"The difference was two things: Tennessee made the plays at the right time and their serving and passing is better than our serving and passing," Florida coach Mary Wise said. "Those are skills that come with experience and we'll probably get there. Tennessee is just ahead of us right now."
The loss snapped a six-year streak of SEC Tournament titles for the Gators and ended their 20-match tournament winning streak. Collymore and senior Sherri Williams (Orlando, Fla.) were both named to the six-member SEC All-Tournament team.
Collymore finished with a match-high 21 kills, while adding 17 digs for her 27th career double-double, while McGinnis posted 61 assists and a career-best 25 digs with six block assists. Hampton added 15 kills and 15 digs, with Williams finishing with 15 kills and nine total blocks. Senior middle blocker Michelle Chatman (Woodridge, Ill.) ended the match just one kill and one dig shy of the school's first triple-double as she had a career-best 12.0 blocks, nine kills and nine digs. Sophomore Stefanie Douglas (Temple, Texas) also eclipsed her career high with 11 kills with senior Lauren Moscovic (Stockton, Calif.) tying her career high with 19 digs. Junior libero Rachel Engel (Littleton, Colo.) had 22 digs in posting her eighth 20-plus dig match of the season.
The Gators fell behind early in the decisive fifth game as the Lady Vols scored the first four points. The Gators came within three at 6-3 after a kill from Collymore, but that was the closest Florida came the rest of the way as Tennessee closed out the match by scoring nine of the final 10 points.
Florida came out of the gate with a blocking mentality as the Gators used a 13-2 run midway through the first game in out-blocking Tennessee 6.0-2.0 in a 30-18 win. After the Lady Vols took the lead at 8-7 on an ace, the Gators scored 13 of the next 15 points to take a commanding 20-10 lead. Four of Florida's six blocks came during the stretch with Chatman providing a pair of solo blocks and two block assists in the run. The Lady Vols made a late run, scoring five of seven points to close the gap to nine at 27-18, but the Gators put the game away by scoring the final three points on a Chatman kill, a Collymore ace and block assists from Chatman and Williams. The Gators hit .412 in the first game, highlighted by Collymore who hit .600 with six kills on 10 attempts. McGinnis added a team-best seven digs.
The second game was tight the entire way with the Gators leading for a majority of the game before Tennessee scored six of the final eight points to secure a 30-27 win. Neither team led by more than three points in the game as it was close from start to finish. Florida looked to be in a good position when a Tennessee attack error gave the Gators a 25-24 lead. But the Lady Vols then went on their 6-2 run to close out the game. Williams and Douglas led Florida with five kills apiece in the game, while McGinnis finished with five digs.
The Lady Vols took an early lead in the third game and eventually held on for a close 30-27 win as Tennessee out-hit Florida for the second straight game. Tennessee took an early 7-3 lead and the Gators never took the lead the rest of the way. The game stayed close as Florida never trailed by more than three points until the closing stages of the game. Hampton led all Gators with seven kills on .333 hitting, while Engel, McGinnis and Moscovic added seven digs apiece.
The Gators responded in the fourth game to tie the match at 2-2 with a commanding 30-17 win. Fueled by Hampton's serving, Florida used a 10-1 run in the middle stages of the game to take charge. With Florida ahead by one at 12-11, the Gators scored 10 of 11 points in building their lead to 22-13. Four different UF players recorded kills during the stretch. Tennessee closed the gap to seven at 22-15, but that was as close as the Lady Vols got. Florida out-hit Tennessee .300 to .000 in the game with Williams and Collymore leading the Gators with five kills each. Engel chimed in with 10 digs on the defensive side. The Gators also out-blocked Tennessee 6.0-2.0 with Williams posting four blocks.
Florida returns to action for the Gators' final tune-up of the regular season at the St. John's Classic beginning with a contest against St. John's Friday evening at 7 p.m. The Gators will then play either Wake Forest or Towson on Saturday at 4 p.m. Both matches can be heard live on WRUF-AM 850 and www.GatorZone.com.