Florida returns to Gainesville for home invitational

Middle blocker Rachael Kramer (5) managed 11 kills in Florida’s win over in-state rival FSU. 

The No. 11 Florida volleyball team returns to its home court today after a four-match road trip to host the Honda of Gainesville Gators Invitational.

The team starts a doubleheader against Jacksonville (1-8) at noon, then takes on Florida International at 7 p.m. UF will close out its non-conference schedule against Army on Saturday.

Today’s matches are the fifth and sixth that Florida (6-3) will play in a week.

The team saw the reemergence of junior middle blocker Rachael Kramer, who topped off an impressive road trip with an 11-kill performance against rival Florida State in Tallahassee on Wednesday.

“This was a typical Florida-Florida State match with both teams playing extremely hard,” coach Mary Wise said in a release. “It might not have been the cleanest match, but it made for great drama.”

Kramer and the rest of the Florida defense combined for 21 blocks against the Seminoles in the four-set win.

Errors, however, were a significant issue. UF recorded 13 service errors and 17 attack errors, resulting in a meager .242 hitting percentage. The Gators need to clean this up before the back-to-back matchups.

 

Defensive Doubleheader

The Gators enter their second doubleheader over the course of a week against two defensive-minded teams.

Jacksonville’s junior outside hitters Mallory Mattingly and Natalie Wehner anchor the defense and will be a problem in Florida’s first match against the Dolphins. Wehner leads her team in total digs with 98 with Mattingly behind her at 75.

The Dolphins’ offense, however, is not as eye-catching.

The team has a lowly .149 hitting percentage on the year, one of the worst in the nation. Mattingly also remains the only player on her team to have over 100 kills on the season (110). The Gators’ strong defense is expected to shine in this matchup.

FIU (6-3), however, imposes a more considerable obstacle.

The Panthers have allowed opponents a mere .153 hitting percentage while they average 37.33 attacks per set.

Florida should expect to see an aggressive FIU team that swings hard and often with a solid defense to back it up.

Redshirt junior Lina Bernier leads that defense. The 5-foot-11 libero from Puerto Rico heads her team with 186 digs and ranks No. 25 in the nation in digs per set at 5.31.

 

Offensive Shootout

Florida will conclude the tournament against a spirited Army offense.

The Black Knights (3-7) barrage opponents with constant attacks from both sides of the net. The team has recorded 536 kills on the year with 492 assists, top 50 in the nation in both categories.

The talented duo of freshman middle blocker Emmy Barnhorst and junior opposite hitter Sydney Morriss are essential components of this effective offense.

The pair has combined for 213 kills on this season.

What Florida will look to expose  is the inaccuracy of that offense. The Black Knights hold an inefficient .181 hitting percentage due to their aggressive playstyle.

Kramer and senior middle blocker Taelor Kellum will be tested on the block and will look to make opposing attackers uncomfortable to create errors.

 

Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter at @dyrudolph and contact him at drudolph@alligator.org.