By Jim Harvin
The 12th-ranked Florida volleyball team, spurred on by a crowd of 7,523 fans in their first match in the Exactech Arena at the O’Connell Center, took down top-ranked Texas by a 3-1 count Friday night to open the 2017 season in style.
Led by a double-double from senior outside hitter Carli Snyder, UF won 25-16, 25-23, 18-25 and 25-21 to send the second-largest crowd in school history home happy.
“I don’t think you can ever talk about this match without talking about the crowd,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “The way I understand it, only men’s basketball has had a higher decibel level in this building than what happened at match point.”
Snyder led all players with 20.5 points, finishing with 14 kills and tying her career-high with 20 digs while setting a new career-high in service aces with six.
“We knew coming in that this was going to be a fun one,” Snyder said. “You had two highly competitive teams with a lot of physicality, so I think that we did a great job of playing Gator volleyball, staying focused and staying together.
“It was amazing, and that was the coolest thing ever to get to show everyone what Gator volleyball is all about. I think that we just stayed really locked in, and it helped us have a lot of success on all areas of the court.”
What: VERT Challenge
Who/When: No. 5 Nebraska (0-1) vs. No. 12 Florida (1-0), 5 p.m. today; No. 18 Oregon (1-0) vs. No. 1 Texas (0-1), 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Exactech Arena/O’Connell Center
TV: UF’s match on SEC Network.
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM
Tickets: Single match range from $4 to $6. Less for large groups. Gator Ticket office: 352-375-4683 x6800
Middle blockers Rhamat Alhassan and Rachael Kramer had outstanding efforts as well. Alhassan, another senior, posted nine kills, two aces and recorded a match-high six block assists en route to scoring 14 points, while the 6-8 Kramer was right behind with 13.5 points on 11 kills and five block assists.
Other Gators with big nights included senior libero Caroline Knop (match-high 22 digs), setters Allie Monserez (26 assists, nine digs) and Cheyenne Huskey (18 assists) and right-side hitter Shainah Joseph (nine kills, four block assists).
“I thought it was so much fun,” Kramer said. “The crowd was amazing.”
Texas (0-1) was led by Lexi Sun and Ebony Nwanebu with 11 and nine kills, respectively, with Nwanebu leading all players with a .500 hitting percentage.
In the opening match of the tournament, No. 18 Oregon upset No. 5 Nebraska, 3-1.
The Ducks (1-0) placed four players in double-digit kills, led by Lindsey Vander Weide’s 14 kills, with Willow Johnson right behind with 13.
The Cornhuskers (0-1) were paced by 14 kills from Jazz Sweet and 13 from Mikaela Foecke.
UF will face off with Nebraska at 5 p.m. today, followed by the tourney’s final match with Oregon meeting Texas at 7:30.