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Georgia defensive specialist Brynn Chandler (12) serves. The Georgia volleyball team lost to the University of Missouri Tigers 3-1 on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

Offensive efficiency propelled Georgia volleyball to a 3-1 upset over rival Florida on Friday in the first of a two-match weekend series. 

Georgia’s front row held its own throughout the night, recording eleven blocks and three fewer blocking errors than Florida. The Bulldogs’ offensive play was cleaner than Florida’s as well, finishing with six fewer attack errors and a .032 better hitting percentage than the Gators. 

Several Bulldogs had season-best performances in the match. Freshman middle blocker Phoebe Awoleye was vital to the Bulldogs’ defense with a season-high seven blocks on the night.

Sophomore Kacie Evans was busy throughout the match, recording a team-high 14 digs and a personal season-high 15 kills. Fellow sophomore Amber Stivrins only bested her by one kill, with 16 on the night. The two combined for 36% of Georgia’s points in the match. 

The Bulldogs have talked about resilience all season, and it proved vital in their first set of the day when Florida opened the match with a 6-1 run. Georgia played from behind for most of the frame until it was able to capitalize on several Florida attack errors leading to a 9-1 run. The Bulldogs would go on to win the set 25-21. 

The second set was a tight contest at first, with seven ties and five lead changes throughout the game. Late Florida errors allowed Georgia the opportunity to get ahead in the second half of the set, and offensive firepower from Stivrins and Evans padded the Bulldogs’ lead. A 4-0 run to close the set gave Georgia the 2-0 advantage going into the third set. 

Georgia didn’t fare so well in the third set. Florida’s offense seemed to come to life, hitting at a .346 clip in the set after hitting below .100 in the first two. Despite a couple of brief rallies, the Bulldogs never held a lead in the set and fell 25-19.

The fourth and final set of the competition was the closest of them all. There were nine ties in the set, and neither team led by more than four points. Florida put up 6-0 and 6-1 runs in the set, but the Bulldogs’ passing allowed their offense the opportunities it needed. Four Bulldogs — Evans, Stivrins, Sage Naves and Mallory Hernandez — all recorded multiple kills in the final set, leading to a 25-23 set victory to clinch the match.

Head coach Tom Black was proud of the fight Georgia showed throughout the competition.

“Florida has been at the top of the league for decades now and it was awesome to watch the toughness our team showed throughout the match,” Black said. “We’ll enjoy this for a couple of hours and get right back to work for another challenge tomorrow.”

The 3-1 upset gives the Bulldogs their first winning record of the season at 4-3, and they’ll look to keep it that way when they face off against Florida again at 5 p.m Saturday.