On paper, it’s not even close.
No. 3 Florida (22-1, 14-1 SEC) is ranked first or second in every major statistical category in the SEC. Texas A&M (7-14, 4-10 SEC) sits in the bottom half of each.
But Gators coach Mary Wise doesn’t care.
“We never play a match on paper,” she said.
Florida takes its eight-match winning streak to College Station, Texas, to play the Aggies tonight at 6.
When Texas A&M came to Gainesville on Oct. 4, it went toe-to-toe with the nation’s then-No. 1 team for most of the night.
“They are very scrappy,” redshirt junior Allie Monserez said.
Florida led, 2-1, after three sets, but each was decided by just two points (26-24, 25-23, 25-27). Florida finally downed the Aggies with a fourth-set offensive eruption.
“It’s all about matchups,” Wise said. “Texas A&M matches up well against us and we know we’ll have to play very well.”
The emergence of Shainah Joseph should help Florida. The redshirt senior’s improved play is one reason UF hasn’t lost since Oct. 15.
“She’s been crucial to the run that we’ve had and she is a huge piece of our offense,” senior Carli Snyder said.
Joseph had 15 kills in UF’s match against Texas A&M earlier in the season and was voted SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week on Nov. 13. Already hitting .350 on the year, she collected 28 kills in wins against Arkansas and Missouri.
Snyder said Joseph’s late-season surge has made life easier for everyone else offensively.
“You have Rhamat (Alhassan) in the middle, Shainah (Joseph) on the right side and Rachael (Kramer) in the middle,” she said. “That’s a really difficult combination to stop.”
Kramer and Alhassan are second and third in kills for Florida, respectively, while Snyder leads the team with 277.
After their contest with the Aggies, the Gators conclude the regular season with matches on Nov. 22 against Auburn and Nov. 25 at Missouri.
If Florida wins out, it boosts its chances of being selected as a top-four seed and starting the NCAA Tournament at home.
“Obviously we’re aware that the (NCAA) Tournament is approaching, but right now we really want to give our opponents the respect that they deserve,” Snyder said.
“I feel really good about the strides we’ve made in-season .... We are going to be really humming in December.”
You can follow Andrew Huang on Twitter @AndrewJHuang, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.