Thayer Hall is as advertised
From her first warmup hit, it was evident as to why freshman Thayer Hall earned the Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year award and was the No. 1-ranked senior coming out of high school, according to PrepVolleyball.com. The O'Connell Center crowd roared with approval every time the 6-foot-3 outside hitter touched the ball during UF’s Orange and Blue scrimmage Saturday afternoon.
After a rocky start in the first set, Hall settled down and began to tally kills from all over the court. In the second set, Hall flew in from the back line for a monstrous spike after a remarkable dig by senior Taelor Kellum.
Hall then came back in the fourth set to lead her team to a 7-0 run after it trailed early. Hall’s powerful kills, along with her ability to play clutch defense, was a big reason why the match went to five sets.
The freshman enters the regular season with a lot of expectations. The touted recruit is projected to make the starting lineup for the first match against No. 2-ranked Nebraska on Aug. 24.
Paige Hammons is ready to take the next step
After she turned in a freshman season where she played in all 32 games and tallied 105 kills, Paige Hammons seems to have taken her game to the next level in 2018.
Hammons’ offense, which was a big reason for most of her playing time in 2017, was spectacular in the Orange and Blue scrimmage. She played from both sides and had powerful spikes across the court that the defenders could not handle.
The most significant improvement, however, was on defense. With the loss of libero Caroline Knop, the Gators needed to find massive improvements on the defensive side to fill the hole. Hammons, along with the strong front row of junior Rachael Kramer and freshman Lauren Dooley, was a big reason why coach Mary Wise was so confident about the team’s defense heading into the 2018 campaign.
“Perhaps some of the best defense we’ve seen this early in the season,” Wise said after the scrimmage.
However, service errors were an issue in the scrimmage as both teams struggled to get the ball above the net, a problem that tormented UF late in the 2017 season. Hammons was no different as she recorded 35 service errors in 2017, tied for fourth most on the team. It will be something to work on before Florida’s first match against the Cornhuskers in less than a week.
Rhamat Alhassan’s replacement is legit
With another significant loss of graduated senior Rhamat Alhassan in the front row, the big question was how the Gators were going to replace the 6-foot-4 machine. After the Orange and Blue scrimmage, that question seems to have been answered.
Freshman Lauren Dooley joined junior Rachael Kramer — who was named an AVCA All-American after the 2017 season — to pair up as the team’s front-row duo. Dooley was dangerous throughout the exhibition, posting strong kills and imposing blocks above the net.
Dooley, who came to UF as the No. 58 recruit in the nation according to PrepVolleyball.com, is projected to be given serious playing time as the Gators try to replace Alhasson’s 309 kills and her nation-leading 1.70 blocks per set through the aggregate.
After recording 105 kills in 32 games in 2017, UF outside hitter Paige Hammons showed off her defense in the 2018 Orange and Blue scrimmage.