No. 17 Florida volleyball goes for its 25th Southeastern Conference regular-season championship, beginning on Thursday against Mississippi State (9-3). The 6-4 squad plays the Bulldogs on Thursday and Friday at the Exactech Arena, both at 7 p.m.
The Gators experienced an up-and-down preseason with four matches against top-15 teams. Now, Florida seems to be settling on a lineup it likes. The starting lineup newly features SEC award winner Sofia Victoria and of course, the pedigreed Marlie Monserez.
Florida holds a 52-0 record over Mississippi State.
Gator Volleyball Preseason Recap
Florida swept its three matches on its trip to Sacramento, California. The Gators went on to lose at No. 14 Stanford and defeat No. 9 Minnesota at home. Then Florida dropped two straight matches to No. 10 Baylor and a midweek meeting with rival Florida State. The Gators recovered with two sweeps of Coastal Carolina on Saturday and Sunday.
Head coach Mary Wise, entering her 31st year at UF, has played around with the rotation.
One change happened due to middle Lauren Forte’s ankle sprain during the FSU match on September 15. Wise said on Sunday that Forte will be out for the foreseeable future. The second middle position opposite of Lauren Dooley seems like it’s still up for grabs. Freshman Gabrielle Essix and sophomore Nnedi Okammor are both recieving playing time.
Monserez, libero Elli McKissock and outside T’ara Ceasar have all been mainstays at their positions. Senior Thayer Hall has been a regular in the lineup but recently shifted over to the right side. Hall continues to participate in the serve receive formation. Meanwhile, sophomore Victoria received an opportunity to play outside and has shined.
Victoria excelled so much that she earned SEC Volleyball Offensive Player of the Week. The Guarabo, Puerto Rico, native averaged 5.2 kills and 2.5 digs per set in the last three matches.
For the second time this year, senior Monserez won SEC Setter of the Week. She garnered 124 assists and led Florida to hit .316 over the week.
On Sunday against Coastal Carolina, Monserez moved to eighth on the all-time UF assist list with 2,722.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State has gotten off to a 9-3 start. The Bulldogs lost to its sole ranked opponent, No. 18 Georgia Tech, in three sets. However, Mississippi State pulled wins in extra sets against Oklahoma and Indiana.
Pin hitters Gabby Waden and Lauren Myrick, in addition to Tallahassee native Shania Cromartie, have led the way so far. The Bulldogs run a 6-2 offense under Gabby Coulter and Margaret Dean.
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