Florida coach Mary Wise is a volleyball legend.
She’s known for her undefeated records against teams like LSU and Ole Miss. And in 24 years, she’s built a program that is nationally ranked and has the potential to win a national title.
For Wise, it all comes down to recruiting.
Her ability to recruit the best athletes in the country has become one of Wise’s greatest strengths since taking over the program in 1991.
Some of the players that have graduated from UF’s volleyball program include Chloe Mann, a volleyball legend after she broke the Florida, Southeastern Conference and NCAA record for her hitting efficiency; Kristy Jaeckel — whose accolades range from AVCA All-South Region to a 2010 Second Team All SEC pick; and Kelly Murphy, a World Champion athlete after helping lead the U.S. to its first world champion title.
And that’s just within the last five years.
Wise’s reputation for strong recruiting goes beyond bringing in high schoolers, though. If it means pulling top players from not-so-great college programs, than that’s what’s going to be done.
"Hopefully, recruits come to the program because of our success," Wise said. "I think when players transfer they’re looking for the right fit. For whatever reason, whether they’re transferring… it’s like you get a second chance."
She was known as the "Brown-eyed Girl."
Not because of her actual eye color or her girl-next-door looks but because of her last name.
In 2012, Taylor Brauneis transferred to Florida.
Brauneis, a ninth-ranked setter for assists in the country, was lured into the Florida program from an unranked Louisville team and became one of Florida’s biggest assets within just two years.
"What Taylor did so well was set the middle," Wise said. "We had a pretty good middle there. The Taylor-to-Chloe combination was one of the best in the country."
She finished her collegiate career with 4,735 assists over the duration of 447 sets. Brauneis averaged 11.45 assists in her senior season alone, a mark that ranked third in the SEC and 16th overall among Division I players.
Needless to say, recruiting Brauneis was a big steal for Wise.
But it wasn’t the biggest.
One year removed from Brauneis’ transfer and Mackenzie Dagostino, a major up-and-comer, transferred onto the Florida squad.
At 5-foot-10, the dark-blonde hair, green-eyed setter looks petite next to her teammates, who are mostly 6-foot and taller.
But her height means nothing since she has a 31.7-inch jump — just three inches under her 6-foot-1 teammate Shainah Joseph.
As the setter, she leads the team; tells them how to play and where to be, which is probably the best position for Dagostino considering how vocal she is.
Anytime a referee makes a call Dagostino disagrees with, she questions it.
She’s like a politician: She can deliver any message in a calm, collected manner with a smile stretched across her face.
Her happy-go-lucky demeanor and candor make her the perfect choice to lead Florida.
"Mack before the game she’s always like, ‘You’re going to be a beast tonight,’" teammate Carli Snyder said. "She’s so intense, she’s probably the most intense setter I’ve ever played with. She’s the first person you see after you get a kill, like pointing at you and going crazy and that’s really awesome to play with."
Dagostino’s start in college volleyball was at Maryland in 2011 – a Big 10 school that went 8-12 in its conference in her lone year with the Terps. Splitting playing time with senior Remy McBain, Dagostino led the team in assists per set with 5.90.
Ultimately she transferred from Maryland to Florida because she missed her family, which lives in Tampa Bay.
"We were in a fortunate situation that she just wanted to come home," Wise said.
That, and because she was ready to win.
While Dagostino was a starter at Maryland, it didn’t mean she was in the place that would offer her the most success.
"No. 1, I wanted to be closer to my family," Dagostino said. "No. 2, I wanted to play for a program that had the same mindset I did like wanting to get to the NCAA final tournament."
Dagostino isn’t the only player to want to join the Florida squad because of its dominance in NCAA play.
Florida’s postseason success has always been a major pull for young athletes.
And to boast the Florida squads reputation, the Gators made it to its 24th consecutive NCAA Tournament on Sunday, a feat only 14 teams have accomplished since 1981.
"She’s making plays from the setters position that very few setters have ever made because of how quick she is," Wise said. "She’s an elite level athlete. She’s highly competitive and can play that way."
It takes confidence to know you’re good enough to play for a program like Florida’s.
But when you’re Abby Detering, having confidence isn’t really unwarranted.
She was the 2013-14 Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year.
She was MVP of the Ohio Division II State Championship game in her freshman year of high school.
"I came to Florida because I wanted to win," Detering said. "I’m competitive so I wanted to go against the best teams around. I could have gone to a smaller school and been a starter, but that’s not my goal here. My goal is to win and hopefully win a championship in the future."
While she waits on the bench for her name to be called, she scouts Florida’s opponents and mimics the opposing team's offense for the Gators to practice against.
She’s an expert.
She knows what the opposing team is going to do before it even knows it’s going to do it.
She also has an earlier start than Dagostino and Brauneis had with the Gators. While she’s only participated in eight sets, it’s clear Wise thinks Detering is something special.
That, maybe, she is the winner the team has been waiting for.
"We know the future for Abby is very bright," Wise said.
Follow Eden Otero on Twitter @edenotero_l
UF coach Mary Wise talks to her team during a timeout in Florida's 3-0 win against Auburn.