Seven weeks into the season the 13-0, top-ranked Gators have won their first five SEC matches and face Ole Miss and No. 8 Kentucky this weekend.
Florida will continue to lean on middle blockers Rhamat Alhassan and Rachael Kramer, as well as versatile senior Carli Snyder, as it looks to stay perfect in conference play and avenge a 2016 sweep at the hands of the Wildcats.
Florida will commute to Oxford, Mississippi, for its Friday night matchup against Ole Miss.
“It’s difficult to play at SEC places on the road because they always have a great fan base,” Kramer said, referencing an Arkansas crowd that watched the Razorbacks push the Gators as far as any team had this season.
“We just want to go into each game with a really aggressive mindset,” redshirt junior Allie Monserez said. “We’re all ready to put our best foot forward in all of these SEC matches coming up. We’re excited to go to Ole Miss and have a great match.”
It will be a quick turnaround for the team.
They will make the trip back to Gainesville just after Friday’s 7:30 p.m. match, will have Saturday to practice, and get ready for a 1 p.m. match with the Wildcats on Sunday.
It will be the team’s third top-10 matchup of the season.
Florida played its first eight matches out of conference, picking up four wins against ranked opponents, including back-to-back upsets of then-No. 1 Texas and then-No. 5 Nebraska.
Now, the Gators’ final 13 regular-season opponents are SEC foes.
Although Florida and Kentucky are the only ranked teams in the league, that doesn’t mean that the Gators are taking any opponent lightly.
“(The SEC) is only getting better each year,” Kramer said. “All of these teams play their best against us no matter where they’re ranked, no matter how they’ve won or lost this season. Everyone comes out and plays their best against us.”
Wise said that Kentucky will be a tough test for the team, pointing out that the Wildcats sit just one spot lower than the Gators in the NCAA women’s volleyball RPI.
“I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Kentucky is a Final Four team,” Wise said.
“They’re the best offensive team we’ll play all year.”
Seniors Snyder, Alhassan, Caroline Knop and Shainah Joseph have all been major contributors for the Gators this season.
“I think what seniors do is give you the experience,” coach Mary Wise said. “They know how difficult it is to win on the road, and we will rely on their experience and helping the younger players.”
Alhassan ranks among the nation’s best in blocks and Snyder sits at fifth in the NCAA in service aces per set.
“Carli, in so many ways, is the heart and soul of our team,” Wise said. “Watching her emerge to the senior that she is today — not just with her game, but everything else in life — I mean, it’s the best part of college coaching.”
You can follow Andrew Huang on Twitter @AndrewJHuang, and contact him at [email protected].