators took a late 24-11 lead thanks to back-to-back kills by senior outside hitter Sofia Victoria. Victoria then won Florida the set, 25-12, after her third-straight kill to give Florida a 3-1 match victory.

The loss on the night drops the Aggies to 6-3 in conference play. Going into the last stretch of the season, Morrison said the team is fine and just needs to “flip the page.”

“I’ve said all season that the SEC will be a grind,” Morrison said. “There’s disappointment, but we set a team rule of having 12 to 18 hours to think about it and then have a so-what attitude.”

Next for Morrison and the Aggies is a home game versus Georgia. First serve is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 22.

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About the Contributor
Eli Meschko
Eli Meschko, Sports Writer
Eli Meschko is a journalism senior from Boerne, Texas, and is minoring in communication and sports management. Eli has covered football, men's basketball, baseball, softball, hockey and track & field. Eli also writes for Dave Campbell's Texas Football as an intern. After graduation, Eli plans on pursuing a career in sports media or public relations.
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