While Florida’s season ended on Saturday night in Ames, Iowa against No. 1 seed Stanford, it wasn’t all a loss.
At the start of the season, coach Mary Wise brought in recruits that immediately impacted Florida’s season offensively. Freshmen Rhamat Alhassan – the 6-foot-4 middle blocker who became known for blocking as well as a wall and completing kills with expert efficiency – and Carli Snyder, a 6-foot outside hitter with a cannon of an arm, became just another cog in the machine that is the Florida squad.
With the loss of seniors Holly Pole, Maddy Monserez and Taylor Unroe, Florida will rely more on the younger up-and-coming players next season.
“Obviously, our front row players, our point scorers all return, but how do you replace the heart and soul of your team?” Wise said. “That’s going to take a while.”
Florida’s 3-0 loss to Stanford on Saturday is the first time the Gators (28-4) have been swept since Nov. 15, 2013, against Missouri. The Cardinal (33-1) also exploited the Gators’ defense all night, recording a .410 hitting efficiency with five of its attackers recording at least six kills and a .312 attacking clip on Saturday.
“The Stanford team we played tonight would win a lot of matches in any era,” Wise said. “...They run the fastest offense we’ve played against. I don’t know if we had all week to prepare against them, and them alone could we have had any more success.”
This season, Florida managed to pull out a 23 game win streak, stay undefeated in the Southeastern Conference and advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
With the winning season came significant improvement for Alhassan and Snyder.
Alhassan has only played volleyball for about three years and has been working on learning to get off her right foot for the block faster. Alhassan’s lack of experience was her biggest obstacle this season.
Despite her inexperience, she managed to become the No. 1 player in the nation in hitting efficiency (.471) at the conclusion of the regular season and received the SEC Freshman of the Year honor.
While Alhassan struggled with her inexperience, Snyder came into collegiate play with a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the game.
The Macomb, Michigan, native finished her first year of collegiate volleyball averaging 2.04 kills per set and recording a .231 hitting efficiency.
As Snyder’s strength came in her swing, her weakness lay in her blocking.
“Blocking has always been something that I have been struggling with this year,” Snyder said after the Miami match on Dec. 6. “It was a really good feeling, it was like, ‘Ok I can pick this up.’”
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UF players celebrate during Florida's 3-0 win against Alabama State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in the O'Connell Center.