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Saturday, December 02, 2023

Freshmen on the UF volleyball team have to learn a hard lesson as they transition to the college game.

Being a Gators rookie includes a lot of time on the bench, as defensive specialist Erin Fleming and outside hitters Lauren Bledsoe, Callie Rivers and Kristy Jaeckel can all attest.

Of the seven total games in two matches over the weekend, Rivers and Fleming saw action in three games while Bledsoe only made it into two. None of the court appearances were for more then a few points.

"You just have to be ready," Fleming said. "You're already so into the game, watching your teammates play. You just get the signal and you rip off that jacket and go."

Jaeckel did not see any court time over the weekend. UF coach Mary Wise said she is leaning toward redshirting her, but no final decision has been made.

Wise understands it can be hard for players to stay on the sidelines, especially for those used to leading their teams.

"You work so hard recruiting them and telling them how great they are," Wise said. "Then they get here, and now they're not seeing significant playing time."

The freshmen began making a small impact already.

Rivers recorded three kills Friday night. Bledsoe began to find a rhythm in game two that night, when she had a kill followed by three service points, including an ace.

"With all the fans on the side, screaming in my ear, it was a rush," Bledsoe said. "It helped me to perform a little better."

Wise reminds her young players she has a system that works.

"Work hard and stay patient and your turn will come," Wise said. "Then when your turn comes, you have to take full advantage of it. The challenge is, you never really know when that time will be."

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ALLI M.I.A.: One player noticeably missing from the floor over the weekend was backup setter Alli Cecchini. During training camp, Cecchini played the role of setter for the scout team. This kept the sophomore from getting as many reps in serve-receive and from practicing on the same side as senior setter Angie McGinnis. Wise said Cecchini should see playing time this weekend.

KILLER CUSACK: Sophomore libero Elyse Cusack, who had 44 digs over the weekend, showed she can provide some offense as well. In addition to having five aces in two matches, Cusack recorded the first kill of her UF career Sunday when her bump over the net fell to the floor. The sophomore laughed when asked about it Tuesday.

"(It was) my way of getting a kill, but it was pretty exciting," Cusack said.

FASHION STATEMENT: Senior outside hitter Marcie Hampton thinks the black uniforms the Gators debuted against Illinois State on Friday are "awesome." Hampton said it was the seniors' choice to get the black jerseys, and the decision was a no-brainer.

"Heck yes," Hampton said. "We loved them."

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