UF VOLLEYBALL

Florida players turning to ‘Grandma'


Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 7, 2012 at 12:19 a.m.

Sometimes it simply comes down to timing.

Facts

ACTIVE ANKLE CHALLENGE

At the O'Connell Center
Today

Ga. Tech vs. Louisiana, 5:30 p.m.
Florida vs. Jacksonville, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday
Jacksonville vs. Ga. Tech, 10 p.m.
Florida vs. Louisiana, noon
Louisiana vs. Jacksonville, 5:30 p.m.
Florida vs. Ga. Tech, 7:30 p.m.

Radio: AM-850/900

For Florida volleyball coach Mary Wise, whose 2012 squad is one of the youngest in her 22-year UF tenure, the timing of having a fifth-year senior like Betsy Smith has proven to be perfect.

Smith has taken UF's seven-member freshman class collectively under her wing in her final season with the Gators, affectionately earning the nickname “Grandma.”

“The leader of this team, and there is no question; it's Betsy Smith,” Wise said. “She's a fifth-year senior — the grandmother of the team. She has such outstanding leadership abilities on her own, and she's been great with this new group.

“We've had great leaders, but I don't know if we've ever had a player who was just so naturally gifted in that area the way Betsy is. From all of the players who have been through our program, if I had to hand pick a senior to lead a team with so many new players, it would be Betsy.”

Smith, a 6-foot-2 Atlanta native, seems to be relishing the role.

“It's really exciting,” she said. “There's a lot going on with our new freshmen. They bring a lot of energy, and there's been less focus on the older players and more on the younger ones. It's kind of cool. They're so full of energy and ready to go all the time, and it's nice to be able to feed off that.”

Smith's role is a result of more than just strong leadership skills.

A 2007 AVCA All-American and two-time Georgia Class AA/A Player of the Year, Smith is a poster child for Wise's roadmap to success.

“The freshmen are going to have to play, and what we're hoping is that they'll work hard, be patient and when your time comes, take full advantage of it — just like Betsy did,” Wise said. “She was part of a heralded recruiting class and had to redshirt her freshman year. She had to wait very patiently for her turn, but boy has she taken advantage of it.”

Smith got her chance last season and responded with a breakout performance.

She started 31 of UF's 33 matches — more matches than she had played in (23) up to that point in her career — and ended up ranking second in the SEC in hitting percentage (.392) to teammate Chloe Mann. In addition, Smith led UF with eight errorless matches and set career-highs in every category possible. She entered this season as one of the Gators' most experienced players.

“Working hard has been something that has helped me to be successful,” said Smith, who also has made the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll every year at UF and has twice been named to the SEC Community Service Team.

“That's something that Mary really emphasizes in all of us.”

Smith was also chosen as team captain earlier this year.

“I think I'm just being a lot more ‘other' oriented,” she said. “It's definitely a different role, especially from two years ago to now. It's been a lot of growing with the little ones.

“It's not just me; it's all the upperclassmen — the seniors and Chloe — it's all of us putting it in a different perspective. Instead of worrying about ourselves, we have to worry about all the young ones.”

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