With the Gators volleyball team kicking off its 2018 season against No. 2 Nebraska on Friday, let’s look at some of the players to watch for this upcoming season.
No. 7 Paige Hammons | Outside Hitter | 6’1” | Sophomore
The Gators lose a lot of firepower from the back row with the graduation of Carli Snyder, but sophomore Paige Hammons is expected to help fill those shoes as Florida enters its first regular-season match against the Cornhuskers in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Hammons earned time in the rotation early in her freshman year with well-rounded play. Her 105 kills and 254 digs were a big reason why the young outside hitter played in all 32 matches and started in 26.
In 2018, Hammons believes that she will accomplish even more.
“Of course I’d love to take that next step,” Hammons said to the media on Monday, “but wherever they need me to win, that’s where I’ll be.”
The sophomore outside hitter will need to improve in a couple of areas in order to progress the way she wants.
In 2017, Hammons was third on the team in total errors (64) and tied for fourth on the team in service errors (35). She will face stout competition in No. 2 Nebraska and No. 3 Texas early this season to test if she really has taken her game to the next level.
No. 22 Allie Monserez | Setter | 5’9” | Redshirt Senior
The 5-foot-9 setter enters her fifth season on the Gators’ volleyball team and her third year as the team’s primary setter. After an impressive 2017 season where she led the team in assists (848) and tallied 254 digs, the Windermere, Florida, native feels that there is still room to take her game further.
“With all of the new faces, me, Rachael (Kramer) and Taelor (Kellum) know we need to step up for them on and off the court,” Monserez said.
Allie’s sister, Marlie, will be one of those new faces. The younger Monserez was one of six freshmen to join the team and is projected to be a rotational setter behind Allie. In her final season as a Gator, the redshirt senior said she knows that she will need to be one of the leaders.
“I’m excited to just be one of those voices that pulls the team together,” Allie said. “I’m thrilled to see how this team grows as the season comes along.”
She showed outstanding playmaking ability late in the season during Florida’s 2017 run, particularly in its SEC title-clinching win at Missouri on Nov. 25 where she posted 14 digs along with a season-high 49 assists.
No. 20 Thayer Hall | Outside Hitter | 6’3” | Freshman
The addition of the No. 1 recruit in the nation, Thayer Hall, adds another piece to a talented roster. The 6-foot-3 outside hitter from Spartanburg, South Carolina, had 638 kills, 361 digs, 43 service aces and 36 blocks in her senior year of high school and led her team to a state championship. Hall’s performance earned her the Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year award.
Even with all of her accolades, Hall said that the coaching staff has helped her transition her playstyle to better fit the speed of the game at this next level.
“Mary (Wise) and the rest of the staff has helped me drastically improve my game, even in the six months that I’ve been here,” Hall said. “They are definitely the best staff I could’ve put myself under for my career.”
Along with Hall, the team adds six new faces, including 6-foot-6 freshman Lauren Dooley and 6-foot-7 redshirt sophomore Holly Carlton, who transferred from North Carolina in May.
“We’re not rebuilding; we’re reloading,” Hall said. “I’ve never been in a gym with this much talent, and I definitely put myself in the best position possible.”
Dylan Rudolph is a sports writer. Follow him on Twitter @dyrudolph and contact him at email@example.com.
Redshirt senior setter Allie Monserez will be a leader for the Gators this year. Her sister, Marlie, joins her on the team this season.