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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Elyse Cusack came to Gainesville ready to become UF's first four-year starter at the libero position.

When she departs after next season, she will leave a legacy that will be tough to match by any who follow in her footsteps.

In just three seasons, she has already eclipsed the Gators' all-time digs record and now sits with 1,634 to her credit.

The old mark? A now-paltry-looking count of 1,444 set by Lyra Vance more than 20 years ago.

"She expects any ball that is hit anywhere toward her should be dug," coach Mary Wise said when Cusack broke the record.

Last fall also saw Cusack become the first player in Southeastern Conference history to earn Defensive Player of the Week honors four times in a single season.

But there's more than just scraping up the ball off the floor and keeping points alive to the libero position. She also is responsible for the majority of UF's first touches on serve-receive. A bad first pass makes setting even more difficult and therefore kills become even rarer.

Now, one might see Cusack's offensive impact, even if she has only 10 kills to her name and has never spiked a ball for the Gators.

Her importance to her team was recognized by the four awards she earned at the team's annual banquet. Certainly Cusack was a shoo-in for the defensive honors, but she also took home recognition in passing, serving and strength and conditioning.

She finished second in the SEC for aces per set (0.41) and was the only player in the conference to finish in the top five in digs and service aces.

It's no surprise Cusack won the Gator Power Award, as her weightroom work earns mighty praise from her coaches.

Assistant strength and conditioning coach for UF Olympic sports Matt Delancey told the Alligator last fall, "Pound for pound, she's in the top five strongest athletes at the school."

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Add in an upbeat personality that always keeps her teammates going, and it's easy to see the crucial role Cusack - one of only four upperclassmen on the 2008 volleyball team - played this season.

For her spectacular saves and an all-around game crucial to the Gators' success, Elyse Cusack is the alligatorSports No. 10 UF Athlete of 2008-09.

BY THE NUMBERS: Cusack earned one fifth-place vote, one eighth-place vote and was left off the other four ballots.

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