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Friday, April 19, 2024

During the offseason, the Gators lost one setter to another school, but they added a transfer of their own to make up for it.

Sophomore Cindy Bathelt left UF for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in June. A native of Colorado Springs, Bathelt will attend school and continue to play in her hometown despite her initial success with the Gators.

"I think it was just homesickness," sophomore outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel said. "We were a little surprised by it, but we wish her the best of luck and hope she does the best she can wherever she ends up."

With UF's assists leader in 2008 no longer with the team, coach Mary Wise brought in freshman Sundai Weston and pursued Brynja Rodgers, then a sophomore at New Mexico State, to fill the hole left by Bathelt.

Wise first tried to touch base with Rodgers through her hometown coaches in Iowa. They passed along the message to her coach at NMSU, who told Rodgers to get in touch with Wise.

"She kind of sought after me, which I thought was kind of cool," Rodgers said. "Playing for the University of Florida is something all volleyball players dream about, and getting the chance to actually do it - I took that chance right away."

The junior setter is still learning the intricacies of UF's 6-2 offense, but her adjustment has been made easier by her experience in a similar system while at NMSU.

Rodgers said she has felt some pressure as the "new kid" for the Gators, and the program's history - including 18 straight Southeastern Conference championships - says all she needs to know about the extremely high expectations she will face.

NMSU finished 26-9 and shared the Western Athletic Conference regular-season title during Rodgers' sophomore year, but UF's lofty postseason goals have been emphasized more than she was used to.

Despite the expectations, her coaches and teammates have expressed their confidence in Rodgers' ability to make a successful transition to the SEC and help fill the void left by Bathelt.

"We expect the same as we would've expected out of Cindy," sophomore opposite hitter/setter Kelly Murphy said. "We've got to spread the ball around and get good sets to all our hitters."

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