You could say coach Mary Wise is fed up.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Sophomore outside hitter Paige Hammons stood at the ready on match point Fri…
The Gators coach of 28 years voiced her agitation following back-to-back sweeps against the FSU Seminoles and the FGCU Eagles for the first and second rounds, respectively, of the NCAA Tournament.
“You wouldn’t do that in basketball,” Wise said. “You wouldn’t ask players to play, put out that hard on one night and come back the next. And I hope as our game progresses, there will be an opportunity that the Championships Committee would say, ‘OK, volleyball is a different game than it was.’ We’re still playing the rules of the 80s and the tournament designed in the 80s. And these guys are very different than the 1980s.”
The coach said almost the same thing regarding football earlier this season as she acknowledged it was a luxury to have a week in-between games. Teams in the volleyball world are lucky to have 24 hours in between contests, especially in the NCAA Tournament.
And this week will be no different as the Gators have a brief stint of recovery before heading out to Provo, Utah, to take on fourth-seeded BYU on Friday night at 6:30 at the Smith Fieldhouse.
The Cougars are coming off back-to-back sweeps of their own at home against Stony Brook and Utah. This is BYU’s 31st appearance in the tournament and seventh-straight Regional Semifinal appearance since 2012.
Here are three things to think about coming into Friday’s contest:
Sweet 16 bracket lineup
Florida and BYU are also situated in the same bracket as fifth-seeded Texas and Michigan. The Longhorns-Wolverines matchup will take place at 4 p.m. Friday in the Smith Fieldhouse.
Michigan hasn’t seen much success in the NCAA Tournament, but this the team’s sixth appearance in the round of 16 and first time getting this far since 2016.
Texas on the other side of the court is a seasoned program that is very familiar with success. This is the Longhorns’ 31st trip (13th-straight) to the Sweet 16. In 2012, Texas took the title and was the runner-up in back-to-back seasons beginning in 2015.
Both of these programs won’t go down easily, which is why Florida should use the matchup against BYU as preparation as much as possible to plan for an even bigger fight up ahead.
Thayer Hall’s status is still iffy
The Gators were unsure if freshman Thayer Hall would even play coming into the first round of the tournament.
Hall didn’t practice on Monday, and the coaching staff was unsure if she’d play on Tuesday. It was unknown whether she could get through a whole match on Wednesday. And the staff didn’t know whether she could play in back-to-back matches on Thursday, Wise said.
“There are still a lot of unknowns going forward,” Wise said after Friday’s match.
Hall’s undisclosed injury has been an issue since late October, but in her absence, the Gators squad has really stepped up, especially sophomore Paige Hammons.
Since Hall’s first match out of the lineup, Hammons has averaged 11.5 kills/match and put together a contest-high of 17 kills coming from Nov. 11 when the Gators competed at Auburn.
Against Florida State and Florida Gulf Coast, the sophomore racked up 30 kills and only six errors in six sets.
Albert, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Gainesville anymore
The feel at UCF was definitely similar to the energy of playing at the O’Connell Center, with more than half of the smaller CFE Arena wearing orange and blue. Not to mention the presence of the Fall Gators Band, Alberta and some UF cheerleaders definitely played a role of their own.
“This crowd was awesome, and it honestly felt like a home match,” junior Rachael Kramer said following Friday night’s win. “That’s really what kind of pushed us over the edge this weekend was their support and basically having a home crowd.”
The additional support most likely won’t be the same feel out in Utah this weekend, which will pose another challenge the Gators will face.
The more intimate feel at the CFE Arena was an important component to the NCAA Tournament wins.
“It was really cool to have our fans so close to us,” Allie Monserez said. “It was pretty special coming to a new atmosphere. We haven’t played here as a group before, so having all that support here with us really helps drive us.”
Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari or contact her at [email protected].