The Florida Gator volleyball team is ready to avenge its disappointing finish to the 2015-2016 season.
The Gators kick off their new season this Friday against the reigning NCAA champions, Nebraska, at the 2016 Vert Challenge. Coming into this season, Florida is ranked No. 10 in the preseason AVCA poll and were picked to finish second in the SEC in the annual preseason Coach’s Poll.
The Gators finished the 2015 season 25-7 overall and 13-5 in SEC play. They boasted five All-Americans, three of which return this year in Rhamat Alhassan, Alex, Holston and Carli Snyder. The Gators advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 25th consecutive season, all under head coach Mary Wise, and kept its 25-year streak of 25-win seasons alive. However, their December did not end the way they planned; their season ended with a controversial call that went against them in the Elite Eight against Texas.
This team, however, will not focus on past mistakes. Junior Rhamat Alhassan says they are using that tough loss as motivation, but they are looking ahead. With nine returning veterans and a talented crop of eight freshman recruits and one transfer, the team is focused on proving themselves. Florida has 18 players on its roster and it is one of the biggest teams Wise has had in both size and depth. Wise says the new additions won’t feel last year’s disappointment and will add necessary depth to their roster.
Florida spent their offseason preparing in the gym in Gainesville as well as playing internationally. Coach Wise also brought the new team to a beach house this summer to bond. Wise says she wanted them to connect with each other, without phones, and form companionship before stepping onto the court. Now the team is ready for play. Alhassan says they are excited to start the season and are ready to prove themselves.
You can catch Florida’s opening match live on ESPN Gainesville starting at 6:45 p.m.