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Tuesday, February 07, 2023
<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-1edef129-7fff-8956-3e0c-62415fd947c5"><span>Junior outside hitter Paige Hammons combined with sophomore outside hitter Thayer Hall for 555 kills last season.</span></span></p>

Junior outside hitter Paige Hammons combined with sophomore outside hitter Thayer Hall for 555 kills last season.

Florida’s 10th-ranked volleyball team will start its 2019 season with a pair of games against No. 25 Louisville on Friday night and Dayton on Saturday at the Cardinal Classic in Louisville, Kentucky. Here’s what to watch for:

A match against a ranked opponent is in the cards

Louisville and UF met early last season in Gainesville. Florida prevailed 3-1, with then-freshman Thayer Hall and then-redshirt sophomore Holly Carlton combining for 27 kills. 

The Cardinals will not only see Hall and Carlton again Friday, but almost all of last year’s lineup, as well. The Gators return 14 of their 16 players from last season. 

Louisville isn’t unfamiliar territory to a handful of Gators, either. Sophomore Anaya Martin transferred to UF from Louisville, and senior Allie Gregory and junior Paige Hammons are also from the city. 

Martin played in just 10 matches for the Cardinals last season, but her addition gives the Gators more depth at the setter position. It also allows Florida coach Mary Wise to utilize more right-side pin hitters, with subbing out Marlie Monserez at the front row and subbing in Martin at the back row.

Martin’s departure also gives Louisville one fewer option to replace former two-time ACC Setter of the Year Wilma Rivera. The Cardinals, voted third in the preseason ACC coaches poll, are also trying to replace All-ACC First Team libero Molly Sauer. However, the team retains two-time First Team All-ACC outside hitter Melanie McHenry. 

McHenry, the only Louisville player on the preseason All-ACC team, led the Cardinals in kills in last season’s match against UF (14), though she only swung for a hitting percentage of .184. The junior was also the team leader in kills last season with 384. 

Saturday duel with Dayton

No matter the outcome Friday, the Gators will have to rebound quickly, as they face Dayton less than 24 hours later. 

The Flyers won the Atlantic 10 conference championship tournament last season and made it to the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, where they were swept by Louisville. 

Dayton graduated three seniors, including their team leaders in kills (outside hitter Lauren Bruns) and total blocks (middle blocker Kendyll Brown). 

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However, the Flyers had eight freshmen and four sophomores last season. Of the eight players who played in at least 100 sets last season, two were freshmen. With just two seniors and a bevy of underclassmen this year, the Flyers provide an interesting challenge with their youthful experience for the Gators, which can always lead to an unexpected result. 

Follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter @Bfarrell727. Contact him at

Junior outside hitter Paige Hammons combined with sophomore outside hitter Thayer Hall for 555 kills last season.

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