Many new names and faces make up the 2022-23 Florida Gators volleyball team.
The incoming talent features offensive weapons like senior outside hitter Marina Markova, who dominated in kills for Syracuse’s volleyball squad last season, and freshman setter Alexis Stucky, who has accumulated a few state titles along with already competing at the Pan American Games with two fellow Gators.
Florida took a big hit to its roster after last season, losing five seniors after its 22-9 campaign: T’ara Ceasar, Thayer Hall, Marlie Monserez, Lauren Forte and Lauren Dooley. UF’s then 13-player roster increased this upcoming season to 16, eight of whom are new faces to Gator nation; three transfers and five incoming freshmen make up the additions.
Outside hitter Carly Hendrickson and Stucky were the first of the freshmen class to sign as early enrollees on Nov. 10.
Hendrickson’s high school accolades include the 2020 USA Today Cincinnati Player of the Year award, as well as the Ohio Player of the Year title. By her junior year at Mount Notre Dame High School, the Cincinnati, Ohio, native already reached the 1,000-kill milestone.
Stucky was named the 2021 Wyoming 4A Player of the Year and the 2021 Under Armour All-American MVP. She was also a back-to-back state champion in her final two years at Laramie High School.
On June 4, Stucky was one of three Gators selected for the USA Volleyball U-21 National team at the Pan American Games. Stucky, along with Merritt Beason and Bre Kelley, propelled Team USA to take home gold.
Florida’s three other incoming freshmen include liberos/defensive specialists Emily Canaan and Emerson Hoyle, and middle blocker Amaya Thomas.
Canaan was named the District 5-6A Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons at Allen High School in Allen, Texas. On their respective club teams, Hoyle’s most recent honor was at the 2020 AAU All-Star with Xcel Volleyball Performance, and Thomas was named an Under Armour All-American with Orlando Tampa Volleyball Academy.
While the freshmen class brings much promise to this young UF team, the transfer portal filled the roster with much-needed veteran experience from three outside hitters. Junior AC Fitzpatrick, graduate student Rhett Robinson and Markova enter with impressive collegiate accolades under their belts.
The Gainesville area isn’t unfamiliar to Fitzpatrick, an Ocala native. She transferred from Penn State after playing for two seasons. Fitzpatrick’s freshman season was her best, finishing with 156 kills, 131 digs, 20 aces and 20 blocks. Her performance ranked her first on the team in aces, second in kills and third in digs.
Robinson is another offensive powerhouse entering the program. The Krum, Texas, native transferred from North Texas after beginning her collegiate career in 2018. She reached her 1,000th career kill in 2021 before ending her senior season with 459 kills, 107 more kills than her junior year. Robinson also set a new career-high in single-game kills with 32 against Illinois State Sept. 17.
Markova was the final addition to Florida’s volleyball program, signing May 4. The Syracuse transfer tallied 492 kills in her junior year, averaging 4.51 kills per set. Her single-game career high kill count sits at 33, which she earned against Florida State Oct. 31.
These hard-hitting players are key for UF, especially following the impact of players like Ceasar, Hall and Forte. In comparison, last season Ceasar boasted 377 kills, the most of any player on Florida’s roster, Hall hit 289 kills and Forte recorded 176 kills.
While half of the team features new talent, the Gators still boast key players like Beason, Kelley, Elli McKissock and Sofia Victoria for the Fall. Last season, Beason spiked 217 kills with Victoria, slamming 149 of her own. On defense, McKissock had 465 digs and Kelley delivered 51 blocks.
While it’s unpredictable how this volleyball squad will perform in the Fall, the freshmen and transfers offer much promise for what could be an exciting 2022 season.