There has been a constant on Florida’s volleyball team since 2011: the presence of at least one Monserez sister.
The oldest sister, Madison, played at UF from 2011 to 2014, then Allie transferred from South Carolina to Florida for the 2015 season and graduated after the 2018 season, which was also Marlie’s freshman year.
It’s easy to look at the name on the back of the jersey and forget that all three are their own person.
But Marlie has developed her own game. And she wants everyone to know it.
The Monserez family is loaded with athletes.
Their mother, Patty, played three sports in high school. Their father, Mathew, played basketball in college, uncle Marty and cousin Mike played basketball at Butler, cousin Nick was at Lehigh also playing basketball and cousin Mathew was a quarterback at Purdue, just to name a few.
Madison and Allie are seven and five years older than Marlie, respectively.
Growing up, Allie says that Marlie was the “best little sister.”
“We would come home from school when Marlie was still in Pre-K … and she would have snacks ready for us,” she said. “She was just the nicest human as a young child … She just always had a smile on her face and just always wanted to do anything for anyone.”
Marlie was often seen on the sidelines cheering on her sisters at their tournaments. Playing volleyball just seemed like a certainty.
“We always joke I got to play every sport under the sun,” Madison said. “I was the first born, so they were like, ‘Oh, Madison, you know, try horseback riding and try dance,’ and I got to do all these different things. Then Allie got to try a few things, and then by the time it got to Marlie, it was like, ‘Sorry, honey, we don’t have time to drive you anywhere else, you’re going to play volleyball.’ So Marlie’s always been the baller in the family.”
But Marlie always wanted to play with her sisters. Going outside to bump and pepper (volleyball’s version of playing catch) with her sisters was a common occurrence.
“We would pepper outside, which was fun, but I had to beg (Allie) to do that because I was the annoying little sister,” Marlie said. “But when I did get the chance to play with her, it was always really fun.”
In high school, Marlie was in a familiar situation. She came into a program at Bishop Moore Catholic School. Madison was a two-time all-state selection there and Allie was a two-time MaxPreps First-Team High School All-American, winning two state championships.
Marlie ended up leaving a mark on the program, as well, matching Allie’s two state championships. She also earned Florida Miss Volleyball and Gatorade Florida Player of the Year in 2017, too.
Marlie’s recruiting process was also complicated by her sisters.
She was in attendance at the O’Dome when Allie, then playing for South Carolina, faced Madison’s Gators on Madison’s Senior Night in 2014. The entire family and its friends showed up to watch Allie walk with Madison during the Senior Night festivities and witness the Gators sweep the Gamecocks.
Following that match, however, the sisters started to move in different directions. Madison graduated, Allie was transferring from South Carolina and Marlie was thinking about what college she wanted to commit to.
Allie chose the Gators as a transfer. Marlie was already thinking about committing to Florida, but her sister’s transfer made things more complicated.
“(Before Allie committed) I was not worried, but I was thinking ‘Oh no, I’m going to be in the shadow of my oldest sister who hasn’t been here for three years,’” Marlie said. “And then right before I committed, (Allie) committed, so then it was kind of like, well, if I can get over being (Madison’s) little sister, then I can get over being Allie’s little sister as well.”
Marlie’s decision to commit to UF surprised Allie.
“I committed to Florida, we’re all so excited,” Allie said. “And then I got there in June, and I remember we got into the car after she came to Florida camp, and we just were in the car, and she said, ‘Oh, by the way, I committed.’
“At first, I was shocked, and then it just ended up being the most amazing thing.”
The age gap between Allie and Marlie meant that they had never played with each other in a competitive setting, but because Allie was transferring inside of the conference and had to redshirt for a year, Marlie was finally going to play with her older sister for the first time.
As it turned out, Marlie would be in multiple players’ shadows. In addition to playing with her older sister, she was joined by the No. 1 player in her recruiting class: Thayer Hall.
Hall, Marlie, middle blocker Lauren Dooley and right side hitter Haley Warner were the four signees that made up Florida’s 2018 class that finished second in the country.
Marlie and Hall play different positions, but it would still be easy to feel overlooked.
“I think that it’s just an amazing opportunity to play with (Hall),” Marlie said. “I think that having such a highly ranked recruiting class just shows that we all want to be here and that we’re all good coming into this.”
The younger Monserez attacked and set her senior year of high school, but she transitioned to solely playing setter for Florida. Which also meant that she was behind Allie for playing time.
