Mary Wise hit a milestone in her legendary Florida volleyball coaching career, although you wouldn’t know it by talking to her. The winningest coach in the nation since 1991, Wise got her 700th career win when the Gators swept Texas A&M, 3-0 (25-9, 25-23, 25-17) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Friday night before a raucous crowd of 3,533 fans who came to celebrate. Getting to 700 wins is indeed a huge accomplishment, but for Wise it was just another day at her very successful office.
“The 700th win (at Florida) means just as much to me as the 147th,” Wise said after the third-ranked Gators improved to 14-1 this season, 3-0 in the SEC. “It’s a nice round number. It gives us the opportunity to step back and acknowledge how blessed we are that we came to Florida, and that this program has thrived with all the support we have from the administration. We have had some talented players come through this program who contributed to these 700 wins.”
Those talented players couldn’t stop smiling about the win.
“It feels really good,” said Sophomore Gabby Mallette. “We feel honored to get Coach the win.”
Coach Wise has led the Gators to 20 SEC Championships and seven Final Fours in 22 years and doesn’t look like she’s slowing down any time soon. The Gators are currently working on a nine-game winning streak with six-straight sweeps.
The Gators refused to let what happened last year at Texas A&M happen in the O-Dome this season with so much at stake. The Aggies went up 2-0 on the Gators in College Station last season, forcing Florida to mount a massive comeback to get the road win.
This year, the Gators got the crowd into the match early, starting off with a strong first set to take down the Aggies, 25-9 while while registering two blocks. The Aggies battled back in the second set, leading Florida, 6-4, at one point before the Gators settled in. What Wise calls Taylor Unroe’s “high risk, high reward” serve helped the Gators regain control to 2-0 with a 25-23 second set win.
The difference between the two sets? Senior Taylor Brauneis said the Aggies played their game in the second set instead of trying to keep up with the Gators’ offensive attack.
“It took a team effort to win that one (second set),” Brauneis said.
Florida continued that team effort in the third set, winning, 25-17, to finish the sweep. In the third set alone, both sophomore Simone Antwi and senior Chloe Mann each registered five kills and four Gators combined for a total of 11 digs. Overall, the Gators saw a shift in production, with most of Florida’s offense coming from players other than Chloe Mann and Ziva Recek. Antwi led the team with 12 kills, followed by freshman Alex Holston with 10.
Florida continues SEC play against Alabama on Sunday in Tuscaloosa. Florida’s depth and talent makes an undefeated season in the SEC seem likely, but no road win comes easy. Despite the Gators’ all-time 37-0 record against the Crimson Tide, Coach Wise isn’t taking the matchup lightly.
“Alabama is nothing like they have been [in years past],” Wise said. Alabama’s middle blocker Krystal Rivers certainly won’t make the match any easier for the Gators. The freshman has already earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors this year and leads the Crimson Tide in points per set and blocks.
A win against the Crimson Tide would start the clock ticking toward another milestone – this one 800 wins – but for Mary Wise it will be just another day at the office.