Gators host pair of SEC games

The No. 11 Florida Gators volleyball team closes out their four-match homestand this weekend as Ole Miss and Auburn come to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

The Gators take on the Rebels at 7 p.m. on Friday and face the Tigers at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. Florida continues to be unbeaten in the Southeastern Conference while Ole Miss dropped a pair of matches last weekend to fall to 2-5 in the conference. Auburn comes to the O’Dome having only dropped three matches in the SEC so far.

Florida is coming off of a pair of victories at home after defeating Arkansas and Kentucky last weekend. While the Gators swept the Razorbacks (25-23, 25-18, 25-15) Friday evening, their next matchup later in the weekend was a completely different story.

Florida made an exciting comeback Sunday against Kentucky after being down 2-0 going into intermission (22-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-8).

“I think it gives us a lot of confidence going into the weekend because we were down 0-2 and to come back was a full team effort,” junior setter Taylor Brauneis said. “Our passing wasn’t as good in the first two sets but it picked up and everyone picked up their game.”

Freshman Živa Recek led the Gators tallying a combined 32 kills against both teams, including a match-high 19 kills in Florida’s 3-2 comeback victory against Kentucky. Recek was off the charts in both matches, hitting on a .345 clip against the Razorbacks along with 4 blocks and six digs.

The outside hitter also added eight digs against the Wildcats. Recek was awarded the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for her performance this past weekend. The freshman’s .323 offensive clip ranks 10th in the SEC.

Junior Chloe Mann recorded 22 kills against the Arkansas and Kentucky, hitting a .409 against the Wildcats. The middle blocker also registered 12 blocks on the weekend. 

Brauneis — who transferred to Florida this year from Louisville — combined for 80 assists on the weekend, leading the match against Kentucky with 47 assists.

“I never beat Kentucky at Louisville, so it was awesome to get those two wins against them,” Brauneis said. “It was just a great overall team win.”

Brauneis currently leads the league in assists at 11.4 per set. Sophomore libero Taylor Unroe registered 29 digs on the weekend, leading the match against Razorbacks with 13. Unroe ranks fourth in the conference with her 4.4 digs per set. 

Even though Ole Miss has struggled in SEC play, Wise said the Rebels have a strong setter and are a balanced team with the talent of junior outside hitter Kara Morgan.

“Ole Miss features one of the most offensive setters we will play all year,” Wise said. “She’s left-handed, now is a senior and we said teams that are run by senior setters are in a dangerous mode alone just by that one position. Then you add their junior left-side player who is having the best season of her career now in her third year starting and one of the best right-side players in the league. They’ve got all the pieces.”

The Gators currently lead the SEC in hitting percentage (.311) and service aces (1.49 per set). Senior Tangerine Wiggs leads the conference with her .427 hitting clip, which ranks eighth in the NCAA. Mann is fourth in the league with .379, while senior Betsy Smith ranks seventh with a .335. 

Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at