ORLANDO, Fla. — Sophomore outside hitter Paige Hammons stood at the ready on match point Friday night. She waited on a serve from Florida Gulf Coast’s side of the court.
Sports | Volleyball
Taelor Kellum walked into the Gale Lemerand practice facility at the University of Florida looking for answers.
Sophomore Paige Hammons stood on the black and gold logo that brandished regional host UCF’s letters, awaiting the serve from Florida State’s Madison Sullivan.
A soft applause and some smiles came from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as the Florida Gators volleyball squad found out they would be playing arch-rival Florida State for the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament during the selection show Sunday night.
The 2018 regular season was predictably unpredictable for a year where the Florida volleyball team replaced four graduating All-Americans who led it to a 2017 NCAA Championship appearance with six freshmen and a transfer.
Coach Mary Wise said she wished that the volleyball program had the same luxuries as the football team does when it comes to scheduling matches earlier this season.
There’s a lot you can do on a 5.5-hour bus ride to Auburn, Alabama. You could read a short novel. You could catch up on missed sleep. You might be able to finish half a game of “Monopoly.”
A 9-year-old Holly Carlton followed her older sister, Kayla, to their quiet backyard in the Eastern Loudoun subdivision in Sterling, Virginia, with a volleyball in hand. The two went to a portion of their backyard that was fenced off for a makeshift volleyball court.
Paige Hammons lined up for a serve in the second set donning her bright, highlighter orange headband and smacking her gum as she had done every match previous. Her serve slapped the tape of the net, but it crept over the side and fell just out of reach of three Arkansas defenders, causing them to look up in the rafters of the O’Connell Center and wish they were as fortunate.
A little over a year ago Florida’s volleyball players took the court at the O’Connell Center with a calm and humble demeanor in a Sunday afternoon matchup against the Kentucky Wildcats. They carried their undefeated record onto the floor with a solemn sense of duty.
Right-side attacker Holly Carlton quickly transitioned back behind her setter and the 10-foot line after coming down from a block on the right-side pin.
The last time the Gators swept a conference rival was about two weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
The rally lasted for what seemed like days. Diving digs, huge swings and balls hitting off the low ceiling of the Volleyball Competition Center in Columbus, South Carolina. And it all ended with outside hitter Paige Hammons.