After a season where five seniors played their final game in the Elite Eight of the volleyball NCAA tournament, the question remained how would the new Florida Gators of this season look?
The answer is not clear yet, but the team did get off to a good start. The AVCA Coaches Poll 18th ranked Florida Gators showed over the weekend that they can indeed win with a relatively young roster. The team hosted the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational at the O’Connell Center and took full advantage of home court. On Friday the team beat FIU in straight sets (25-21, 25-14, 25-12), a theme that would continue into Saturday’s two match-ups.
Florida went on to beat Florida A&M Saturday morning (25-11, 25-11, 25-14) before facing their toughest opponent that night in Florida Gulf Coast University. However, even with two Gainsville natives in Gigi Meyer (daughter of former UF head football coach Urban Meyer) and Christine Pinder, the FGCU Eagles were no match for the focused Gators (25-16, 25-19, 25-16).
Mary Wise, now in her 22nd season as UF volleyball head coach, believes with a roster that has a total of ten freshmen and sophomores, there is still plenty of room for improvement. She says the area she is most worried about is serving.
The team doesn’t have much time for correction though, as they travel to take on number three ranked Penn State, number two ranked Texas and number six ranked Stanford starting this Friday in the Nike Big Four Classic . Even though this past weekend seemed to be a breeze for the Gators, Wise cautions her team, saying it can only get tougher.
Hoping that the wins will mature her freshmen, Wise looks at this season as she did with her young team in 2008.
With arguably their tallest task of this early season coming in a few days, Wise and company will have to rely heavily on some of their verteran players. The list of older leadership includes senior Tangerine Wiggs, junior Taylor Brauneis, senior Betsy Smith and Gainesville native and fan favorite, Chloe Mann.
Chloe Mann was named MVP of the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational and sophomore Noami Santos-Lamb is out right now due to injury.