The No. 9 Florida volleyball team starts the season 3-0 after winning the Campus USA Credit Union Invite in Gainesville this weekend. The Gators defeated New Orleans (3-0) and LIU Brooklyn (3-1) on Friday and swept the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday, thanks to outstanding play by tournament MVP Chloe Mann and All-Tournament players Ziva Recek and true freshman Alex Holston.
Mann led the team with 15 kills, followed by sophomore Ziva Recek’s 10. But Holston stepped up, notching six kills in her second day playing in the O’Connell Center. Senior Taylor Brauneis said Holston is great to have on the court because she gives consistent effort and makes no mistakes. Coach Wise said Holston being a more natural right side player gives the Gators the opportunity to move around the more natural left side players who have been playing in Holston’s position.
Coach Wise said Holston played with “poise beyond her years” as she finished the weekend with a .436 hitting percentage, the highest of any Gator freshman in an opening weekend (Recek finished last year’s opening weekend with a .421 hitting percentage).
The Gators were without notable redshirt sophomore Noami Santos-Lamb today, who Coach Wise said wasn’t ready to play two matches in one day. Coming off of an ACL injury is tough, especially in a jumping sport at a jumping position, but Coach Wise believes in the learning process and hopes to have the outside hitter back as soon she’s ready.
Junior Madison Monserez said the Gators learned a great lesson in adapting this weekend. Coach Wise pointed to the Gators’ impatience as the reason for dropping a set to LIU Brooklyn yesterday, but the team evolved as much as it could in 24 hours, becoming more aggressive and getting used to faster patterns.
That’ll come in handy this weekend when the Gators head to Austin to face Stanford and Penn State in the Nike Big Four Classic. Brauneis said the team is excited for the tournament – playing 6 games in 10 days is what they live for. Recek even poked her head in to say “Go Gators!” during Wise’s time with the media. The women’s volleyball team feels ready for the test, but they can’t quite focus on it yet – the Gators play UT-San Antonio Thursday afternoon before the tournament gets started on Saturday.