She’s an athlete.
That was Florida coach Mary Wise’s first impression of 6-foot-4 middle blocker Rhamat Alhassan when she first recruited the Glenarden, Maryland, native.
But Wise got more than just Alhassan’s remarkable athletic ability on the court over the last four years.
“What we didn’t know was her maturity level,” Wise said. “Her drive to be great, her attention to detail.”
Now in her final year with the Gators, Alhassan will join Carli Snyder, Caroline Knop, Shainah Joseph and Lindsey Rogers in celebrating Senior Day against Missouri on Sunday.
“I think it’s pretty surreal that Senior Day is already here,” Rogers said. “Four years has gone by so quickly but we’re really excited just to be back in the O’Dome.”
Florida’s 2017 senior class are like sisters. And Joseph will get to introduce them to her real family on Sunday since her parents are traveling from Canada to Gainesville for Senior Day. Joseph recalled them shivering during a recent FaceTime session.
“I was like ‘Yeah, it’s warm here, so bring a pair of shorts and a T-shirt,’” she joked.
She also said the Gators don’t want to be distracted by what should be an “eventful and emotional” weekend.
“We (seniors) have been doing this for so long,” Joseph said. “We’re very focused, and we have the experience to be able to enjoy the moment but also focus on what we’ve got to do.”
Joseph is arguably playing her best volleyball of the year during the Gators’ current six-game win streak, and Florida will put that streak on the line against Arkansas on Friday, before celebrating Senior Day against Missouri.
Arkansas pushed the Gators to five sets in a Sept. 24 UF win in which Razorbacks star Pilar Victoria racked up 30 kills against one of the nation’s best defenses.
“Arkansas doesn’t have a very complicated offense but they’re really good at what they do,” Joseph said. “I think it will come down to our blocking.”
Florida leads the SEC in team blocking and boasts one of the country’s top individual blockers in Alhassan.
On Monday, Alhassan was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week — for the third consecutive week — after breaking Benavia Jenkins’ (2000-03) school record for career blocks in Sunday’s sweep of Tennessee.
Alhassan is also second on the team in kills, trailing just Snyder, who was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday.
Wise said her seniors have been critical to the team’s success.
“We rely so heavily on them,” she said. “They’ve been terrific.”
With just three regular-season matches left after this weekend, the Gators are looking to hit their stride as the NCAA Tournament rolls around.
Rogers likes where the team is at right now, but said there’s always room to improve.
“We’re just going to keep working to get to that December peak,” she said. “So going into the end, we’re just going to lean into each other and the experience we all have.”
You can follow Andrew Huang on Twitter @AndrewJHuang, and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.