No. 15 Florida tops LSU in 5-episode thriller

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Florida Athletics

Photo: Florida Athletics

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida’s 15th-ranked volleyball team closed the series against LSU with a thrilling five-set win Sunday afternoon at Exactech Arena.

The Gators improved to 13-3 overall and 5-1 in the SEC, while the Tigers dropped to 10-8 in the year and 4-4 in the league game.

Florida opened the game with a decisive 25-18 win and was followed by a 26-24 win in the second bracket. LSU took the third set with a 27-25 win and was followed by a 25-21 win in the fourth to force a decisive fifth frame. UF took all the motivation to start the final set and hold on to a 15-9 victory to equalize.

Gators were led by offensive strike by Merritt Beason, who posted a 21-kill performance in the afternoon – marking the best milestone of her career. Sofia Victoria added 16 points of her own in a five-set match, followed by 14 kills from Marina Markova. Gabrielle Essix got her career-high 12 kills in the win to overtake Gator with double-digit kills.

Alexis Stucky has maintained offense in Florida, creating a career-high 56 assists, along with 16 of her career-best digs for her fourth double of the season.

The Gators organized for the Tigers with a hit efficiency of 0.168, counting 16.0 blocks on the grid. Essix put up a career-high and top 10 blocks to take the lead, followed by a career-best eight from Beason. Nnedi Okammor and Markova also scored four blocks in the victory.

The Florida defense was led by a 20-dig effort from Elli McKissock, and Stucky followed with the highest 16 of her own career. Emily Canaan added 10, while Beason (9) and Victoria (8) combined for 17 digs in a five-set win.

Canaan and Stucky each posted the two highest aces in the match, followed by one from Alexis Stucky and Bre Kelley.

The Gators will be back in action October 14 for a two-match series against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss. Friday’s match is set for 9 p.m. ET on the SEC Network, while Saturday’s match is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET. SEC+ Network.

No. 15 Florida (13-3, 5-1 SECOND)
LSU (10-8, 4-4 SEC)

How did it happen?

  • With the first set drawn 3-3, the Gators opened 6-1 to take a 10-4 advantage and force the Tigers to take an early break. Florida continued to keep LSU at a distance, keeping at least a five-point lead until the Tigers used a 3-0 win to cut the deficit to four at 19-15. The Gators were able to frame the opening 6-3 to win the set 25-18.
  • Florida hit a staggering 0.533 in the first set, led by six lives from Beason and five from Victoria.
  • LSU kept the advantage early in the second bracket, taking a 9-6 lead before forcing a timeout in Florida. The Gators pulled in in the second round 10-8, but the Tigers went on to run 6-2 for a six-point advantage over Florida in the middle of the set. UF fought back to cut the deficit to just three at the 18-15 mark, forcing LSU to use the first set timeout. At halftime, the Gators continued to run, eventually taking the lead 22-18 with a total score of 10-0. The Tigers responded to tie the set with a 23-to-all, but Florida was able to hold on to the extra-point win, winning it 26-24.
  • The Gators kept LSU to 0.41 percent in the second set and Florida led by five kills from Markova.
  • After Canaan’s serves, Florida took a 5-0 lead before forcing LSU to timeout. The tigers chipped their way out of the hole, ending the match with a score of 8-8. LSU continued its swing, gaining a 14-12 advantage midway through, but Florida fought back to beat the set 14-all. The Tigers once again took a two light lead at 19-17, but Florida responded to tie the frame at 19-19. LSU went on to hold off the Gators, leading 24-21, but UF took three set points to draw it at 24-24. The Gators were unable to overcome the deficit this time, falling to 27-25 to force a fourth setup.
  • Beason led with seven kills in the third frame, followed by four from Essix and Victoria.
  • LSU controlled the tempo of the fourth set, taking a 9-5 lead before forcing UF to use the first frame timeout. The Tigers continued to take the lead with an 8-point advantage with a score of 21-13. The Gators didn’t bow, cutting the deficit to five at 21-16 to force LSU out of time. Beyond the break, Florida continued to run to pull in the third round, but the Tigers closed in on goal with a 25-21 win to force a decisive fifth set.
  • Victoria, Beason and Markova each scored four kills in the fourth set.
  • With the fifth set drawn 4-4, the Gators took a 4-0 lead after Beason’s serves to take an 8-4 lead during the media timeout. Beyond halftime, Florida continued to hold the advantage, leading LSU 13-9 late in the bracket before another Tigers timeout ran out. The Gators stepped out of that timeout and finished the game 2-0 to go 5-1 in the conference.
  • Florida placed five blocks in the final match, led by four from Okammor and three from Beason.


  • Gabrielle Essix scored her first career double in the match. She finished with the 10 highest blocks of her career and 12 best kills of her career
  • Alexis Stucky had his fourth brace of the season, ending the game with 56 assists and 16 assists. 56 assists is a career high number for a freshman. 16 digs is also an individual best for rookies
  • Merritt Beason ended her career with 21 lives in the afternoon. She also registered eight career best blocks in the match
  • Gators improve to 51-14 against Tigers in all-time series, including 48-6 record under Mary Wise lead
  • Florida is currently 5-0 in five-set matches against LSU
  • Gators improve to 25-5 against the Tigers in Gainesville, Fla.
  • UF improves to 2-2 in five-set matches in 2022 campaign

Thoughts from Coach Wise

“It’s SEC Volleyball in 2022 – it’s a battle every night. We only made enough plays in the fifth set to be able to guarantee that win.”


  • The Gators will be back in action on October 14, 15 for a two-match series against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss.
  • Friday’s match is set for 9pm ET on the SEC Network, while Saturday’s match is scheduled to begin at 6pm ET on the SEC+Network.


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