Last season in the Gale Lemerand Athletic Center, Alex Holston cocked back her left arm and fired a kill into the middle of the Ole Miss defense. Her kill set the tone in the third set for Florida and boosted its offense for the rest of the match.
The Gators took care of business against the Rebels in the two games they faced each other last year, winning both appearances and dropping only one set. However, the team is ready for a challenge from its SEC counterpart in 2017.
“Ole Miss played us really well last year at their place,” middle blocker Rachael Kramer said. “They always play amazing, so it’s a really good team to play in this part of the season.”
Tonight at 7:30, the No. 1 Gators (13-0, 5-0 SEC) will play the Rebels (12-7, 3-3 SEC) in Oxford, Mississippi. UF remains the lone undefeated team in the nation and will look to maintain perfection this weekend.
According to Rebels coach Steven McRoberts, a visit from the top-ranked team in the country invites a tough matchup.
“It’s not a typical team we see,” McRoberts said in a release. “Even though we haven’t beat them, we have played pretty well against them in the past couple of years. Hopefully, with our returners, we can build off that a little bit.”
Those returners McRoberts is talking about include quality players both in the frontcourt and the back line. Senior Lexi Thompson leads the team in kills on the season (238), while senior Kate Gibson leads the conference in aces against SEC opponents (10).
Before practice on Wednesday, UF setter Allie Monserez said she and her teammates would scout Ole Miss all week in preparation.
“We’re expecting a really good team and we really want to focus on the controllables,” she said. “Just starting from the beginning and establishing our hitters and establishing a good connection.”
Coach Mary Wise expects Ole Miss and its veterans to bring lots of offense to the table.
“(Ole Miss) presents a unique challenge for us, and obviously playing on the road has its challenges,” Wise said. “They will test our defense in a very big way.”
Following its match against the Rebels, Florida will charter back to Gainesville to prepare for No. 8 Kentucky on Sunday.
Even though a top-10 team in the Wildcats is coming to town this weekend, UF has maintained it will stay focused on the Rebels until the final point has been scored.
“Ole Miss may not have the ranking,” Wise said. “But anyone who knows women’s volleyball and how the separation is so minimal between these teams with all the great points scorers out there, know it’s a great challenge for us.”
You can follow Justin Ahlum on Twitter @justinn_case1, and contact him at [email protected].