Florida Gators volleyball team begins NCAA Tournament play tonight
The Florida volleyball team will begin NCAA Tournanment play tonight at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.
The Gators will host Tulsa at 7:30 p.m. In the first game, College of Charleston and Miami will play at 5 p.m. This will be the first-ever meeting between Tulsa and Florida, and the Gators have only faced one of the teams in the Gainesville Sub-Regional in program history, having defeated the College of Charleston in the NCAA Tournament in both 2007 and 2009.
Florida is among the NCAA Tournament field of 64 for the 22nd consecutive season, and the 23rd time in program history.
“Well we have been very fortunate that we have played in the tournament every year that we have been here and it becomes part of the expectations, the culture of the program from what you do in the preconference schedule through the conference schedule,'' Wise said. "Everything is building towards playing your best volleyball at the end of the year. That opportunity will present itself if the team, the collective talent, has accumulated enough wins this year.”
The Gators roster includes junior Chloe Mann, who leads the SEC in hitting efficiency with 346 kills on 648 swings (.437) and senior Tangerine
Wiggs, who is second with a .376 offense. Mann is the only player hitting above .400 in the SEC and the Gator hitters currently rank fifth and 30th in the NCAA, respectively.
“Definitely excited, we love tournament time but it is definitely nerve-wracking knowing that at any point in time, teams are ending their season,'' Mann said. "It puts a lot of added pressure on us, but we have handled things this year that we were uncomfortable with so we are excited for this challenge.”
Wise is 15-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but said even playing at home the Gators realize they can be defeated.
“There is no question,'' Wise said. "I think where years ago, based on the old scoring and where the pockets of talent were, you could pretty much pencil in at least your Elite 8 teams if not your Final Four teams, now that is just not the case. I think we are merging more towards where men’s basketball is because there are so many great players in that sport and there are so many more great players in the sport of volleyball. You play a 25-point set, rally scoring, we have leveled the playing field with our scoring and we have leveled the playing field with all the great talent and we are not allowed to seed past 16. Right now on any given night, in any of these sub-regionals, just like the regular season I don’t think scorers are going to surprise anybody. Penn State happens to be having another magical season. For them to be back in the mix doesn’t surprise anybody, just like any of the top four seeds. After that, who knows? I think it will be really exciting to watch the rest of the season.”