No trap game here: No. 12 Gators volleyball sweeps Alabama after big win over Wisconsin

Ainslie Lee
Gator Sports

Florida volleyball's stock continued to rise on Wednesday night as the 12th-ranked Gators (9-2) opened Southeastern Conference play with straight-set win over the visiting Alabama Crimson Tide (6-7) 25-19, 25-19 and 25-17.

While it was no atmosphere like the one Florida experienced in Madison, Wisc., where the Wisconsin Badgers packed a record-breaking 16,833 into the Kohl Center, the Gators received a warm welcome at their first game back since their upset over the Badgers on Sept. 16. 

With Wednesday night's win, the Gators improved their all-time record against the Crimson Tide to 51-0, including a 26-0 record from the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. 

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Here are five takeaways from the match. 

Gators avoid the trap game

There was a lot of hype surrounding Florida's visit to Wisconsin on Sept. 16. 

The then-No. 4 Badgers, the defending national champs, didn't keep it a secret that they were hoping to shatter the NCAA's regular-season attendance record.

The match had all storylines to spell trouble for the Gators, who went in and stunned the Badgers in five sets. And anytime a team comes off a high like that, a program has to be weary of a possible trap game. 

"Especially with a young team," Florida head coach Mary Wise added. "We practiced the last few days like we didn't have the match (against Wisconsin) out of our system. It's what players have to learn how to do. The match is behind you whether we won if it had been just a crushing loss. You just have to go to the next one."

Florida's defense a force

With a defensive mastermind like associate head coach Dave Boos on the sideline, a stingy defense is to be expected out of the Gators. 

And so far, Florida is living up to the hype. 

The Gators held Wisconsin to a .115 hitting efficiency last week and continued to roll on Wednesday night, holding the Crimson Tide to .152, which is compared to Florida's hitting efficiency of .321. 

"A lot of credit to Elli (McKissock), she captains our back row," Florida freshman Alexis Stucky said. "I feel like our block does a great job of taking up space, so we're allowed to read off of it correctly. That's what makes us work as we do."

On the season, the Gators' opponents are hitting at a rate of just .135. 

Alexis Stucky just getting started

Gators setter Alexis Stucky (5) and outside hitter Sofia Victoria (4) celebrate after a point during the second set against the Florida State Seminoles on Sept. 13, 2022.

To the casual volleyball fan's eye, Florida setter Alexis Stucky didn't look like a freshman on Wednesday night. Stucky played a major role in the Gators' sweep of the Crimson Tide, dishing 25 assists, three kills and a pair of blocks.

"We passed really well tonight," Stucky said. "That allowed me to open up some opportunities... I'm not necessarily the most offensive, but tonight was really exciting for me."

A "student of the game", as Wise calls her, Stucky is coming off an injury that had her sidelined in the offseason. But a strong work ethic and constant desire to learn has the freshman rolling through the Gators first 11 matches. 

"She's every bit a freshman, and yet she is so far advanced for a freshman," Wise said. 

Three-setters help keep Gators fresh

Florida's sweep of Alabama was the fifth of the season for the Gators.

But this one couldn't have come at a better time. 

"We always want to play our cleanest volleyball," Stucky said. "And Wisconsin was just a big, emotional win, so I think we're trying to do a good job of carrying that momentum, but not getting too high or too low."

The Gators' shorter match on Wednesday night was a blessing considering they were coming off a taxing, five-set win over Wisconsin and are prepping for a double-header against South Carolina this weekend. 

Florida continues SEC play on Saturday and Sunday from Columbia, S.C., where they'll take on the Gamecocks (6-4) at 2 p.m. on both days.