The Gators volleyball waited for months with bated breath to play a ranked opponent.
This weekend, that will change as Florida hosts Missouri this Friday and Saturday at the O’Connell Center.
The squads intended to play Feb. 6 and 7, but the matches got called off due to COVID-19 issues within the Florida program.
The Tigers, Volunteers and Razorbacks entered with a 20-15 total record. No. 25 Missouri comes in 11-5 and ranks third in the SEC.
That said, the Tigers lost three of their last six games, including three out of four on the road.
Florida crushed Arkansas last weekend 3-0, 3-0. Like the Tigers, the Razorbacks roamed into Gainesville third in the SEC with a11-5 record.
Junior Lauren Dooley nagged her second consecutive SEC Defensive Player of the Week. The middle blocker kept the success she built two weeks ago versus Tennessee. She tallied 13 total blocks and leads the SEC with 1.57 blocks per set. Florida’s 2.85 blocks per set tops the SEC, one of the few categories where it surpasses No. 3 Kentucky. The Gators will battle the Wildcats next weekend.
The Gators defense excelled against Arkansas. The Razorbacks hitting percentage remained under .150 during both games.
Offensively, outside hitter Thayer Hall registered a career-high hitting percentage (.667) in Friday’s demolition. She finished the weekend with 25 kills. Hall’s 4.07 points per set puts her 10th in the SEC. Her teammate, redshirt junior T’ara Ceasar, sits six spots ahead of her at 4.73. UF ranks second in the conference in hitting percentage at .283.
The Gators hold an 8-5 advantage over Mizzou, including 4-2 in Gainesville. Last season, the No. 24 Tigers nearly upset No. 13 UF in Columbia, Missouri. Florida prevailed 3-2, but it ended up requiring the full five sets.
Senior Kylie Deberg commands the Tigers. The 2019 All-SEC recipient ranks eighth in the country with 5.40 points a set. Mizzou hits .273, slightly worse than Florida. However, it allows opponents to hit .249, way up from UF’s .151.
Friday’s match begins at 1 p.m., while Saturday’s starts at 4 p.m. The action will stream on SEC Network +.
Contact Noah Ram at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Noah_ram1
Noah is a third year journalism-sports and media student from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He has been with The Alligator since Spring 2019 and has covered men’s and women’s tennis, gymnastics and volleyball. When he isn’t on his beat, Noah is usually sadden over his beloved South Florida sports teams, such as the Heat and Dolphins.