Mann enters final act with Gators

Chloe Mann digs the ball during a drill at media day on Friday.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 16, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.

Having a fifth-year senior with the skills, talent and leadership ability of Florida's Chloe Mann is a rarity in college athletics.

“Chloe is a coach on the court and off the court,” coach Mary Wise said Friday at UF's Media Day. “She has really developed into an outstanding leader for us.”

The fact that the first-team All-American middle blocker and 2012 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year happens to be a former local prep standout from Eastside makes it all the more special.

“I love that I was able to stay here all five years and play in front of my family and longtime friends,” Mann said. “I was raised in Gainesville, and it has just meant so much to me — the support that I felt from my hometown and the community being there every game.

“I definitely credit everything that I have earned to the coaches and just how much they have worked with me over the years. I think we have such a strong program here that the ability to develop athletes into amazing and better volleyball players is really a tribute to our coaches — Mary, (and assistant coaches) Dave (Boos) and Sally (Polhamus).”

After redshirting her freshman year at UF and playing in just 12 matches the following season (2010), Mann broke through in 2011, playing in 27 matches with 14 starts and leading the SEC in hitting efficiency (.500). Along the way, she made NCAA history in a road match against LSU, hitting a remarkable .900 with 18 kills on 20 swings (no errors), the second-highest single-match mark in NCAA history (minimum 20 attacks).

She started all 32 matches last season and led the nation in hitting percentage (.444) while recording 380 kills and adding 120 blocks (28 solos, 92 assists), with her 1.15 blocks-per-set average ranking third in the SEC.

Mann enters her final campaign with 532 kills, 190 blocks and a .455 hitting clip under her belt and is poised to break UF's career hitting percentage record (.424, Heather Wright, 1997-2000) by the end of the season.

“I'm just coming in every day working hard in practice and making every rep count,” she said. “I'm trying to make the most out of every day knowing that this is my last season.”

Mann, who was the Sun's Class 4A-6A Player of the Year in 2008 and the 2009 Scholar-Athlete of the Year, has been dominating in the classroom as well. An SEC All-Academic honoree every year, she got her bachelor's degree in April and is enrolled in graduate school.

“Truly the hardest challenge for Chloe was finding a major,” Wise said. “The AP (Advanced Placement) credits she came in with from Eastside High School, she came in as a second semester sophomore. She's already graduated and was able to find a (graduate) program that she could continue so that she would be eligible, and that doesn't happen that often.

“If that's your biggest problem, then that's a good thing to have.”

The Gators, who are coming off a 27-5 season that included their 20th SEC regular-season title — all under Wise — and advanced to the NCAA regional semifinals before falling to eventual national champion Texas, open the season with the annual Campus USA Credit Union Invitational in the O'Connell Center on Aug. 30-31.

UF is ranked No. 9 nationally in the preseason.

“I'm real excited,” Mann said. “I didn't think this day would come, so it's kind of crazy that I'm here in my fifth year. But I'm really looking forward to what this team can do.”

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