Senior night kicked things off for the Gators volleyball team with a packed gym chanted that “Go Gators” along side SF State’s cheerleading squad, while the team’s seniors Jacquie Brice, Melissa Horton and Jazmine Williams walked onto the court with their loved ones.
The emotional farewell to the senior leaders was matched by an equally emotional game, as the Gators came back from an 0-2 set deficit to steal an improbably, 3-2 win over first place Sonoma State.
“I’m not going to lie, I just cried my eyes out,” said Gator’s middle blocker Williams. “It’s exciting, we ended up with a win, we beat the number one team in the conference and we played as a team. I couldn’t ask for a better ending to my last game here.”
The Gators came out attacking the Seawolves early in the first set. The Seawolves’ quick tips over the net proved to be a weak spot as the Gators fell short 18-25.
The Seawolves came out with an early 4-12 lead against the Gators in the second set, continuing to pressure the net with the team’s quick passing tips and attacking the Gators in the middle of the court. The Seawolves dominated the second set with a 15-25 win.
Going into the break down 0-2, Gator’s head coach Jill Muhe told the team the outcome of the game was in their control and to not let negativity get the best of them.
“We talked a lot about letting things go, letting mistakes go, letting bad plays go,” Muhe said. “This is exactly what I said, we have to step out on the court and we have to let go of those first two games and we have to build momentum from there and that’s exactly what we did.”
The sea of people started to chant “Let’s go Gators”, as the teams walked out onto the court for the start of the third set. Both teams came out playing intense, as the Gators led 11-10 in the middle of the set. The gym soon filled with chants of “wrong call” and “not out” by the fired up crowd when an official said the Gators ball was out as the team led the set 23-22. The Gators took the crucial set by a narrow margin of 25-22, and set the tone for an epic comeback.
“From game two to three, we really improved our passing which helped me run the offense easier,” Brice said. “We served really tough, we were putting them out of system and our blocking at the net got stronger, which just helped our defense.”
In the fourth set, the Gators found the Seawolves’ weakness by taking advantage of the team’s miscommunication and attacking the team on the left side of the court, leading to a 25-19 win.
With the crowd roaring “One more win” and “Let’s go Gators”, the fifth set rolled through as both teams were hungry for a win. The Seawolves held off in the start of the set and gave the Gators three easy points, but came and attacked when both teams were tied in the middle of the set 4-4. The Gators continued to feed off the crowd’s energy and with quick passes to one another came out with 15-10 win.
“I really think we owe the majority of this win to the crowd,” Brice said. “It’s a weird thing to think that it’s my last home match. Right now I’m excited that we won. The sadness fully hasn’t hit me yet, but I’m sure in a few days it will. We have two matches left and I want to end the season on a high note.”
The Gators will return to the court on Nov. 14 against conference team Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock, Calif.