Wise

Coach Mary Wise is not worried about her team's 2-2 record this early in the season.

Matches against No. 1 Stanford and No. 8 Minnesota were supposed to be good tests for a Florida team trying to prove that it belonged in the national-title conversation. 

The Gators, however, flunked that test like a freshman stumbling into a chemistry exam. 

Stanford came into the O’Connell Center and swept the Gators, who followed up the match against the Cardinal by getting swept by the Golden Gophers. 

Still, coach Mary Wise isn’t concerned about her team. At least not yet. 

“We’re doing some good things defensively; our serving, like this past weekend, was much better, we’re doing some really good things in the blocking,” Wise said. “Had we not played the level of competition that we played, we might not know those things, as well as the benefit of playing those teams.”

The good news for Wise’s squad is that the schedule will be much softer this weekend. The Gators (2-2) will host three unranked opponents at the Honda of Gainesville Gators Invitational: USF, James Madison and Long Beach State. 

Here’s what to know about all three teams:

South Florida

Game time: Friday at noon

USF is coming off a 2018 campaign where they went 20-12. The Bulls (3-3) won 20 games for the first time since 2002 and earned a berth in the NIVC, volleyball’s version of the NIT. USF was eliminated in the first round, but it was the first postseason match the program has played in since 2002. 

However, the Bulls return just eight players from last year’s squad, including Gainesville native Jac’cara Walker. The 5-foot-9 outside hitter registered 394 kills last season, the fourth-most in the American Conference last season. The PK Yonge graduate is second on the team in kills this year with 22.

James Madison

Game time: Friday at 7 p.m.

The Dukes (3-3) are coming off their fourth-straight season with at least 20 wins. It's the sixth time they have done so in nine seasons under head coach Lauren Steinbrecher. 

Despite losing eight players from last season’s squad, including six players who played 100 sets last season, James Madison topped the Colonial Athletic Association’s preseason poll. Seniors Sarah Martin and M’Kaela White were selected to the preseason All-CAA team. 

Martin tallied 145 kills and the second-most digs (231) on the Dukes' roster last season.

White had the second-most kills for JMU last season (308) and had a lethal hitting percentage of .356. 

Long Beach State

Game time: Saturday at 5 p.m.

Long Beach State women’s volleyball has been much like the professional football team in the northern part of the state: full of history, but nothing of note since the 1980s and 1990s. 

The Beach  (2-4) used to be a legitimate power while Brian Gimmillaro was the team’s coach, winning three national titles between 1989 to 1998. But after an appearance in the national championship match in 2002, LBSU hasn’t advanced past the second round of the NCAA tournament. 

Gimmillaro retired after the 2016 season, his 32nd with the team. In his place, the school hired Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer, who won a national championship as a player at LBSU. 

The Beach went just 10-19 in her first season in charge before improving to 16-13 last season. The team has struggled so far this season, though, limping into Saturday’s match after losses to Texas State and Georgia before being swept by UCLA.  

Follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter @Bfarrell727. Contact him at [email protected].