By Jim Harvin
For the undefeated and top-ranked Florida volleyball team, Wednesday’s match against Texas A&M was definitely not one of their best.
The good news for the Gators, however, is they found a way to win.
UF, the lone unbeaten Division I team nationally, prevailed by scores of 26-24, 25-23, 25-27 and 25-10 to improve to 12-0, 4-0 with a hard-fought, 3-1 win over the upset-minded Aggies before an Exactech Arena crowd of 2,023 in the O’Connell Center and an ESPNU national television audience.
The Aggies dropped to 4-7, 1-3 with the loss.
“They did a really nice job of keeping the pressure on us, and we just got impatient,” UF coach Mary Wise said. “It was as ugly as it comes until the fourth set.”
Senior Carli Snyder led a trio of Florida players in double-digit kills with a match-high mark of 16 and added three block assists, two service aces and eight digs en route to a match-high 19.5 points.
“That was a nail-biter,” Snyder said. “You have to give so much credit to A&M. They played hard and the reality is we have to respond better. When you have the ranking we have right now, people are going to play you at their very best, and you’re going to get people with nothing to lose.”
Redshirt senior Shainah Joseph came up big as well, recording a career-high 15 kills and a match-high hitting percentage of .481 to finish with 17 points, while senior Rhamat Alhassan was right behind with 12 kills, five block assists and two aces for 16.5 points.
Sophomore Rachel Kramer just missed double figures with nine kills while adding a match-high seven block assists, freshman Paige Hammons had six kills and 12 digs to go with a match-high three aces, and senior libero Caroline “CK” Knop had a match-high 20 digs.
“Texas A&M, they were running a very fast offense, and they’re so scrappy,” Joseph said. “At first we were a little bit slower in catching up to them, but towards the end we definitely figured it out.”
The Gators hit .295 in the win while holding Texas A&M to a .170 mark, making the Aggies the 11th of UF’s 12 victims this year to hit below .185.
Florida also recorded 12 team blocks to just three for A&M.
Reigning SEC Player of the Week Hollann Hans paced the Aggies with 12 kills, while SEC Co-Setter of the Week Camille Conner had 29 assists.
There were 32 ties and 10 lead changes in the first three sets before UF found another gear and never trailed in set four in closing out the match.
The victory marked career win No. 887 for Wise, breaking a tie with BYU’s Elaine Michaelis for the most wins by a female head coach in Division I volleyball history.
Next up, the Gators close out their current homestand with a match against Georgia (11-6, 1-3) Sunday in the Exactech Arena at 1:30 p.m.
Coach Mary Wise – maybe the best coach in UF history. Hard to say as we’ve had some incredible ones – but how do you match what she’s accomplished? Of course, National Championships would help…but talk about consistency!