Tennessee volleyball suffered its first loss of the spring season at the hands of No. 8 Florida, 3-0, Thursday. The Gators took all three sets by scores of 25-20, 25-18, and 25-21 to complete their ninth set sweep of the season.
This match marks the third time the Lady Vols have been held without a set victory this year. Regardless, the Lady Vols hustled and refused to go down without a fight throughout the match.
“There were moments in the match I think we played pretty hard, I don’t think we were able to sustain that,” head coach Eve Rackham-Watt said. “Obviously, against good teams your errors get magnified, so I felt we had to work really hard at times to score points.”
Unfortunately for Tennessee, scoring seemed to come easy for the Gators. Junior outside hitter T’ara Ceasar had her way through much of the second and third sets, posting a double-double with 19 kills and 15 digs off a .417 hitting percentage. Fellow outside hitter Thayer Hall added seven kills and nine digs to Florida’s total production.
The Lady Vols were led by Morgahn Fingall, who posted a team high 11 kills and added 2 blocks and 3 digs. Lily Felts also played well, notching nine kills and seven digs. As a team, Tennessee hit just .133 and totaled 40 kills in their three sets.
Tennessee jumped out to an early 11-6 set one lead thanks to a pair of kills by juniors Danielle Mahaffey and Natalie Hayward. The Lady Vols would hold that lead until back to back Aces by Ceasar gave the Gators a 15-14 lead, one which Tennessee would never retake in set one.
Set two fared similarly for the Lady Vols. Tennessee jumped out to an early 4-0 lead before Caesar took over again, which gave Florida a 21-17 lead. The Lady Vols could not overcome nine attack errors on the set, and eventually fell 25-18, down 2-0 in the match.
The Lady Vols once again started well in set three, jumping to a commanding 9-3 lead. Florida had a few sloppy minutes which Tennessee took full advantage of thanks to a pair of kills each by Felts and Mahaffey. The Gators offense responded well with four quick kills followed by a few errors on the Lady Vols. Florida later took a 17-16 lead and held it the rest of the way, solidifying a 25-21 set victory to win the day, 3-0.
“I’m disappointed in the outcome but I also felt like we didn’t play as disciplined as I’ve seen us play,” Rackham concluded. “I go back to the coaching staff and our ability to make sure we play with discipline. I thought we had a really good game plan but we didn’t execute it and that’s a direct reflection of coaching, so we need to do a better job.”
The Lady Vols and Gators will be back in action Friday at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee will look to bounce back and avoid just their second series sweep of the year. You can catch the Lady Vols at 1 p.m. ET televised on SEC Network+.