With Saturday’s VERT Challenge match between No. 5 Nebraska and No. 12 Florida tied at two sets apiece, UF coach Mary Wise had a brief but serious talk with her team.
“I wanted to remind them that nothing that happened previously matters in a fifth set in terms of predicting the outcome,” Wise said. “It’s one set to 15 points. We asked them to be who they want to be, know their identity, and know their game.”
The Gators (2-0) responded by scoring the first five points of set five and never looked back in claiming a 15-11 win to take a 3-2 victory over the Huskers (0-2) before an Exactech Arena crowd of 3,812 and a night after stunning No. 1 Texas.
Sophomore middle blocker Rachael Kramer led UF with a career-high 20 kills and a team-high .679 hitting percentage en route to a career-high 21.5 points.
“Another amazing match,” Kramer said. “We said we needed to turn the page. It was a slow start, but we finally got there.
“I’ve got to give credit to our back row and Allie Monserez. The back row was passing some great balls and Allie was putting up great sets for me to kill.”
Redshirt senior right-side hitter Shainah Joseph added 11 kills and a solid .310 hitting mark, finishing with 12 points, while Monserez, a redshirt junior, put up a double-double with 41 assists and 20 digs.
“It was all about focusing in tonight,” Joseph said. “We came off a really big win yesterday. I was really focused on my teammates and giving a lot of energy to my team. It kind of just came along that I was having a good night, too.”
UF came out slow and lost set one 25-19, but rebounded to win set two, 25-18, to tie the match heading into intermission.
Nebraska took set three, 25-17, to put UF in a 2-1 hole, but the Gators bounced back with a 25-18 win in set four to set the stage for the fifth and pivotal set.
While Snyder and Alhassan struggled offensively, they both found other ways to contribute.
Snyder had a match-high 27 digs that set a career high, while Alhassan posted a match-high eight block assists en route to scoring 12 points.
“The coolest thing on this team is it can be anyone’s night on any given night,” Snyder said. “Tonight our offense was fueled by Rachael and Shainah. They did such a good job. It’s one of those things where you’ve got to let them go off, set the hot hand, and whatever role I (could) find on the court and help them get the ball was what I wanted to do.”
The Huskers were led by double-doubles from Mikaela Foecke (18 kills, 16 digs) and Annika Albrecht (11 kills, 16 digs) while Jazz Sweet added 16 kills.
“Florida, they’re a great team,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “They hit us with some tough serves; we couldn’t pass; we just completely got out of rhythm. They were making us pay. They did a great job.”
The victory marked the first time UF has won back-to-back matches against top-five opponents in program history.
“It was such a great learning experience, and often times you don’t learn as much in a win as you do in a loss,” Wise noted. “In this match, we learned more about our team than we did last night.”