Florida Gators volleyball wins SEC championship

Special report on the Florida Gators volleyball team:

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The No. 3 Gators (25-1, 17-1 SEC) fought off a gritty Missouri (20-11, 13-5) squad, on the road, to clinch a share of the program’s 23rd Southeastern Conference title. It is the second consecutive SEC title for the Gators.

Florida’s 23 league titles are the 10th-most in SEC history across all sports, regardless of gender. Moreover, the Gators’ 23 SEC titles are the fourth-most of any sport, regardless of gender, since the league’s first season of volleyball in 1979.

Though the title is shared by Florida and Kentucky, both of which finished with 17-1 records in conference play, the Gators will be awarded the “automatic qualifying” berth for the NCAA Tournament by virtue of winning four sets compared to three in their two head-to-head matchups with the Wildcats.

The victory also marks head coach Mary Wise’s 900th career win, making her the third female head coach in NCAA history (all three divisions) to reach the 900-win plateau. Wise is already the all-time wins leader among Division I female head coaches.

Redshirt senior Shainah Joseph continued her absurd hot streak with a 19-kill outing. The All-SEC right side had just two errors on 40 swings and hit a remarkably efficient .425. All-SEC middle blocker Rachael Kramer tallied 14 kills and hit .478, while two-time All-SEC outside hitter Carli Snyder joined her in double figures with 10 kills.

The surprise performance of the match came from sophomore outside hitter Morgyn Greer, who set a career high with 10 points and matched her career high for kills (nine). Greer’s .429 hitting percentage was a season high.

After dropping the first set, 25-23, the Gators trailed 19-12 in the second set. Four dual blocks by 2017 SEC Player of the Year Rhamat Alhassan, who had a match-high eight roofs, and redshirt junior setter Allie Monserez fueled a 14-3 run that gave Florida a 23-22 lead. The Gators lost their first set point, fought off a Missouri set point, and dropped two more set point chances before a Tigers attack error gave them a 29-27 win.

Florida opened the third set on a 12-3 run, with kills from five different Gators. It went on to register a .483 clip and take a 25-15 win. The Gators led the majority of the fourth set, but they broke a 23-23 tie with a kill from Joseph and a dual block from Alhassan and Joseph to clinch the match.

NOTABLES

* 2017 is now the 27th consecutive 25-win season for the Gators-which is the longest active streak in the nation by 11 years

* This is the first time since the streak of 18 consecutive SEC titles (1991-2008) the Gators won the conference crown two years in a row

* Florida lost the first set for only the fifth time this season, but it improved to 4-1 in such matches

* The Gators allowed their opponent to hit above a .185 clip (.207) for just the fourth time in 26 matches this season

* Shainah Joseph’s 19 kills and 19.5 points were the second-highest totals of her career, only trailing the 20 kills and 21.5 points she recorded against Missouri on Nov. 12

* Joseph logged at least 15 points for the fourth time in her career and third time this season

* Joseph finished with 10-plus kills for the ninth time this season and 10th time in her career

* Joseph is hitting .413 with 115 kills in Florida’s last 10 matches

* Rachael Kramer has 14 matches with 10-plus kills this season after only having six a year ago

* Allie Monserez posted a season-high 49 assists

* Florida improved its all-time record against Missouri to 7-4, and snapped a three-match losing streak in Columbia

* Mary Wise joins Peggy Martin (Central Missouri, Spring Hill – 1,282 wins, 41 seasons) and Julie Jenkins (VCU, Trinity – 910 wins, 34 seasons) as the only female head coaches in NCAA history to reach the 900-win plateau

* Wise is the 12th head coach in NCAA history to reach the 900-win plateau

(COACH) WISE’S WORDS

Mary Wise on battling back after being down 19-12 in the second set and winning the SEC title…

“There was a point leading up to that second timeout where, it wasn’t lack of effort, we were just pressing too hard. Service errors, net errors blocking … there was a ‘want,’ we were just making it difficult by not staying disciplined. We made the decision to play Allie (Monserez) in a 5-1 to try and get the offense started. As well as Missouri played, and to do it on the road, that’s about as big-time as you get during the regular season. We’re proud to share (the title) with a great Kentucky team.”

Wise on the SEC title and what it means to this group of seniors…

“For (the seniors), this team has worked so hard and their mantra has been ‘find a way.’ And they did. They found a way in the second set to make this happen. For them, when they come back years later and they get to see the banner, those are special moments. They’re part of history. Sometimes titles help you recognize that easier.”

Wise on what winning a tough match like this does for the team’s confidence heading into the NCAA Tournament…

“When your team can find a way when it’s not easy … there are teams who win when they’re frontrunners, but to come from behind against a very talented Missouri team that’s playing well, to have that kind of fight and grit, that’s the persona you want to take into the tournament. We don’t have to try and create that. We are that.”

UP NEXT

The Gators await their NCAA Tournament seeding, which will be revealed Sunday at 9 p.m. ET as part of a selection show broadcast on ESPNU.

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Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.