By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
It is a rare occasion when the Florida volleyball and soccer teams share a home weekend.
But that’s exactly the case when the fourth-ranked UF volleyball team (1-1) takes on a trio of unbeaten opponents, starting with seventh-ranked Southern Cal (3-0) tonight at 7 in the Exactech Arena, while the 22nd-ranked UF soccer team (2-2) looks to rebound from back-to-back losses with matches against No. 2 UCLA (2-0) tonight and No. 7 Southern Cal (3-0) Sunday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium.
Coach Mary Wise, whose volleyball squad upset No. 2-ranked Nebraska and lost a five-set thriller to No. 3 Texas at the VERT Challenge in Lincoln last weekend, is excited for UF to make its home debut.
“If you had said a week prior that the Gators could go to Lincoln, go 1-1 and the loss go five (sets), I would have taken it and been thrilled,” Wise said. “The irony is we actually played better against Texas in the second match. But that’s how athletics go — you can play better and still not win.”
Soccer coach Becky Burleigh is also looking forward to the challenge.
“We knew at the beginning when we started that this schedule was going to be a tough challenge, and it’s no tougher than this weekend with these two West Coast teams coming in,” Burleigh said. “They’re both coming off big wins, too, so we’re excited to play good competition.”
Tonight’s UF-USC match will give Gator volleyball fans their first look at the nation’s No. 1 recruit in 6-foot-4 freshman Thayer Hall.
She had 20 kills in the upset win over the defending champion Cornhuskers, becoming the first player in the Wise era (1991-present) to do that in her first match, then reset her career-high with 21 kills to go with 15 digs, another career-high, in the tight loss to Texas. Hall was named the SEC Freshman of the Week.
“It’s definitely exciting getting to play teams like Nebraska, Texas and USC that we would not normally play until the (NCAA) tournament,” Hall said.
Defensive specialist Allie Gregory is pumped.
“It’s a team sport on and off the court, so any chances that we get to learn about each other, we take them and we use them every game and every rally as a learning experience,” Gregory said.
UF finishes play against Louisville (3-0) Saturday at 5 p.m. and UCF (3-0) Sunday at 3:30.
On the soccer pitch, Florida is focused on facing two top-10 opponents.
“It was a pretty good wake-up call last weekend,” midfielder Sarah Troccoli said. “We need to get our energy up because we lacked that a little bit, so we’re excited to just start fresh.”
Teammate Parker Roberts concurred.
“Knowing that we have this challenge coming up is exactly what we need,” Roberts said. “We’re going to test new limits within ourselves and within each other, so we’re really going to push each other this week and just try to reach a new point because we need it right now.”
Who: No. 2 UCLA (2-0) vs. No. 22 Florida (2-2)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Dizney Stadium
Online: SEC Network+
Who: No. 7 Southern Cal (3-0) vs. No. 4 Florida (1-1)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: O’Connell Center
TV: SEC Network
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM