Down the stretch during the fifth and final set Sunday, Becky Pavan could hardly contain herself.
Ready to jump out of her shoes, a look in her eyes that practically screamed "Gimme the ball," Pavan got the final kill in Kentucky's 3-2 volleyball victory over Florida.
"You get to that point in the game, and you're so close you can taste it," said Pavan, a 6-foot-4 senior middle blocker. "We just made the switch — the full-out effort. We just knew that we were going to win at that point.
"They were on their heels, and they felt our presence, and we knew they felt our presence. ... There was no need to back off. We just wanted to get it down and show them what we were about."
Never miss a local story.
The 24th-ranked Wildcats extended their winning streak to four and avenged a 3-1 loss at Florida on Sept. 23. UK, 14-1 in Memorial Coliseum, is 21-4 overall, 12-2 in the Southeastern Conference.
No. 13 Florida (17-5, 10-3) lost for the second time in three days, the first setback coming at Tennessee.
The Lady Vols lead the SEC East at 13-1, followed by UK and the Gators.
Kentucky, which defeated Tennessee on Oct. 12, is in position to win the East. UK has six conference matches left, including a Nov. 23 visit to Tennessee.
"I've got to give this one to the players," UK Coach Craig Skinner said. "They willed this win. They competed. They bent a little bit but didn't break, and they trusted themselves the whole time and trusted each other, and that's what you have to do to win tough matches against great teams."
That's what you have to do to win an SEC title, too.
"If we didn't win this match, it'd be a heck of a time trying to win the conference," Skinner said. "We'd have to rely on other people. Now, we control what we do. And that's not easy, but you want to be in that position versus relying on other people to stumble."
The final tally for UK: 25-23, 19-25, 25-21, 17-25, 15-9.
Whitney Billings led the Cats with 17 kills, one up on Ashley Frazier, plus 12 digs.
"The nice thing about what Frazier and Billings did was, they had a lot of kills, but they also didn't error much," Skinner said.
Frazier hit .342, Billings .333, which Skinner called "a credit to them to understand when and how to kill the ball.
"The other offensive weapon for us tonight was (Christine) Hartmann, 8-for-17, hitting .471. When people scheme, your setter has to attack because they're usually going to be opened up."
In addition to her error-free kill results, Hartmann had 46 assists and 11 digs.
"It's something to keep them honest and keep their blockers guessing where I'm going to go," Hartmann said of her sneak-attack kills. "Keep the defense on their feet."
Pavan had nine kills, a solo block and six block assists.
Defensive specialist Stephanie Klefot finished with 28 digs — 11 more than anyone else on the floor.
"A lot had to do with the block(ers) because they were setting up good," Klefot said. "I was able to read off of them."
The closest set turned out to be the first, which had 13 ties and six lead changes.
Tied at 21, UK finished with a 4-2 flurry, getting a kill by Billings, a Florida error, and kills by Hartmann and Pavan.
UK blew a 10-6 lead in the second set. The Gators caught up at 15 and pulled away.
The Wildcats, tied at 21 in the third set, finished with a 4-0 run, getting three points from Frazier and an ace by Hartmann.
Florida led all the way in the fourth set, leading to the tie-breaker.
UK led 10-9, then reeled off the last five points. A Gators service error, kills by Hartmann and Pavan, and an ace by Lauren O'Connor set the stage for Pavan's match-ender.
"I'm smiling ear-to-ear," Klefot said. "It's just exciting because we know we can win this SEC still."
Said Hartmann: "We want that ring, and we want that title, and we want people to know that we're on top of the SEC."