No. 6 Florida is standing tall in the latter portion of its Southeastern Conference schedule.
The Gators have rattled off 10-straight wins in the conference, with eight of them coming in three-set sweeps. They remain the only team in the SEC without a true road loss.
They also lead the conference in hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage, assists per set, kills per set and blocks per set. Due to all of that, they now sit atop the conference standings, sharing the lead with the Missouri Tigers.
With only five matches remaining on the regular-season schedule, an entire year’s worth of development has been showcased to both the coaching staff and the fanbase.
Coach Mary Wise has evaluated every player on UF’s roster, and she is impressed with where the team has gone since late August.
“The signs of the great teams are their ability to get better over the course of a season,” Wise said Monday. “It’s probably where I’m most proud of this team. The resilience they’ve shown.”
Coming into the year, the Gators had to replace five seniors. Out came a slew of veteran experience, and in came a group of young, inexperienced players who had yet to develop chemistry with each other.
“We had a first-time libero, a first-time setter,” Wise said. “These were a lot of first time things.”
However, after months of seeing the team, the intimidation the lack of experience brought is a distant memory. Nearly every facet of this Florida team has worked as it was designed.
Outside hitter Shainah Joseph came into the year knowing she wouldn’t be playing her natural position on the right side. After redshirting her junior year, there were question marks.
But through 24 matches, Joseph has not only become an offensive weapon but also a defensive stalwart. She’s accumulated 35 total blocks, which is the second most from a hitter behind senior Alex Holston.
“What she gives us in terms of a blocking presence and how physical she is … we see the progress she keeps making each week,” Wise said.
Transfers Allie Monserez and Caroline Knop have weaved themselves seamlessly into an extremely strong offensive system, with both playing pivotal roles to its success.And long with other role players, the Gators have seen improvement from their main offensive trio of Holston, Rhamat Alhassan and Carli Snyder.Holston, the lone senior on the team, has been particularly impressive, leading the team with 286 kills and 328 total points. And with how often she attacks, Holston has largely improved her ability to attack without committing errors. In four of the last five matches, she has not committed an error.While Wise has been satisfied with Holston’s play, it has been her demeanor off the court that leaves a lasting impression.The team plans to honor Holston’s UF career during the second match of its weekend homestand against South Carolina and Alabama.“She is the most low maintenance, greatest talent player I’ve ever coached before,” Wise said. “Although I’ve tried not to think of what it’s like after Alex (leaves).”Contact Skyler Lebron at Slebron@alligator.org […]