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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

After playing one of the toughest nonconference schedules in school history this season, the Gators decided it wasn't quite hard enough.

Coach Mary Wise announced Monday that Florida, Penn State, Texas and Stanford have agreed in principal to participate in a four-team tournament for the next four seasons.

Each school will have the chance to host the event, but the inaugural tournament in 2010 is scheduled to take place Sept. 10-11 in the O'Connell Center.

"It's a great opportunity for our team for the next four years to play against some of the best players in the country," Wise said. "All four teams have been at the top of the nation in terms of attendance, so we know it will be well attended and a great volleyball atmosphere."

The four teams have made a combined 37 NCAA Final Four appearances and are all currently ranked in the top 15. Last season's Final Four included the three teams joining UF in the event.

Playing teams of this caliber early on in the season will help the Gators prepare for postseason play. Texas and Stanford are the last two teams to knock UF out of the NCAA Tournament, while Penn State has won 84 matches in a row and is coming off a 2008 national championship.

"We had a tough nonconference schedule this year and it's going to be tougher next year, so it's all good for us down the road in December," sophomore Kelly Murphy said.

When Penn State coach Russ Rose came up with the idea for the tournament, he didn't have a problem pitching it to the other coaches.

"I thought there were a couple of schools that I would like to play over a four-year period, so I called all three of those schools and all three of those coaches were in agreement that it was a great idea," he said.

The tournament is tentatively scheduled to be hosted by Texas for the second season, then it will move to Stanford for the third year, and Penn State will host the final round of the event in 2013, according to Rose.

As each school gets its turn, it will have the opportunity to decide the format. In Gainesville, it is set to be a two-match tournament, meaning each squad only gets to match up with one of the three teams.

While fans may seem to be the big winner, the teams will benefit just as much from the tournament.

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"It shows people that schools are willing to play each other when given an opportunity to do that," Rose said. "My intent was win or lose, to play three good teams in a weekend and know more about my team whether we win or lose."

MURPHY WINS SEC OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: For the second time in her short career at UF, sophomore setter Kelly Murphy has been named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week.

In two sweeps by No. 10 UF (14-3, 8-2 SEC) this past weekend, Murphy notched her fifth triple-double of the season and an impressive 26 kills in six sets of play.

"We look at the triple-doubles as it is just another night for her, and yet there are programs that have never had a player record a triple-double," Wise said. "It just speaks to Kelly's talent in this system."

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