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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

It's getting hard to keep the names with all of the faces.

With a slew of talented players competing for playing time at outside and opposite hitter, the one constant for the Gators is the presence of freshman setter Kelly Murphy.

"We decided that Kelly will get all the rest she needs come January," said UF coach Mary Wise, who isn't concerned with the potential of Murphy breaking down.

Because of rules that force the libero to substitute out of the match when it is her turn to play the front row, even All-American junior libero Elyse Cusack gets a rest from time to time.

But not Murphy.

The versatile, 6-foot-2, double-double machine never leaves the court while her teammates compete for playing time.

Sophomores Callie Rivers and Lauren Bledsoe and freshmen Kristy Jaeckel and Colleen Ward have competed for swings as attackers, and middle blocker has become a three-player rotation with the emergence of freshman Cassandra Anderson.

Wise hardly sees having a stable of capable competitors as a bad thing. In fact, she wishes she had a third setter to relieve Murphy and freshman Cindy Bathelt when they could use a break.

"Where it really helps us is being able to use the strengths of individual players by opponent," Wise said.

Last weekend, Rivers took on an extended role against Kentucky and Tennessee while Ward's playing time was reduced.

FOOTBALL ENVY

Developing a young roster and nursing injuries while playing two matches a week can drive a coach insane.

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This week, the Gators take on the Gamecocks at home before heading to Auburn for a Friday night match up with the Tigers.

"Because of injuries I'd love to have a football schedule," she said. "If we could just play one on Saturday that would really help (Kristina Johnson) and Kelsey (Bowers). That would be the only thing about football I would want, just that schedule."

This will be the first time this season UF is splitting its two games at home and on the road.

Ideally, Wise would like more time in practice to work with her large freshman class. She said the team is going to have to continue to improve in order to make a run through the second half of the Southeastern Conference schedule.

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