The Gators volleyball team enters this weekend on a roll. Florida has won 13 of its last 14 matches, with its only loss coming to No. 16 Kentucky on the road.
The Gators (15-3, 6-1 SEC) are in third place in the SEC and half a game behind Kentucky and Georgia, which are both 7-1. Florida has the opportunity to improve its SEC record with two matches this weekend against teams in the bottom half of the SEC standings.
“A win’s always great,” middle blocker Rachael Kramer said. “But to have your team trending in the right direction, that’s what we’re really more excited about.”
Coach Mary Wise’s squad will face eighth-place Alabama Friday night and 10th-place Tennessee on Sunday. Here is what you need to know about them:
When: Friday at 7 p.m.
It’s been a tough start for Alabama in conference play. The Crimson Tide (11-7, 3-4 SEC) has lost three of its last four matches. Its only win during that stretch was Mississippi State, which still has yet to win an SEC match.
That’s generally how the season has gone so far, as well. Alabama has dominated the bottom of the conference with wins against the bottom-three teams in the SEC.
But Alabama has struggled mightily against the difficult parts of its schedule. It has only played two other ranked teams and was swept by both. The Tide also played Georgia, which received 12 votes in this week’s rankings and was also swept.
The Crimson Tide’s biggest issue is its offense. Alabama sits 10th in the SEC in hitting percentage at .211. That is a major advantage for a Gators defense that’s ranked second in the SEC in opponent hitting percentage (.170).
Alabama enjoys spreading the ball around; six players have at least 180 attacks this season. However, three of those six players are hitting below .200.
That being said, freshman Alyiah Wells is a player to keep an eye on in this match. The middle blocker is fourth in blocks per set (1.08) and seventh in the conference in hitting percentage (.342).
The battle between Wells and Florida’s tandem of Kramer and sophomore Lauren Dooley will be an intriguing one to watch.
When: Sunday at 1 p.m.
Football fans in Knoxville looking for an escape haven’t been successful with the volleyball team, considering that both are 10th in the SEC.
The Volunteers (9-9, 3-5 SEC) have also lost three of their last four following consecutive losses to Kentucky at home and No. 25 Missouri on the road.
However, Tennessee has had a tough schedule so far in conference play. The Vols will have already played the top six teams in the SEC after playing Florida on Sunday.
They have also given the top teams in the SEC a fight in most of their matches. Tennessee was swept by Kentucky, but it had a couple of close calls against Ole Miss and Georgia.
Tennessee has a decent offense as well, ranking sixth in the SEC in hitting percentage (.243). Outside hitter Tessa Grubbs leads the team with 284 kills, and her 4.06 kills per set is fourth in the SEC.
Defensively, the Volunteers have some holes. Tennessee has the third-worst opponent hitting percentage in the conference and is ninth in blocks per set. However, right side hitter Alyssa Andreno is seventh in the SEC in blocks per set (1.04).
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Middle blocker Rachael Kramer (5) said the team is trending in the right direction.