PHOTO CREDIT: Courtney Culbreath/UAA Communications

Gators Volleyball Goes Dancing, Three Players Receive Awards

It’s been an eventful couple of days for Gators volleyball with Senior Day, earning a share of the SEC title, players being honored by the league office and, oh, learning where they’ll be in the NCAA Tournament.

The Florida Gators volleyball team earned the 10th overall seed in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Florida will host the first and second rounds of the tourney. This is Florida’s 29th straight season making the NCAA Tournament.

Florida Makes the Tourney

Last year, Florida traveled to Orlando for the first two rounds and eventually saw its season ended in Provo, Utah by BYU. Let’s take a look at the resume allowing the Gators to sleep in their own beds this time around.

As of Nov. 24, Florida sits at 15th in the AVCA Coaches Poll and ninth in RPI. Florida fared well against quality opponents over the entire season with a 10-4 record against the RPI Top 50. Their highest win RPI-wise is on the road against 19th Missouri.

But, Florida’s losses? All to teams in the top 10 in RPI: Kentucky (7), Stanford (4) and Minnesota (10).

The Gators spent much of the year ranked. They started at 10 in the preseason poll, reached as high as seventh and bottomed out at 15. But, that ranking is subject to change in the coming weeks.

As it stands, Florida is 10th in the nation with a .283 hitting percentage, 52nd with .179 opponent’s hitting percentage and tied for 44th with 273 team total blocks.

Gators Among the Best

Three Gators players earned recognition from the league office on Sunday. Outside hitters Paige Hammons and Thayer Hall along with middle blocker Rachael Kramer were named to the All-SEC team.

Thayer Hall

This is Hall’s second straight selection. She finished fourth in the conference with 4.42 points pet set and sixth with 3.76 kills/set over the regular season.

She leads the team with 399 kills and is second with 263 digs. Hall posted 258 kills and 168 digs against SEC teams, that’s nearly averaging a double-double through those 18 matches. Her season-high in kills was 25 against Dayton.

Furthermore, she earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week twice this season.

Rachael Kramer

The senior middle blocker from Phoenix is no stranger to this award, it’s her fourth time being recognized. She joins a group of 10 other Gators to accomplish this feat.

Additionally, she was named Scholar Athlete of the Year. Kramer is set to graduate with a Master’s in International Business and received SEC Defensive Player of the Week twice this season too.

Kramer started slow but became a consistent offensive outlet down the stretch. She hasn’t hit worse than .348 in a match since Oct. 25. She was second on the team during SEC play with 216 points, posting 60 blocks and 179 kills.

Paige Hammons

The junior from Louisville, Kentucky was also a 2018 All-SEC selection. She led the team with 39 service aces in the regular season, that’s fourth in the conference for per-set average and total aces. Hammons’s 26 in-conference aces are second in the SEC.

Hammons had a career-high nine double-digit-kill matches, seven in conference play. Her 2.30 kills per set is the highest average of her career at Florida so far. Furthermore, she posted double-digit points in 10 over her last 11 matches.

SEC Co-Championship Sends Seniors Out in Style

Florida Gators volleyball defeated the Texas A&M Aggies in five sets to become the Co-Champions of the Southeastern Conference on Saturday. They share the SEC title with the Kentucky Wildcats, the only SEC team to beat Florida in this season.

However, Kentucky will receive the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament because of its wins over Florida.

Florida toughed out its win over the Aggies. They only hit .215 as a team but managed to hold A&M to .174 and forced 34 errors.

Senior libero Allie Gregory registered a career-high 25 digs while three different Gators recorded double-digit kills. Thayer Hall had the most with 16 (even though it took 57 swings), Rachael Kramer followed with 13 and Lauren Dooley had 10. Also, Marlie Monserez had a double-double with 40 assists and 10 digs.

Florida now knows where it stands in the tournament field. We’ve seen them go on a 10-match winning streak this season. Can they recapture that magic as the competition ramps up?

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