The offseason finish line is finally in sight for Gators volleyball fans with just two days remaining until the team hits the court against UCF. It’s the first time Florida will compete since an early NCAA Tournament exit at BYU last season.
Florida will take on the Knights in the O’Connell Center Saturday at 1 p.m. for its exhibition match and Fan Day.
There haven’t been too many changes since UF fans last saw the Gators in action. Alumnae Taelor Kellum and Allie Monserez left the team in capable hands with some strong leaders in seniors Allie Gregory, Morgyn Greer, Chanelle Hargreaves and Rachael Kramer.
With the new additions of junior transfer T’ara Ceasar and sophomore transfer Anaya Martin, Florida could be in for another reputable season.
Let’s take a look at some of the players who are expected to make a big impact this year:
On the kill
It’s no surprise that Kramer is in for the best season of her collegiate career. The senior middle blocker has played a vital role on the team since she stepped on the court three years ago.
The 6-foot-8 middle blocker doesn’t shy away from the opportunity to put down a good kill or shove the ball back in someone’s face with a stuffed-block.
At the end of the 2018 season, she received four honors for her efforts on the court: AVCA All-American Honorable Mention, VolleyballMag.com All-America Honorable Mention, AVCA All-Region and All-SEC.
Kramer hit a season-high 17 kills last season at Northern Arizona on Sept. 7, which contributed to the 267 kills she recorded last year. She also logged 170 blocks, the most recorded by any player on the team by 33.
Pin hitters Paige Hammons, Thayer Hall and Holly Carlton will also play a prominent role this season.
Hammons and Carlton were two of four players — also including Kramer — to play in all 123 sets last season.
Hall, however, sat out seven matches in a month (including two three-set losses to Kentucky and Tennessee) with an undisclosed injury.
With a healthy recovery, she’s expected to be back on her game with anticipation from ardent Gators fans.
On the net
Marlie Monserez, the younger sister of former setter Allie Monserez, will most likely take over on the setting front.
She played in a modified six-two rotation last season, which always features three hitters in the front row and the setter in the back row, with her older sister and fellow right-side attacker/setter Carlton.
The younger Monserez shouldn’t have any issues given she played a major role in Florida’s offense last season, notching playing time in all 33 matches. She finished the year with 437 assists and posted two double-doubles in her freshman season.
Martin could also have an opportunity to help recreate the modified rotation Florida used last season. She played in 10 matches during her freshman season at Louisville before transferring to UF in January.
In the backcourt
Gregory’s presence on the back end of the court is crucial as the libero enters her senior season. She finished off 2018 with 514 digs, playing in every set of every match.
She’ll be assisted in the back row with plenty of company in Hargreaves, Riley Fischer and Paula Cerame. The three combined for 119 digs on the year.
Florida’s defense held strong last season, and it’ll need to be even better this year if the team expects to beat last season’s 26-7 (15-3 SEC) record.
By the numbers:
Home games: 18
Road games: 12
SEC Matchups: 18
Longest stretch of home games: 4, Honda of Gainesville Gator Invitational
Longest stint of road games: 3, two times in the latter half of the season
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari. Contact her at [email protected].