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Florida Gators' tough volleyball schedule pays off

GAINESVILLE — In 20 years as the Florida volleyball coach, Mary Wise has subscribed to the theory that you play the toughest nonconference schedule possible to become the best team possible.

That has paid off big for the Gators this year. Riding a 22-match winning streak and ranked No. 1 in the nation, Florida (27-1) earned its first NCAA national No. 1 seed Sunday and opens the NCAA Tournament against South Carolina State at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Gainesville. Florida State plays Georgia Southern at 5 p.m.

"The No. 1 seed is a reflection of the nonconference wins," said Wise, who Monday was named SEC coach of the year (UF's Kelly Murphy was named SEC player of the year.) "It looks like from the seeding and the bracket that the RPI was heavily used in this year's tournament. So the way that works is 25 percent of the RPI is based on your won-loss, but 75 percent is based on what your opponents do. So the fact that wins over Iowa State, Nebraska, Colorado State and Texas — those teams kept winning, and we benefited from that."

The Gators also have benefited from the leadership of nine juniors and seniors. Last weekend, Florida became the first to go undefeated in the SEC since the league instituted a 20-match double round-robin format before 2006. It was the 12th perfect SEC season in program history — the Gators' first since 2003.

"It's great to know that the hard work we've put in all season, especially at the beginning of the year when we played really tough opponents, has paid off," senior outside hitter Callie Rivers said. "The SEC gets better every year. … It's nice to see that everything has paid off. Now it's like the beginning. Everyone is 0-0."

One, two or three QBs?: After Saturday's 31-7 loss to Florida State, Gators coach Urban Meyer said "there's a chance" fans have seen the last of the three-quarterback system. Meyer said he didn't know if it would be used in the bowl game — most likely the Gator Bowl, played Jan. 1 in Jacksonville against a Big Ten opponent.

"We were just really ineffective in certain areas, really, really ineffective," Meyer said. "So if that's because of three quarterbacks, we'll blow that thing completely out of the water. If it's not, then that's our best opportunity to win right now.

"We're in the immediacy (stage) and then we're in the future, and right now we're in immediacy because we're going to do everything we can do to win a bowl game. And recruit our tail off."

McCarney out: Meyer will have to start recruiting a new defensive line coach. Former Iowa State coach and USF assistant Dan McCarney will be named the new head coach at North Texas today. A news conference is scheduled for 2 p.m.

Will Demps run?: Despite his seasonlong battle with a sprained foot, junior RB Jeff Demps is expected to join the track team when the indoor season begins Jan. 15, track and field coach Mike Holloway said Monday. Holloway said Demps remains committed to the football team through the bowl game.

When asked if he expects Demps to be able to compete in January, Holloway replied: "Yeah, as far as I know."

"I haven't heard anything else," he added. "But again, we're not talking about that right now. We're more worried about helping the football team get better."

Demps was injured Sept. 18 against Tennessee. He missed two games and has played sparingly in the others since, saying his most difficulty comes in planting and cutting.

Meyer said Demps has a stress reaction injury, and it will take time and rest to heal. He is the reigning NCAA 100 meters champion.

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Florida Gators' tough volleyball schedule pays off 11/29/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 29, 2010 10:46pm]

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