The Florida volleyball team (26-3, 16-2 SEC) had a little more than 24-hours to celebrate its SEC title before looking to the bigger picture. With the 2016 regular season behind them, the next challenge comes on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Florida will host the first and second rounds of the tournament, where three other teams will join the Gators. Cincinnati (21-9, 16-3 AAC) will take on Florida State (24-5, 17-3 ACC) Friday afternoon at 4:30 pm. The number 11 Gators will headline the night, when they take on Alabama State ( 24-8, 18-0 SWAC) that evening.
Friday’s match against the Alabama State Hornets will mark the beginning of Florida’s 26th NCAA Tournament appearance.
Though not ranked, Alabama State deserves recognition for their 2016 season. The Hornets went 18-0 in Southwestern Athletic Conference play, making them the conference champions. Alabama State is now a three-time SWAC championship team, winning all three titles in the last four seasons. Jackson State managed to defeat the Hornets last season for the title.
Florida will have an advantage by playing in the familiar territory of Gainesville. The Gators are 11-1 when playing in front of their home crowd. At the same time, though, the Hornets have only lost one match when on the road and come to Gainesville with a 9-1 away record.
Congratulations are in order for our 2016 Volleyball SWAC Champs! The hornets finished undefeated in SWAC play… https://t.co/e1ISEqfNgS
— Alabama State (@ASUHornetNation) November 21, 2016
Whoever wins Friday evening’s match will play the victor of the match between Cincinnati and Florida State. If the Gators and the Seminoles advance to the second round, it would be a familiar setting. The Gators played the Seminoles in the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, when the Gators took the win, 3-1.
First, though, Florida State has to get through the Cincinnati Bearcats.
— NCAA Volleyball (@NCAAVolleyball) November 28, 2016
As for the Gators, Alabama State and its 12-match winning streak will be their first order of business on Friday with match time at 7 pm.