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Monday, May 27, 2024

One reason why the Florida volleyball team is currently the No. 1 team in the nation is the collection of experience on the team.

Some of these experienced players are defensive stars, some make their mark on offense and then there is junior middle blocker Cassandra Anderson.

“If we start looking at where the team has really improved then I think you got to look at Cassandra Anderson,” coach Mary Wise said. “In the league she’s hitting .411. The analogy would be like a baseball hitter — that’s a pretty hot hand.”

Anderson and the No.1 Gators (14-1, 7-0 Southeastern Conference) will take on Auburn (14-6, 5-3 SEC) today at 4 p.m. in the O’Connell Center. It will be the Gators' first match as the top team in the country.

“I don’t know if the target could get any bigger than it is just with the name Florida on the jersey,” Wise said. “That’s who we are, what we’ve come to expect and that’s always been the case.”

Anderson will use her skills on both sides of the ball to fend off attempts by opponents to dethrone the Gators from their newly acquired spot in the rankings. Anderson leads the team with 60 total blocks and 1.11 blocks per set — good enough for fifth in the conference rankings.

She is also tied for second on the team with a .351 hitting percentage — also good enough for fifth in the SEC.

“She’s got a lot of matches under her belt,” Wise said. “Where Cassandra’s game has improved so much is in her volleyball IQ. She has really taken a hold of understanding what that means and what an advantage our team has because of her high volleyball IQ.

“Combine that with her jumping skills her attack skills, her blocking — she really is a complete SEC middle blocker.”

Against Kentucky on Sept. 17, Anderson had a difficult match, hitting just -.071 with five attack errors. In the seven games since the poor outing, Anderson has hit .556, .667, .700, .385, .571, .250 and .667 respectively.

She’s only had three attack errors during that span.

“More experience definitely helps any player get better,” Anderson said. “Just practicing the game more and more, playing in the games more and more and getting hands on experience during games, not only just in practice, has really helped me get better.”

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This will be the 36th meeting between the Gators and the Tigers. Florida leads the all-time series 34-1, with its only loss coming in 1990.

Anderson and the rest of Florida’s defense will have its hands full with Auburn freshman Camila Jersonsky, who is third in the SEC with a .378 hitting percentage.

It is important for UF that Anderson continues her success on both sides of the ball. However, given the choice between coming up big on offense or defense, Anderson chooses the latter.

“I would rather get a big block,” Anderson said. “There’s just something about when someone goes up thinking they have this nice angle straight down then you block it and it just crushes their dreams.”

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