Last year, Florida lost its first match of the season to a No. 1 team. This year, the Gators knocked off two top-five teams in the first weekend and have jumped out to a perfect start as the lone undefeated team in the nation.
In terms of wins and losses, it’s the best start for UF volleyball since 2007, when the team finished 29-3 and made the NCAA Regional semifinals. Now, UF (11-0, 3-0 SEC) has the top spot in the AVCA rankings, a feat the team had not accomplished since its 2010 campaign.
But none of that matters to the Gators and coach Mary Wise. Throughout the season, Wise and her players have emphasized that, while the rankings are a nice accolade, the team is focused on playing better volleyball and improving so they can peak in December.
“Sure, we’re ranked No. 1 in the country, but that’s for everyone else,” senior Rhamat Alhassan said. “But we don’t think that we’re No. 1. We don’t think that we’ve reached our potential, and we’re not done getting better.”
And getting better is what the Gators have done. In the nine games since its opening weekend, Florida has eclipsed a hitting percentage of .250 or greater and has swept seven of those nine opponents with two of those sweeps coming against ranked teams.
Now, the Gators have shifted focus to their fourth SEC foe of the season in the Texas A&M Aggies. The Aggies (4-6, 1-2 SEC) come in with a win against Georgia last Friday after losing four straight matches prior.
Texas A&M currently sits toward the bottom half of the SEC standings early in conference play. Last year, the Aggies made the NCAA Tournament on an at-large bid, but have struggled early this season with poor play against ranked opponents.
Wise, however, is not overlooking today’s opponent.
“(Texas) A&M runs a very fast offense,” Wise said. “They present some unique challenges to us.”
In Wise’s tenure, the Gators have won 10 of 11 matches against the Aggies. Despite the wins, not all of them have come easy for Florida, with six of the 11 total meetings between the programs going to four or five sets, including a four-set match that ended with a UF win last season in College Station, Texas.
And coming off of a game where the team committed a season-high 11 service errors against LSU, the room for error is minimal with an upset-potential team in Texas A&M coming to the O’Connell Center.
“They’ve had some injuries, so what we don’t know is how healthy they will be,” Wise said. “But they’re well-coached and they do some things that give every team fits.”
You can follow Justin Ahlum on Twitter @justinn_case1, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.