The Florida Gators volleyball team led by Mary Wise opens its seasons this weekend at the Hornet Invitational in Sacramento, California.
The sixth-ranked Gators are set to face San Francisco on Friday at 7 p.m. Following this, two games on Saturday will be played against UC Davis at 1 p.m. and Sacramento State at 10 p.m.
The Florida Gators have never played UC Davis or Sacramento State. The Gators last played the San Francisco Dons in 1995.
A Look at the Team
The team is No. 6 in the AVCA Division 1 Coaches’ Poll. This is the team’s 30th consecutive season with a top-15 preseason rank. The only other team with a longer streak is Nebraska.
Finishing second in the SEC to national champions Kentucky last season, the Gators are hoping to take the title this year. The Gators were the only team to beat the Wildcats last year.
Four Gators were named to the Preseason All-SEC Team, which is more than any other team in the league. T’ara Ceasar, Lauren Forte, Thayer Hall, and Marlie Monserez all represented the Gators on this accomplished team of only nine girls.
Florida lost four seniors last season and will be returning with five rising seniors and four rising sophomores. Sophomore libero, Elli McKissock, had a standout season her freshman year. She is expected to be a strong leader on and off the court this year.
A Wise Coach
Coach Mary Wise is one of two coaches to be named an AVCA Coach of the Year at least three times in their career. Penn State’s Russ Rose has won this award five times. Since Coach Wise joined the program in 1991, no other school has won as many matches. Coach Wise gave some input on how to be the best coach possible.
Looking at last season’s stats, Florida returned .627 of its service aces and .805 percent of its kills. .893 percentage of its solo blocks, and .777 percent of its block assists, and .904 of its assists.
Adding New Players
Four incoming freshmen have been added to the roster. Trinity Adams, Merritt Beason, Gabrielle Essix and Bre Kelley will look to make an impact for the team. Each of them earned high honors in their high school careers.
Coach Wise talks highly of the freshman and says that Merritt Beason will play right side, a position that she has never played before.
The Hornet Invitational
The opening tournament for the Gators is their chance to showcase the hard work they have put in during offseason and preseason. All three of their games will be broadcasted on ESPN+.
UC Davis did not play at all last year due to COVID, says Coach Mary Wise.
Following the Hornet Invitational, the team will travel to Stanford, California to face the Stanford Cardinals on August 31st. The Gators will host the Minnesota Golden Gophers for their home opener on Sept. 5 at 2 p.m.