Gators open NCAA volleyball tourney on road

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Florida coach Mary Wise looks on at her team during a volleyball match against South Carolina at the O'Connell Center on Friday. The Gators beat the Gamecock in straight sets 3-0. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

The Florida volleyball team will travel to Orlando for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

The Gators (24-6) will play Florida State (19-9) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. UCF (27-3) and Florida Gulf Coast (26-6)) make up the remainder of the bracket and will play at 7 p.m. Thursday night. Thursday’s winners will face off at 7 p.m. Friday.

This is the first time since the 2011 season that the Gators will not host the first rounds in Gainesville. Florida defeated Missouri in the first round that year, then took down host UNI to move on the regional semifinal in Gainesville.

Stanford earned the top seed and will compete in the NCAA postseason for the 38th consecutive time. The Cardinal is one of only two programs to have appeared in every NCAA DI women’s volleyball tournament since its inception in 1981.

Minnesota is the second seed followed by No. 3 Illinois. BYU earned the fourth seed. The top 16 teams were seeded nationally and placed within four regions.

The Gators are 6-6 this season against the 2018 NCAA Tournament Field. Florida’s 28 all-time NCAA Tournament ties Arizona for the 10th-most in Division I history, trailing Penn State (38) Stanford (38), Hawaii (37), Nebraska (37), Southern California (36), UCLA (36), Texas (35), BYU (31), Colorado State (30).

Florida is seeking its ninth all-time NCAA semifinals appearance, looking to make back-to-back trips. Florida coach Mary Wise boasts a 70-27 (.722) all-time record in the NCAA Tournament, with all her postseason appearances coming with the Gators.

Florida placed four student-athletes on this year’s All-SEC team, the league announced Sunday.

Paige Hammons, Taelor Kellum and Rachael Kramer each earned a spot on the All-SEC team, while Thayer Hall was named to the All-Freshmen Team. This is Kramer’s third SEC honor – she was named to the All-Freshman Team in 2016 and earned All-SEC accolades last season. Hammons, Kellum and Hall earned the first SEC honors of their respective careers.

Kentucky’s Leah Edmond was named Player of the Year and Craig Skinner was named Coach of Year.