Florida blockers, hitters prove too much for Texas

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There was no déjà vu in Gregory Gym this afternoon. After defeating No. 4 Nebraska last night, Texas fell to No. 4 Florida in four sets on Saturday afternoon.

“We were dominated in every facet of the game,” head coach Jerritt Elliott said. “I thought we were very soft, we didn’t battle and ultimately I don’t think we ever believed we could win that match.”

Texas struggled from the start. It dropped set one with a score of 25–20 behind a .143 hitting percentage on just 11 kills. Senior outside hitter Amy Neal and junior middle blocker Chiaka Ogbogu led the Texas offense with four kills each.

Texas’ slow transition defense woke up in set two, and it had better passing and a more efficient offense. After exchanging points with the Gators early in the set, Texas went on a run to take the lead at 20–17.

The big Gator blockers stymied Longhorn hitters again to tie the match at 21 and force a Texas timeout. Ogbogu notched a block followed by a kill, then Collins caught the Gator defense off guard and recorded her third kill of the game. An attack error by Florida clinched the set for Texas, 25–21.

“I challenged them in game two, and they came back and won, but they weren’t able to sustain it,” Elliott said. “You can’t win games against top five teams with the number of errors we had.”

The Longhorns were inconsistent when passing and attacking the entire match. They finished with 24 attacking errors, 11 service errors and two blocking errors.

The usually dominant Texas blocking was ineffective from start to finish. Texas didn’t put away a single Florida swing in the first set and finished the match with six total blocks, well below their season average of 3.1 blocks per set.

Sets three and four went much like the first. Texas missed serves and wasn’t able to keep up defensively when rallies got long. Much of that can be attributed to the solid play from Florida’s big front line.

Sophomore middle blocker Rhamat Alhassan led the Gators with 13 kills, followed by junior opposite Alex Holston who tabbed 12 and sophomore outside hitter Carli Snyder who had 11.

“Alhassan, at her highest point, you don’t have a chance (to stop her),” Elliott said. “Early on, our freshman was asking me what to do and I said ‘you can’t do anything, it’s just a good swing.’”

Texas had a chance to push the match to a fifth set, following a couple of blocks from Ogbogu and a kill from sophomore middle blocker Mirta Baselovic to tie the set at 24. But Texas couldn’t hold on and eventually lost the set, 26–24.

Neal tallied a team-high 18 kills, two service aces and six digs. Junior opposite Ebony Nwanebu watched the entire match from the sidelines with a boot on her right foot after a stellar debut against Nebraska.

“We had plenty of opportunities to win,” Elliott said. “They’ve got great players and they were in system a lot better than we were and they believed and were fighting much harder than us.”