#4 Florida volleyball (1-1) will host its home opener this weekend at the Bubly Invitational. Along with the Gators, the meet will feature No. 10 University of Southern California, Louisville, and the University of Central Florida. Luckily for Florida, home-court advantage can get pretty rowdy in the O’Connell Center. Here is a quick breakdown of how the end of the weekend shakes out for the Gators.
Florida’s official home opener will take place against No. 10 USC in the marquee match of the tournament.
Last weekend, No. 7 Florida topped No. 2 Nebraska in four sets and narrowly lost to No. 3 Texas in five. However, the Gators still need to be on guard against the Trojans because in the grand scheme of things, rankings are not important when the teams take the court; Just ask Head Coach Mary Wise.
“We actually played better against (No. 3) Texas than we did against (No.2) Nebraska… but that’s athletics for you.”
And what Wise said rings true. Although the Trojans are ranked 10th, the team is currently 3-0, including a big win over No. 5 Kentucky.
There are two main players the Gators need to keep an eye on if they want to pull out a win: Raquel Lazaro and Brooke Botkin. Lazaro is averaging a whopping 46.7 assists per game this season and Botkin notched 25 kills against Creighton.
This can’t-miss match will take place Friday at 7PM.
After facing three consecutive opponents in the top ten, the Gators should have a little more flexibility against the Cardinals.
However, that is not to say a win is a done deal. Louisville has shut out all three of its opponents so far this season.
To combat that, the Gators will have to be strong on defense. Fortunately, Florida brought in freshmen Paula Cerame and Riley Fischer, two of the top-ranked defenders from the 2017 recruiting class. But, there are two more players the team will look to on D.
“The combination of the Monserez sisters will be a strength,” says Coach Wise. Allie (R-Sr.) and Marlie (Fr.) Monserez combined for 93 assists and 39 digs in the first two matches.
Senior Taelor Kellum added 3 blocks apiece against Nebraska and Texas.
Catch Florida-Louisville on Saturday at 5PM.
An in-state rivalry will close the Bubly Invitational.
UCF is currently 2-1 after beating FGCU and FAU, but dropping a match to the University of Miami.
Expect the Gators to look to freshman Thayer Hall (20.5 kills per game) to make a big impact on offense. Coach Mary Wise says Hall’s stats speak for themselves, but they are not too surprising when analyzing the player.
“Thayer, she’s a unique talent with textbook arm strength.”
Wise went on to describe the deep complexities of honing in a natural arm and controlling power. Fortunately, she believes Hall has that ability.
The most difficult feat against the Knights will be containing McKenna Melville. Melville is averaging 35 kills per game and posts a .322 clip. Also, Florida will need to look out for Anne-Marie Watson and Kathryn Wesolich. The two are averaging 7 and 6 blocks, respectively.
All the action here will happen Sunday at 3:30PM.