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The Sett, Elite 8: No. 8 Florida

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Badgers and Gators is a terrifying real-world animal matchup but should be an excellent volleyball match.

Mark Kuhlmann/NCAA Photos

“Last” Year In Gator Volleyball

Mary Wise took over the Gators program in 1991 and immediately create the SEC’s powerhouse in volleyball, winning the regular conference every year between 1991 and 2008, only splitting twice. That translated to six Final Fours, but nothing further. Since then, other SEC teams have upped their level of competition, including last year when Kentucky beat the Gators twice to force a “split” of the title. (They both get a banner, but you lose twice to a team with the same record you can’t split, those are the rules.)

Unlike football, Florida volleyball schedules aggressively out of conference. They may have been swept by Stanford and Minnesota in the non-conference, but they also scheduled Stanford and Minnesota. In the second 2019 Gators - Gophers matchup, the moral victory from losing in five sets to the Gophers was shadowed by the real loss in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament.

2021 Gator Volleyball

The SEC played a split schedule, with fall and spring matches, so I really did have to use my air quotes. Florida went 21-3, splitting with champion Kentucky at home. But, I want to focus on what happened yesterday.

Always. Be. Cackling-at-Ohio-State.

If I were Ohio State, I would have simply capitalized on one of four set points to even the match at one apiece instead of erring three straight times.

Front Court

Florida comes in with a potent .286 team attack. Your clubhouse swing leaders are the pin hitters, T’ara Ceasar and Thayer Hall, each with 300 more than third place right-side hitter and backup setter Holly Carlton. The 6-foot-7 Carlton makes the most of her attacks though, killing more often and erring less often than the other two.

The blocking is one of the few areas Florida does better than Kentucky, and it’s a top-down team effort. Starting MB Lauren Dooley leads with 117, well above her sweet jersey number of 99, with all-everything Holly Carlton second at 79. But then, five players have between 35 and 50 total blocks on the season, including the other two main outside hitters, the setter, and two backup mids.

Welcome to the Elite 8.

Back Court

When you reach this level of competition, you see players like setter Marlie Monserez, who in addition to her main responsibilities of leading Florida’s No. 2-in-the-SEC attack is No. 2 in digs and No. 3 in blocks on her team.

Florida serves fairly aggressively, notching a healthy 1.53 aces a set. T’ara Ceasar in particular likes to get the point done early, with 24 aces and 38 service errors.

Game Info

Elsewhere Around The Conference

No. 3 seed Minnesota fell in five sets to unseeded Pittsburgh, who’s making up for their 2019 run being cut short now. No. 5 Nebraska swept No. 12 Baylor, while No. 4 Texas beat No. 13 Penn State in four sets, setting up a throwback Big XII showdown today. No. 7 Purdue takes on SEC champion No. 2 Kentucky

Also, No. 9 Ohio State could have won their second set against No. 8 Florida had they not had three attack errors in a row with set point.