But rather than being too competitive, Allie was always willing to give her sister feedback.
“I learned so much from Allie, she is just a rock,” Marlie said. “She’s just one of the best teammates I’ve ever had, not only being my sister, but she’s just an amazing teammate as well.”
The experience also brought the sisters closer than they had ever been before. Their relationship strengthened when Marlie was a senior in high school and knew that they were going to be with each other the following year in Gainesville. Allie thinks that they spent more time together during that season than ever before.
“When she actually got (to UF) in the summer, from the first day, it was one of the best things that could have happened,” she said. “Just the way that we bonded on a completely different level in a way that we would have never been able to do in any other situation.”
Marlie introduced herself to Florida fans quickly. She registered 52 assists, 11 more than Allie, in her first two collegiate matches against then-No. 2 Nebraska and then-No. 3 Texas.
Marlie only hit the 20-assist mark once the rest of the season, but she clearly showed that the talent was there.
But despite a 26-7 season, the Gators were bounced in the round of 16, Allie graduated and soon Marlie was the sole Monserez remaining.
For all the talk about casting shadows, Marlie casts the largest one. Literally. Standing at 6-foot, the youngest Monserez dwarfs her older sisters and combines that with a long wingspan.
“You can’t say enough about the difference in length,” Wise said. “Not just how tall she is, but she has these really long arms, and so she plays taller than she is.
“She’s terrific at playing balls that are tight to the net because of her length, she’s got great footspeed.”
And that’s one of the ways that Marlie’s game has been different than what her sisters brought to the table during their respective tenures. Marlie’s ability to play the front row has changed Florida’s offensive and defensive play. She’s amassed 46 blocks so far this season and finished nine matches with at least 10 digs.
Wise’s confidence in Marlie’s defending and setting abilities allowed the Gators to move from the 6-2 offense to the 5-1 offense this season.
“(Last year) she (was) a freshman learning from a senior who just happened to be her sister but is only playing three rotations in the offense we ran,” Wise said. “Now, in the 5-1 offense, she’s involved in every single rotation, every single rally, touches the ball, but she could go all day.”
Her extra height also gives her advantages in other parts of the game, like having a higher touch point and making dumps easier.
Additionally, Marlie has served the ball a lot more this year in the 5-1 offense, and she has 11 aces this season.
But of course, the setter’s primary job is to set up the offense and be volleyball’s version of a point guard. Marlie is currently 57th in the country with 10.28 assists per set, which is impressive for a sophomore in her first full season as a starter.
The Gators as a whole have been better offensively this year as well. Florida has the 12th-highest hitting percentage in the country and ranks second in the SEC in that category.
Hall, middle blocker Rachael Kramer and right side hitter Holly Carlton have all seen sizable jumps in their hitting percentages this season. Attributing all of it to Monserez’s setting abilities isn’t fair, but it does say something about the effect that she has had on the offense this season.
“I think really the past month Marlie has made a major turn and really trending upwards in terms of killable sets, comfortable running the offense no matter who we’re playing against,” Wise said.
The two oldest Monserez sisters moved away after college. Madison moved right after she graduated, and Allie just moved to Austin, Texas. They all miss each other, but Florida volleyball continues to bring the family together.
“(Allie) was here the whole year (last year), so after spring, it was kind of, not a shellshock, but kind of a shellshock not having her there,” Marlie said. “I couldn’t go over there every day and see her… it definitely made everything more comfortable when I had a bad day, it was easy, I could talk to my sister and she was there all the time.”
Marlie continues to text Allie about volleyball and Madison for emotional support.
But Marlie also serves as the mediator between her two older sisters. Madison and Allie are very different people, and Marlie is somewhere in the middle.
And as Madison points out, that has also carried onto the court.
“I feel like Marlie’s a mix of the two,” she said. “I think she has my heart and grit and passion and excitement for the game, but she does have the technicality of Allie and the steady force that comes with Allie’s play as well.”
But this season has shown that Marlie is becoming a strong player regardless of the name that’s on the back of her jersey. She insists that her game is her own and shouldn’t be compared to what her sisters did.
“I think it’s not as new as some people think because like all of high school and all of club I was by myself, I never really was in the same remote age group as my sisters, so I think it’s just kind of coming into my own here and showing everyone that I am my own person.”
Follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter @Bfarrell727. Contact him at [email protected]