Unroe gives Gators unreal serve
Published: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 8:30 p.m.
Florida's Taylor Unroe heads into today's SEC volleyball road match at Tennessee enjoying her best season yet with the Gators.
“I've really been focusing on my serving and passing,” Unroe said. “That has allowed our offense to be more fluid, so I am just taking the things I learn in practice and applying it to the matches we play.”
Head coach Mary Wise has been impressed.
“Taylor came to Florida with really good ball-control skills, and passing was the skill that was easiest for her,” she said. “Where she has progressed is her ability not just off serve-receive and not just in what we call the loose balls, which are balls off of hands or free balls from the other team. She now has the ability to dig the hard-driven ball, and she makes plays now that are just terrific.”
Unroe, a Muncie, Ind., native who began playing volleyball at the age of four and was a 2009 Under Armour All-American and two-time AVCA All-American, had to redshirt her first year at UF (2010) after undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in her ankle.
She has been UF's starting libero in every match since, ranking seventh in the SEC in digs (432, 3.69 per set) and sixth in service aces (32) en route to earning SEC All-Freshman honors in 2011 and then upping those numbers to 482 digs (4.40 per set) and 35 aces last year, highlighted by a career-high 27 digs in Florida's SEC-clinching win over LSU.
This year, the redshirt junior has started all 89 sets and recorded 352 digs (3.96 per set) to date for the seventh-ranked Gators (24-3, 13-2), good for No. 7 in the SEC, while posting a career-high serve-receive mark of .976, with only nine errors in 382 chances.
In addition, Unroe has already matched her career-high with an SEC-leading 35 aces.
“With the jump top-spin serve – and she's the only regular player who serves that for us – it's a different look for the opponents,” Wise said. “It's a high-risk, high-reward serve. She's going to miss some; it happens. But these past several matches, she has really served the ball well in terms of the pace.
“To just get it in, whether that's a float or a jump top-spin, without any pace, then it's very ineffective, but when she is hitting that and it's over 50 miles an hour and is coming with a spin that makes the ball drop in front of you, it's a much harder ball to pass.”
On UF's last road trip, Unroe recorded a season-high 21 digs in a 3-1 win over LSU and two days later had a career-high six aces in a 3-2 victory over Texas A&M, including back-to-back aces to close out the five-set thriller, earning SEC Co-Defensive Player of Week honors.
“I've been doing this for like 10 years, so it shouldn't be something that's making me nervous,” she said. “It is a high-error serve, so that's why sometimes I do get a little bit nervous, but the coaches have given me free rein. They just say 'You have a great serve, so just get in a routine, do what you do.' That has really helped me be a little bit more low-error while still being aggressive.
“It is a high-risk serve, but I don't want to be a high-risk server.”
Unroe has rounded into a complete player.
“When you combine her serve-receive, which was solid when she got here, with her digging skills that have improved so much while definitely serving the best she has since coming to Florida, Taylor is playing the best volleyball of her career,” Wise said. “She's been really good at all three things that we ask of her – point scoring behind the service line, anchoring our team's serve-receive and defending balls. I'm really, really happy with Taylor's progress and where she is and how much she's been a part of our team's success this season.”