Coach Mary Wise had one big concern heading into the 2020 season: How to replace Rachael Kramer.
She graduated last season, departing the program top five in blocks and hitting percentage over the course of her career.
This season Wise’s squad has had an army to help replace Kramer. Florida leads the nation in blocks per set and has three players ranked in the top 40 in that statistic. On Halloween versus Alabama, the Gators tallied 19.5 blocks, the most they’ve ever recorded in a three-set match.
The No. 4 Gators travel to the Palmetto State to play No. 15 South Carolina Wednesday at 8 p.m. and Thursday at 3 p.m.
The ‘Cocks (4-2) will be the first ranked opponent the Gators (4-0) have faced this season. South Carolina played Georgia, Tennessee and Auburn so far, sweeping Auburn and splitting its matches against Tennessee and Georgia.
South Carolina boasts a stifling defense. It ranks fifth in the country in blocks per set at 2.86. Freshman middle blocker Ellie Ruprich is third in the country in blocks per set with 1.6.
UF averages the most blocks per set in the nation (3.46) and is led by junior middle blocker Lauren Dooley ranked seventh in the country at 1.42. Redshirt senior Holly Carlton is 12th, adding 1.22 a set.
The Gators also possess a top-10 team in terms of hitting percentage. Their .280 hitting percentage ranks sixth compared to South Carolina’s .224 that ranks 22nd.
Wise’s squad features one prominent offensive duo: outside hitters Thayer Hall and T’ara Ceasar. They lead the team in kills with 51 and 43, respectively.
Ceasar, a transfer from Georgia, has been a welcome addition for UF. She transferred to Gainesville on Nov. 19, 2018 and became eligible after sitting out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Wise said Ceasar is a special player because she is twitchy and her swing isn’t predictable like most hitters.
Wise used the analogy that junior setter Marlie Monserez is like the quarterback running their offense. She has been a major factor for why Florida’s offense has been effective. She is averaging 10.67 assists per set, good enough for 12th in the nation.
The Gators play their first match against South Carolina at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Columbia and can be seen on the SEC Network.
Contact Zachary Huber at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber.
Outside hitters Thayer Hall (pictured) and T’ara Ceasar lead the Gatora in kills with 51 and 43, respectively.