Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013 Gator Volleyball: A Year In Review

I remember walking into the O'Connell Center (which I now simply call the O-Dome) on August 31, 2013, to watch my first Gator volleyball match. On that day, I watched as the Gator volleyball team completely dismantled the Duke Blue Devils in three sets. I was astounded at how good the team was and from that day on I completely fell in love with the team. I was at every home game and witnessed firsthand as the Gators went 15-1 in the O-Dome during the regular season. The two most electric regular season home games had to be the ones against Florida State and #7 Missouri, who was the only undefeated team in the country at the time. The Gators swept the Seminoles and were swept by the Tigers, who went on to win the SEC this year. Down the stretch, the Gators began to look like they were slowing up. After the Missouri loss, the Gators swept both Alabama and LSU at home. However, both of these teams played the Gators close in every set. The Gators concluded the regular season with a 3-2 victory over Kentucky after leading 2-0.

When it came time for the tournament, the team took care of the Jacksonville Dolphins in three sets. All gears were set in motion for a rematch with FSU. The winner would go to the Sweet 16, the loser's season was done. The Gators had the home court advantage, but it was not enough as the Seminoles defeated them in five sets. It was a heartbreaking loss for me to stomach. I could not believe the season had ended so early. To make matters worse, I found out that undefeated Missouri had also lost in the second round of the tournament to the Purdue Boilermakers. Had the Gators beaten FSU, a Final Four spot would have all but been guaranteed to them because Missouri was the only other team in the bracket standing in their way. Based on how the Gators had been playing up to that point, especially going five sets against FSU, it is hard to say if they would have had enough gas left in the tank to get past the third round and beyond in the tournament.

With the 2013 season finally in the books, the Gators finished with a record of 28-4 (16-2 in SEC play). Below are the players who led the team in various statistical categories:

Kills: Chloe Mann (369) (Senior)

Digs: Taylor Unroe (415) (Junior)

Assists: Taylor Brauneis (1,156) (Senior)

Blocks: Simone Antwi (96) (Sophomore)

Service Aces: Taylor Unroe (72) (Junior)

Total Points: Chloe Mann (423) (Senior)

Gator volleyball was fierce, exciting, and a complete joy to watch and cover throughout the entire course of the season. The Gators lose two seniors in middle blocker Chloe Mann and setter Taylor Brauneis. Their presence on the court will indeed be missed, but the 2014 Gators should have no trouble finding success as new highly touted recruits enter the program. Apart from that, the early second round exit dealt to them by FSU will stick around in the minds of the returning players for awhile. It should give them more than enough hunger and motivation entering 2014.

*Stats accredited to

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