Gators' efficient attack tailored by Brauneis
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 8:13 p.m.
The third-ranked Florida Gator volleyball team has a potent lineup with a number of players who can rack up kills.
Truth is, a lot of UF's points are Taylor-made.
At the control of Florida's offense is setter Taylor Brauneis, a 5-fot-10 senior from Crystal Lake, Ill., who has been nothing short of outstanding since transferring from Louisville in January of 2012.
“Coming in during the spring last year definitely helped a lot,” Brauneis said. “I was able to take things as they came and not really be surprised by anything. I just tried to have a good mentality about it and be relaxed, and I think that helped a lot in getting to know the other players.”
Brauneis led the SEC in assists (11.65 per set) last year, recording a career-high 1,247 of them and earning first-team All-SEC honors as well as honorable mention AVCA All-America kudos in helping a young UF team win an SEC title and reach the NCAA regional semifinals.
Her skills helped first-team AVCA All-American middle blocker and former Eastside star Chloe Mann lead the nation in hitting percentage (.444) while UF hit .298 as a team, the No. 4 mark nationally.
“I think Taylor could set Chloe blindfolded as this point as much playing time as they've had together,” coach Mary Wise said. “Chloe Mann led the nation in hitting efficiency. Well, the person who was getting her the ball was Taylor, so she was a huge part of that success.”
After a summer that included a stint with the U.S.A. Development Program in China, Brauneis has taken her skills to another level.
“What we find traditionally for transfers is that it's usually the second year before things become a whole lot easier,” Wise said. “But give credit to Taylor in part because of her demeanor. She's one of the easiest-going people you'll ever meet, and that has transcended into how she plays.”
One of just two seniors along with Mann, who was the 2012 SEC Player of the Year, Brauneis is relishing every moment.
“I want to make my last year my best year by coming into the gym and working hard,” she said. “I want to play for the team every day and make my hitters look good, so I'm really focused.”
So far, so good. The Gators (13-1, 3-0) enter Friday's SEC home clash with Texas A&M hitting .338, the No. 2 mark in the nation, and are threatening the single-season school record of .332 set by UF's 2003 NCAA runner-up squad.
Individually, Brauneis ranks No. 2 in the SEC and No. 12 nationally in assists (11.54 per set) and has led the Gators to a .300 or better hitting mark 11 times in 14 matches. It is her all-around game, though, that makes her so special.
She leads the team in service aces with 20, ranks third in digs (2.18 per set), fourth in blocks (0.62 per set) and is hitting at a .396 clip with 24 well-placed quick kills.
“She's got some pretty good arms to set, and she's got some really good ball-handlers to give her the ball,” Wise said. “There's no emotional roller coaster with her. We know what we're going to get from Taylor each night. She is a steady performer.”