After eight consecutive sweeps against conference opponents, it’s hard to fault the No. 5 Florida volleyball team.
Through 26 matches, the team has only lost twice. The first was the season’s opening match against No. 1 Nebraska.
The other was a Sept. 28 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats during a midweek matchup following a weekend on the road.
Since then, the Gators have composed a blazing .343 hitting percentage, the best in the nation, to complement a 12-match winning streak.
Now, as it nears the end of Southeastern Conference action, a matchup with Missouri on Sunday might be one of its toughest yet. The Tigers trail the Gators by only 1.5 matches in conference play.
“We’re approaching it like it’s going to feel like an (NCAA Tournament) match,” UF coach Mary Wise said Wednesday.
The Gators will have their hands full with Missouri players such as Alyssa Munlyn, a sophomore middle blocker who ranks third in the conference in hitting percentage at .413, only trailing Florida middle blockers Rhamat Alhassan (.428) and Rachael Kramer (.536).
She also ranks fourth in blocks at 1.31 per set.
The Tigers also boast redshirt junior hitter Melanie Crow, who leads the conference in service aces per set and is fourth in total points.
But even with a formidable opponent up next, the Gators won’t be making many adjustments to their preparation.
“We try to treat most matches the same,” junior outside hitter Carli Snyder said. “We aren’t preparing any differently, but we are preparing well for this match.”
The team has had a full week to prepare for the matchup, which has been rare as of late. The Gators played at least two matches per week for the last five weeks.
“We are definitely working on a lot of little things in practice,” Snyder said. “The little things you don’t necessarily have time for when you only get two days to prepare for a match.”The implications of Sunday’s match are huge: A defeat would pull Florida back into a three-way tie with Missouri and Kentucky in the loss column.With an SEC title at stake this late in the season, strong play is more important now than ever.“We have a huge motivation in practice, Snyder said. “These next few matches are here so we can win the SEC championship outright.” Contact Skyler Lebron at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @skylerlebron .