After its longest break of the season, the Gators volleyball team will hit the court – for real — for the first time in over a week.
No. 12 Florida will take on unranked Ole Miss on Friday night at 7:30 coming off a five-set win over No. 24 Missouri on Oct. 30.
The Gators have never run into any problems against the Rebels (14-8, 6-5 SEC), outrunning their program 51-3 in the series overall. And UF is undefeated against Mississippi in three-set matches (45-0). The three matches the Gators (18-3, 9-1 SEC) did drop, however, all came on the road.
So far this season, Florida’s offense has led the way with sophomores Thayer Hall and Lauren Dooley, senior Rachael Kramer and juniors Paige Hammons and Holly Carlton. Together, the five players have notched 863 of UF’s 997 (87 percent) kill total.
Because of their offense, the Gators rank second in their conference in hitting percentage (.271). UF’s defense has also played an integral part to its successful season thus far, helping the team maintain the second-highest opponent hitting efficiency (.183) and highest blocks per set average (2.62).
Libero Allie Gregory unsurprisingly leads the team in digs with 318 (4.18 per set). But unlike many other programs in the country, the defensive responsibilities have been split among the team.
Hall, sophomore setter Marlie Monserez and Hammons are behind Gregory with somewhere north of 150 digs each.
The Rebels, however, come into Friday’s matchup in a much tougher situation. The team is on a five-game losing streak after dropping matches to: Texas A&M (2-3), Georgia (1-3), No. 18 Kentucky (1-3), Tennessee (2-3) and Alabama (2-3).
Florida’s extended break should theoretically propel the team into the rest of its conference play schedule against Mississippi State, LSU, No. 18 Kentucky, Auburn, Georgia, Arkansas and No. 25 Texas A&M.
Mississippi’s team, however, has had less time to recover from its season so far after dropping its Sunday contest to the Crimson Tide in a five-set brawl.
Ole Miss’ offense is led by senior outside hitter Emily Stroup, who has managed to log a team-high 329 kills on the season. Stroup ranked second in the country last year in kills registering 583 by the year’s end, and will most certainly be someone to watch out for as the Gators take on the Rebels on Friday night.
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari. Contact her at [email protected]