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.”
Paige Hammons lined up for a serve in the second set donning her bright, highlighter orange …
If you’re on the Gators volleyball team, you’re at the mercy of freshman setter Marlie Monserez, who doubles as the team’s entertainment director for road trips like such.
Monserez, along with some other teammates, brainstorm ways for the team to enjoy long bus rides to opponent’s gyms, which include it’s last two away games at LSU and Georgia.
“At the end of the day, they will probably tell more stories about things that happened off the court than on the court,” coach Mary Wise said. “You embrace the experience.”
The entertainment “pod” usually picks a selection of five movies to bring on the bus, Monserez said. On one of the last road trips, the team watched “Split.”
“Normally we don’t watch scary movies on the bus,” Monserez said. “But that was fun and the whole team watched.”
Wise prefers to watch movies with a strong female cast, such as “Hidden Figures.”
“It’s right up my alley,” she said with a smile.
Sophomore setter and right-side attacker Holly Carlton makes the exception for team road trips to watch movies since normally she doesn’t watch them on her own time.
“I was scared for the next two weeks,” Carlton said with a chuckle referring to “Split.”
Carlton added that the coaching staff has done a great job with getting the team together more frequently outside of practice and matches recently.
They took a cooking class where they made their own sushi when the team traveled to Kentucky last Wednesday, Carlton’s favorite bonding activity of the season so far.
“It was a fun time,” she said, “just spending time away from volleyball and Gainesville together.”
But there won’t be much time for bonding this weekend as the team takes on Auburn on the road at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The Tigers (10-14, 3-11 SEC) won’t be competing for the SEC regular-season title, but they will pose a challenge to a strong Florida squad.
“Record only says so much,” Carlton said. “Any team is trying to be a spoiler, especially for the Florida Gators.”
The Gators (20-5, 11-2 SEC) are coming off a 3-1 win against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Wise said the Tigers rely heavily on their serve and back-row defense, which can often put their opponents out-of-system or frustrate them as they try to find the open court.
“They’re young,” Wise said, “and they are a team that if you get them, you should have gotten them early.”
Auburn is one of five teams the Gators face only once during the regular season, joined by Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Missouri.
Florida will hit the court in Auburn, Alabama, once again without freshman outside hitter Thayer Hall on the list of starters. Hall has been out with an undisclosed injury since the team took on Mississippi State on Oct. 28.
“We’re making progress, but it’s been slow,” Wise said.
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari or contact her at [email protected].