The Florida Gators volleyball team has high hopes for their 2013 season as they look to capture their first national championship. No player is more important for those title hopes than starting setter, senior Taylor Brauneis.
Brauneis has already had an incredible college career. She was named 2nd and 1st team All-Big East in her first two seasons at the University of Louisville, respectively, and then named 1st team All-SEC with an SEC leading 11.65 assists/set last year after transferring to the University of Florida in 2012. Even with those honors, she hopes to add “national champion” to her list of accomplishments prior to graduating.
Brauneis chose to attend the University of Louisville over offers from Northwestern, Illinois, and Penn State. After the 2011 season, however, Brauneis announced she planned to transfer from Louisville and eventually settled at the University of Florida.
“Things at Louisville just weren’t really working out. I wanted to play for a program that would be ranked top 25 and had a chance to win championships. I feel like I had that chance here (at UF),” said Brauneis.
After a successful junior season in 2012, that included an SEC championship, Brauneis and the Gators are poised to make a run for the national championship. The Gators have already had a tough slate of non-conference matches against #1 Penn State and then #2 Stanford in the Nike Big 4 Tournament at the beginning of September. The Gators beat Stanford, with the help of an incredible 50 sets by Brauneis, and then followed up with a loss to Penn State the next day. Brauneis believes those two matches in particular were season defining moments for the team.
“When you play two great teams like Stanford and Penn State and actually show that you can compete with them, it gives us a lot of confidence as a team that we can and will fight with the big dogs for that championship,” said Brauneis.
The Gators have a top ranking in the polls, but Brauneis dismissed the significance.
“It’s great that people are recognizing and ranking us so high, but it’s still way too early to get caught up in those (rankings),” said Brauneis.
Instead, Brauneis believes if the Gators “take care of business,” they’ll be right in the thick of the national title race at season’s end.
Hopes are high for Brauneis and the Gators as they strive to become the first national champions in Florida Volleyball history