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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Defense may win championships, but a deadly offense certainly helps.

In the last two weeks, UF volleyball has put on a show when it has the ball, dominating Southeastern Conference opponents.

The team has raised its kills-per-game average from 15.13 to 15.80 by smashing more than 19 kills per game in the last three matches. UF leads the conference in that statistic.

Senior outside hitter Marcie Hampton is the reigning SEC Offensive Player of the Week, freshman outside hitter Callie Rivers is coming into mid-season form and senior setter Angie McGinnis is getting into a rhythm with her teammates.

BPretty elite level,C UF coach Mary Wise said of their play. B[Hampton] and Angie are just in a zone together. I think Angie?s giving her some great looks. [With] two players that have played a lot of matches together, you would expect that there would be a pretty good comfort zone, and that?s exactly what we?re seeing right now.C

Hampton couldn?t care less about her individual stats.

BIt?s really not even about the player-of-the-weeks … it?s really about getting that SEC Championship,C Hampton said. BPutting some banners up in the O?Dome for us.C

The Gators are well on their way.

Undefeated No. 5 UF (16-0, 9-0 SEC) heads back out on the road today, traveling to Fayetteville, Ark., to face the Razorbacks at 8 p.m. ET.

Arkansas (8-10, 2-6 SEC) better be ready for UF?s offense, but previous performances indicate its defense will not be able to handle the downpour.

The Razorbacks are dead last in digs per game with 13.94, and that number will have to rise significantly if they are to have any chance against UF.

Arkansas is also sixth or lower in every statistic the SEC keeps track of, except blocks per game.

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Not only are they worse statistically, but Rivers believes UF plays even better when the team is not enjoying the comforts of the O?Connell Center.

BI think our team actually plays better when we go on the road because we?re expecting it to be harder, it?s a hostile environment,C Rivers said. BSo I?m excited to see how we play against Arkansas.C

The road schedule this weekend is different from what the team is used to.

Usually the Gators will play a road match on a Friday and Sunday, but after UF?s win over South Carolina on Wednesday, the Gators get to come home immediately after tonight?s match. This also gives the team full week off before playing Auburn.

Still, with the offense playing the way it is, maybe the team doesn?t want to get out of rhythm.

Rivers has tallied 52 percent of her kills this season in the last five matches alone.

Senior middle blocker Kisya Killingsworth has 52 kills in the last five matches, more than anyone besides Hampton.

Senior opposite hitter Amber McCray has 51 kills in the same time span, and she pretty much had the night off Wednesday by playing minimally in two of the three games.

BThe exciting thing is how the team keeps improving,C Wise said. BThat?s much more important right now than just winning. We?re a better team now than we were a month ago.C

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