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Friday, April 19, 2024

This weekend could prove to be historic for the Gators, just not in a way they may want.

Kentucky can clinch the Southeastern Conference championship with just two more wins over an SEC opponent, two losses by No. 13 Florida (20-4, 14-3 SEC), or if the Gators lose and the Wildcats win on Friday. It would be the first time in 19 seasons that a team other than UF has captured the title.

The Gators will have a shot to deter No. 10 Kentucky (26-2, 16-1 SEC) from ending its streak of conference dominance on Sunday at 2 p.m. in Lexington, Ky. However, UF must first worry about traveling to take on Tennessee (20-7, 13-4 SEC) tonight at 7.

“Everybody is still chasing Kentucky and that hasn’t changed,” coach Mary Wise said. “It’s going to be a lot harder to win the conference now but our goal has not changed as terms of playing our best volleyball at the end of the season.”

Although there is only a slim chance remaining, the Gators could still win the SEC albeit with a lot of help from other teams.UF will have to win its final three SEC matches while hoping the Wildcats can lose two of theirs and LSU can slip up once for the Gators to just grab a share of the SEC title.

On Friday, if Kentucky wins its match against South Carolina and UF beats the Volunteers, it would set up a scenario in which the Wildcats could clinch the conference with a win against the Gators on Sunday.

But Wise believes that the pressure that comes along with the 18-year streak should not be placed upon the 2009 squad.

 “It isn’t fair to this team,” Wise said. “Some of them weren’t even born when it started.”

Coming off of a loss to LSU that put them in this position, the Gators will have to be quick to turn it around as they face two of the best teams in the SEC.

“Well I don’t think it would be smart to focus on that loss,” junior opposite hitter Lauren Bledsoe said. “We just need to put that behind us, like it is — and leave it there.”

After the Gators lost to the Tigers earlier in the season, they were able get back on track and grab eight-straight sweeps, which is something they will try to repeat after losing to LSU for the second time in their last match. However, the schedule will make it a little bit tougher this time around.

“One must also take a look at the schedule after that loss,” Wise said. “We did not play the likes of Tennessee and Kentucky after that loss, so it’s a little bit different.”

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