Volleyball teams around the Southeastern Conference are beginning to gear their defenses around senior outside hitter Marcie Hampton.
It hasn?t made much of a difference.
No. 6 UF (11-0, 4-0 SEC) heads out on the road again this weekend, facing Mississippi State (6-7, 1-3 SEC) at 8 p.m. before heading to Alabama (7-6, 4-0 SEC) for a 2:30 p.m. match Sunday.
The Gators are 56-0 all-time against this weekend?s opponents, two of six SEC teams Coach Mary Wise has never lost to in 16 seasons at UF.
LSU managed to stifle Hampton in the first game Sunday, as the senior did not record a kill in five attacks.
Even then, the Gators? depth came into play as opposite hitter Amber McCray stepped in with eight kills in the opener.
Hampton came back to tally twenty kills for the match, including ten in the decisive game four.
BIt took the pressure off me,C Hampton said of McCray?s early play. BI was able to relax and just say: 'You know what? I know how to put a ball away.?C
She leads the team with 367 total attacks on the season, 118 more than second-place McCray.
Wise isn?t surprised defenses are focusing more on Hampton.
BI can?t imagine why you wouldn?t,C Wise said. BIf you play a basketball team, you would work real hard to stop their leading point scorer, or if you?re going to play a football team, you?re going to stop their leading rusher. For Marcie to still get twenty kills, in spite of how hard defenses are working, tells you a little bit about where Marcie?s game is right now.C
Hampton feels teams cannot afford to only focus on her.
BWe have so many options, so many threats, that if teams focus on me, someone else is going to step up and put the ball away,C Hampton said. BThat?s what makes us so good and such a threat.C
Setter Angie McGinnis determines which hitter will get the attack and acknowledged she leans toward Hampton in pressure-packed situations such as the LSU match.
On the other hand, McGinnis also looks for the best attack opportunities against the other team?s blocking scheme.
BMy first priority would be to get [the hitters] one-on-one,C McGinnis said. BIf I can get them one blocker up, even if it?s Callie (Rivers) on the outside or an underclassman, I?m going to give them the ball, because I trust that anybody can get a one-on-one kill over a senior getting (past) two blocks up.C
Wise can advise McGinnis, but when it comes down to it, the senior makes the call during play.
BIn the end, it will always be Angie?s decision,C Wise said. BWe can give her direction from the bench in terms of what we think is open, but it?s kind of like the quarterback. We call the play, but based on what the defense is doing, she has free rein on the court.C