Coach Mary Wise said she wished that the volleyball program had the same luxuries as the football team does when it comes to scheduling matches earlier this season.
Only having to worry about weekly contests certainly has its advantages. And it’s one that the Gators squad enjoyed this week as they came back from Auburn, Alabama, late Sunday night and recouped from the weekend matchup with a day off.
The last few days were spent preparing for rematches against the LSU Tigers and Georgia Bulldogs, two teams that Florida has seen earlier in conference play but will compete again this weekend.
“When you’re home and you’re practicing, you just get more work done,” Wise said. “There’s more time to do work.”
Finishing up what Wise calls the “third part of the season,” which will conclude with a matchup against the South Carolina Gamecocks Nov. 23, the Gators (21-5, 12-2 SEC) are taking more time to work on “live plays.”
The team has spent some of its practices working through various six-on-six scrimmage drills instead of taking traditional reps.
Junior middle blocker Rachael Kramer’s eyes lit up at the thought of scrimmaging drills during media Tuesday afternoon, chuckling as she admitted some personal strategies of her own when it comes to beating her opposing six teammates.
“This is my favorite part of the season,” Kramer said with excitement. “It’s so competitive and there’s a little bit of trash talk because we know everyone’s favorite shots and we take those away, which ends up making everyone better.”
Kramer’s favorite scrimmage-like drill is when it’s played out in end of game scenarios with a traditional six-on-six format but the score is tied at 20-all or 21-21.
“You have to get this point or you’re going to lose,” she said. “The game is on the line and you have to win it now.”
But Kramer isn’t the only one enjoying the end of the season as the team prepares for what it hopes will be another extended NCAA tournament run this December.
The Gators made it all the way to the championship match before taking a 3-1 defeat against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the same program that Florida beat during their first matchup of the 2018 season.
Getting through the next four matches, however, will be a top priority before the Gators start to even think about what could happen next month.
“We’re taking a little bit from each match and each team that we play brings something different to the table…” defensive specialist Chanelle Hargreaves said. “That’s how it is, and you don’t have that much time to prepare. It’s down to the wire.”
The No. 13 Gators will take on the LSU Tigers (11-14, 6-8 SEC) at home for their second to last match at the O’Connell Center during the regular season Friday night at 7.
Freshman outside hitter Thayer Hall will not be in this weekend’s lineup. Hall is out with an undisclosed injury and hasn’t played in a match since Oct. 28 when the team traveled to Mississippi State.
The impact of Hall’s absence is definitely noticeable, but Kramer said everyone has been stepping up to compensate for the loss. Kramer recalled Wise talking to them after practice about it as well.
“We’re not asking it all on Paige (Hammons), we’re not asking everything on one person, but if everyone takes a few more attempts per set, a few more kills per set, then it would even out what Thayer’s going to do,” Kramer said. “And we’ve seen that in the last two weeks.”
Since the second Mississippi State matchup, Florida is 3-1 without Hall on the court. The team’s only loss was a sweep at Kentucky.
“I think that everyone has noticed that because Thayer is out, we all have to step up,” Kramer said. “It doesn’t have to be one single person.”
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari or contact her at email@example.com.
Florida middle blocker Rachael Kramer leads the team this season in blocks (135).