After a long regular season impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Florida Gators finally return to Omaha, Nebraska, to compete in the NCAA Tournament for the 30th consecutive season.
Florida volleyball enters the 2021 tournament as the 8th overall seed, which means they enjoyed a bye in the first round of the tournament that took place Wednesday.
Historically, Florida has been dominant when rated highly entering the tournament. The Gators made 17 tournaments as the 10th seed or higher and are 49-16 in those tournaments.
UF head coach Mary Wise boasts a fantastic record in the tournament as well. Florida is 74-29 in the NCAA Tournament with her at the helm.
The Gators rank second in the tournament among the SEC schools that qualified. Kentucky earned the second overall seed, while Missouri snuck into the tournament as the No. 25 seed.
UF performed well all around in the regular season. Offensively, it is second in the SEC in hitting percentage (.288), kills per set (13.72) and assists per set (12.86). On the defensive side, the Gators pace the conference in blocks per set with 2.7 and allow an opponent hitting percentage of just .168, the second best in the SEC.
Florida has been led all season by their big three of T’ara Ceasar, Thayer Hall and Holly Carlton. Ceasar knocked in a team-leading 298 kills during the regular season, good for 3.91 per set and within the top 100 in the country. The redshirt junior also paces the Gators in points with 341. Hall ranks second on the team in kills with 261, while Carlton comes in third with 182.
Junior Marlie Monserez also made an impact this season for Florida. The Windermere, Florida, native tallied 753 assists on the year and sits 12th on the program’s all-time assist list.
After a five-set win over Creighton, the Morehead State Eagles are ready to battle Florida. The Eagles earned their first tournament appearance since 2013 this season and boasted a 16-1 record and an Ohio Valley Conference title.
The Eagles were a juggernaut offensively during the regular season. They cracked the top 10 in the country in both kills per set (14.34) and assists per set (13.36). They also ranked 22nd in the nation in hitting percentage.
Individually, Olivia Lohmeier leads Morehead State. The senior from Cincinnati, Ohio, totaled the most kills on the team with 255 and the most points with 294.5.
The game begins at 3:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
Contact Michael Hull at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Michael_Hull33
Michael Hull is a fourth-year journalism sports & media major and a sports writer at The Alligator. He hosts the weekly sports podcast and has worked on staff for five semesters. In the past, Hull has served as the sports editor, the men's and women's golf beat writer, the volleyball beat writer and the football beat writer.