Florida volleyball opens season at home

Volleyball players Dana Backlund (2) and Chloe Mann jump to block a spike during Verizon Fan Day in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Saturday, August 17, 2013 in Gainesville, Fla. Fans were able to meet and get autographs from Gator football, soccer and volleyball players, as well as the cheerleaders and Dazzlers.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 8:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 8:46 p.m.

There is no “Final Four or Bust” banner hanging in their practice facility, but that is clearly the mindset of the 2013 Florida Gators volleyball team.


UF volleyball

What: Campus USA Credit Union Invitational
Who: Florida plays New Orleans at noon Friday and LIU-Brooklyn at 7:30 p.m., then faces Duke at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Where: O'Connell Center

“We're just a super competitive team,” junior defensive specialist and former Ocala Vanguard standout Holly Pole said. “Everything that we do in practice is competitive, whether it is a passing drill or a six-on-six drill. Everything we do is with that final four mentality because at the end of the day, that is our goal. That is what we are trying to achieve.”

Five returning starters led by first-team All-American middle blocker Chloe Mann, a former Eastside High standout who was the 2012 SEC Player of the Year, and sophomore outside hitter Ziva Recek, the AVCA National Freshman of the Year, lead the way.

Senior first-team, All-SEC setter Taylor Brauneis, redshirt junior libero Taylor Unroe and sophomore outside hitter Gabby Mallette round out the returning starters. Eleven letterwinners return in all, joined by four talented newcomers.

“We've got lots of combinations of point scorers,” coach Mary Wise said. “I think we have a chance to compete against some of the best teams in the country.”

UF is coming off a 27-5 season that included a 19-1 SEC mark in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, winning their 20th league title in the past 22 years under Wise and advancing to the NCAA regional semifinals before bowing to eventual national champion Texas.

The season begins Friday with the annual Campus USA Credit Union Invitational in the O'Connell Center. UF plays at noon against New Orleans and again at 7:30 p.m. against LIU-Brooklyn, then closes out the tourney against Duke Saturday at 4 p.m.

“The really fun thing to watch this preseason so far has been how amazing we are both offensively and defensively, so that will be fun for fans to see just how much we've improved from last year,” Mann said. “It's really hard to kill a ball in our gym at this point.”

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