Following a sweep of Alabama State and and a hard-fought four set match win against Miami in the NCAA First and Second Rounds, the Gators will bring the Florida heat to Ames, Iowa, for the Regional Semifinals.
Eighth seeded Florida (27-3, 18-0 SEC) will square off with ninth seed Illinois (26-7, 16-4 Big Ten) in a Friday night showdown at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. The series between the two squads is tied 4-4, and the Gators are 4-1 under head coach Mary Wise.
The Gators bring in a 22-match win streak, the longest in the country, and are looking to advance to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2011.
The Fighting Illini come into the matchup having swept Murray State and Iowa State.
For senior libero Holly Pole, this is almost a nostalgic matchup.
“”We’re just really excited to be advancing to the next round,” Pole said. “I haven’t played Illinois since my freshman year when we were here, and that was obviously a really competitive match. So, just to see another team in a different atmosphere is going to be really exciting.”
The Gators are under the leadership of 2014 SEC Coach of the Year and 2014 AVCA Southeast Region Coach of the Year Mary Wise. The squad also had five members named to the AVCA Southeast Region team, including Wise and freshman middle Rhamat Alhassan, also the Southeast Region Freshman of the Year and the SEC Freshman of the Year, junior middle blocker Simone Antwi, junior setter Mackenzie Dagostino and sophomore right side Alex Holston. Pole received Southeast Region Honorable Mention.
The winner of the Florida-Illinois matchup will go on to face the winner of Stanford-Oregon State, which will take place prior to the Gators and Illini. That match will take place on Saturday night.
First serve for Florida’s match is set for 8 PM. Catch the call on ESPN 850 WRUF.
For comments from Holly Pole, Maddy Monserez, and Mackenzie Dagostino, click below: