Athens, GA - The No. 1-ranked Florida Gators posted a 3-0, Southeastern Conference victory over the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday evening at the Ramsey Student Center in front of a crowd of 1,382.
Florida earned the victory with set scores of 25-22, 25-18 and 25-13 to improve to 21-1 overall and 14-0 in SEC action. With the loss, Georgia falls to 11-15 overall and 3-12 in league play.
"I felt like we came out with a great focus overall," said interim head coach Chad Hanson. "The mission was point-for-point. Florida had to call the first timeout, so that was a neat experience. But Florida has gotten stronger all season, and that team is bound for some great things at the end of the season. I told our team before the match that the natural focus in competition is who you are competing against, and right now we are a team that is trying to find the identity within ourselves on our own side of the net that will allow us to compete against a Florida team."
While Georgia came out strong on serve Friday leading the match in aces at five to two, Florida led the contest with a strong offensive attack and defensive showing. Offensively, the Gators finished with 48 kills on a .418 hitting percentage led by Callie Rivers and Kelly Murphy with 14 and 11 kills, respectively. Murphy also notched a double-double by dishing out 22 assists. Defensively, UF recorded 13.0 blocks compared to UGA's 5.0 and limited the Bulldogs to 25 kills on a .098 hitting percentage.
"I felt like we served them tough in the first set and that was in our favor," Hanson added. "But as the match went on they were getting in systems a whole lot more and their blocking smothered us."
For Georgia, junior setter Kathleen Gates provided 19 assists to raise her season total to 1,015. It marks the third-straight season of over 1,000 assists for Gates, who stands sixth in school history in the category with 3,265. Behind Gates, senior Valentina Gonzalez and freshman Brittany Northcutt tied for the team lead in kills with five apiece.
Friday's match was the first contest for Hanson as interim head coach for the Bulldogs, and he noted that it was a unique experience.
"It had mixed emotions for sure," Hanson said. "It's unique to be the one submitting the lineup and shaking (Florida) coach Mary Wise's hand before the match, calling the timeouts and all the technical aspects that come with being a head coach. It's truly unique to have the players looking towards me for direction. It's truly unique to feel the freedom of playing the number one team in the country. I don't think anybody was expecting a Georgia win. However, that's why we were on the court – to test them and see if that was a possibility. It was truly unique to be called upon in this situation. I had great support throughout the week and felt great support throughout the match tonight from the team on the floor, the bench, the fans and even people after the match."
Up next, Georgia welcomes South Carolina (5-18, 2-11 SEC) to the Ramsey Student Center on Sunday. First serve between the Bulldogs and Gamecocks is schedule for 1:30 p.m. ET and admission is free.