Betsy Smith first started to play volleyball in the summer before sixth grade. It wasn’t until the summer before her freshman year of high school that she knew she wanted to play for Florida.

In 2004, the Atlanta native attended her first Gator Volleyball Camp with her teammates from Peachtree Corners, Ga., Wesleyan School.

“It’s actually a fate thing because I had signed up to come with my old school, and then in the middle of that spring [I] switched schools and they were coming to Florida’s volleyball camp as well,” Smith said.

“So regardless, I was going to be here. I was young, and I didn’t really know where I stood with other players my age, so it was fun to come out and compete with some really good girls.”

After her first camp at UF, Smith returned each summer for the next eight years. The middle blocker credits the camps as a factor that led her to become a Gator.

“It got me to know Florida volleyball as a family,” Smith said. “I’ve been around a lot, and the familiarity with it really helped.”

When Smith signed with Florida in 2008, she was part of the nation’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class, according to Smith was also the nation’s 26th-ranked recruit that year, with fellow UF commits Kelly Murphy, Cassandra Anderson and Colleen Ward ranking higher than her.

Despite her talent and familiarity with the Gators, Smith received a redshirt right before her freshman season.

“It was kind of a surprise for me,” Smith said. “I went through all of the two-a-days and had no idea that I was going to be redshirted. It was right before the season actually started that we made that decision as a family, and with the coaching staff, and it’s turned out to be a great decision for us.”

Smith didn’t let her coaches’ decision discourage her.

Instead, she used the 2008 season to get stronger and improve. Smith regularly attended 6:30 a.m. workouts on Saturdays with strength coach Matt DeLancey to prepare for the 2009 season.

“She was part of that heralded recruiting class and had to redshirt her freshman year,” coach Mary Wise said at UF’s media day on Aug. 16. “She had to wait very patiently for her turn, but boy has she taken advantage of it.”

Fortunately for Florida, Smith returned this season for her fifth and final year. In addition to leading the six true freshmen, Smith is on her way to having one of her best seasons as a Gator with 61 kills, 16 digs and 22 blocks in 33 sets.

“Coming in with that big class, I kind of wanted to graduate with them a little bit, but after the way last season went, I knew that I was going to be around for another season,” Smith said. “It was a lot of fun to play with these girls, and I didn’t want my last days with a Florida jersey on to be last season. I wanted another one.”

Contact Katie Agostin at [email protected].

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