Florida athletics roundup: Volleyball sweeps, soccer splits, four teams begin seasons

The Florida volleyball team and soccer team were both on the road this weekend — volleyball in Puerto Rico and soccer in Seattle — and looked to continue their strong starts to the season.

Here’s a look at how those teams fared, as well as a look ahead to what’s in store for this weekend around the Florida athletic program.

Florida volleyball sweeps

After opening the season with back-to-back wins against top-5 teams, the Florida volleyball team made a conscious effort not to get complacent.

With a trip to Puerto Rico for the SEC-ACC Challenge on the horizon and two matches in two days, the goal was to avoid the hangover of a program-defining opening weekend and focus on the task at hand.

“We don’t want to peak in August,” senior libero Caroline Knop said Wednesday. “We want to peak in December when it matters most.”

The Gators, ranked No. 3 in the nation, continued their upward trajectory with a pair of sweeps over North Carolina State and No. 16 North Carolina over the weekend. Florida is 4-0 and the only team in the country with three wins against teams ranked in the top 20.

Florida won its matches over the weekend in different fashions. On Saturday, the Gators relied on an efficient offensive attack to defeat N.C. State. Florida posted a season-high .354 hitting efficiency against the Wolfpack. Four players recorded at least 7 kills, with senior outside hitter Carli Snyder pacing the team with 14. On Sunday, it was Florida’s stingy defense that carried the team. The Gators recorded 11 blocks and held North Carolina to a .109 hitting efficiency.

“A great learning opportunity,” Florida coach Mary Wise said.

Wise, in her 27th season at Florida, is  installing a two-setter system, with defensive-minded junior Allie Monserez taking the charge when the setter is playing in the back row and sophomore Cheyenne Huskey playing along the front line. Wise acknowledged that timing and staying in rhythm is difficult for the setters in this situation

The offense still runs through the middle blockers — senior Rhamat Alhassan and sophomore Rachael Kramer combined to record 31 kills and 19 blocks over 6 sets this weekend — but the Gators are still trying to efficiently spread the ball around the court. Right-side hitter Shainah Joseph (2.42 kills per set and a .328 hitting efficiency) has been a pleasant surprise in her first two weeks as a full-time starter, but the outside hitter trio of Snyder (.167), freshman Paige Hammons (.111) and redshirt freshman Mia Sokolowski (-0.43) are looking to shake off an error-laden start to the season.

The Gators host the Active Ankle Challenge on Friday and Saturday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Florida will play UNC Greensboro at noon ET on Friday, American at 7 p.m. ET Friday and Michigan State at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday. All three matches will be live streamed on SEC Network+.

Florida soccer splits West Coast trip

The second-ranked Gators soccer team traveled through three time zones to get to Seattle for the two-match Husky/Nike Invitational, hosted by the University of Washington.

They return to Gainesville with a split record. Florida fell, 1-0, to Washington on Friday night to open the weekend before coming back on Sunday to defeat Portland, 1-0. The Gators are 5-1-0 three weeks into the season.

With one week left until the start of SEC play, the Gators are off to a strong start fueled by the versatile Gabby Seiler. The redshirt senior leads Florida with 5 goals scored and has been an asset all over the pitch. Seiler starts each half on the back line — generally at center back — but then moves up to attacking midfield as the game progresses to stretch the offense.

Seiler scored the Gators’ lone goal of the weekend on Sunday, taking a cross from junior Lais Araujo at the 6-yard box and one-touching it into the back of the net for the lone score against Portland.

The Gators play two home matches this week, hosting No. 15 Florida State on Friday at 7 p.m. ET and South Florida on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET. Both matches will be live streamed on SEC Network+.

Florida golf, cross country open seasons this week

Four more Florida athletic programs will begin their seasons this week.

  • The fifth-ranked women’s golf team opens the 2017-18 season on Monday with the two-day Ocean Course Invitational hosted by the College of Charleston. Led by sixth-year coach Emily Glaser, Florida reached the match play portion of the NCAA Tournament last season before being eliminated in the quarterfinals. The Gators return three players in senior Taylor Tomlinson, sophomore Carlotta Ricolfi and sophomore Marta Perez.
  • The 10th-ranked men’s golf team opens its season on Friday with the three-day Carpet Capital Invitational in Dalton, Ga. Florida earned a No. 1 seed in the 2017 NCAA Tournament but was eliminated from contention after carding a 24-over 312 in the final round of the Lafayette Regional.
  • The Florida men’s and women’s cross country teams begin the 2017 season with the UNF Invitational in Jacksonville on Saturday. It’s the first meet under new cross country assistant coach Chris Solinsky, who was hired on July 13 to replace Paul Spangler. Both Florida teams were selected to finish eighth in the SEC by league coaches.

The post Florida athletics roundup: Volleyball sweeps, soccer splits, four teams begin seasons appeared first on SEC Country.

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