Gator Volleyball Season Over

For the fourth year in a row the Gator Volleyball team saw its season end shy of its goal of returning to the NCAA Final Four. Florida was eliminated in the regional semi-finals in Gainesville for the second straight season, falling to Texas in four games.

It was not a surprising ending at all. Texas is as talented and certainly as tall as any team in the nation and only Penn State would be favored in a head to head match up with the Longhorns. Add to that the absence of senior star outside hitter Marcie Hampton and Florida faced an incredible challenge.

They simply weren't up to it.

Oh they tried, battling Texas to a 27-30 score in game one and then rallying to take game two 31-29 to even the match at a game apiece. After that, the tank ran dry, sophomore Kristina Johnson was felled by a knee injury and the Gators suffered the worst two drubbings of the year in games three (16-30) and four (15-30).

Season a Resounding Success

Mary Wise's team captured its 17th consecutive SEC Championships and finished the season with a 29-3 record. The Gators advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the 16th time and until the final two games Friday night had only been beaten in a pair of five-game matches.

Florida's senior class will leave Gainesville without making it to the Final Four, but otherwise they'll be remembered for maintaining a tradition of dominance in the SEC and competitiveness on the national stage.

Rebuilding or Reloading?

With the departures of Angie McGinnis, Hampton, Amber McCray and Kisya Killingsworth the Florida Gators of 2008 will be little resemblance to this year's team. If Johnson's knee injury is as severe as is feared, she may not be in the mix either. That leaves Wise and her staff building around just two known commodities in middle blocker Kelsey Bowers and defensive specialist Elyse Cusack. Callie Rivers came on strong late in the year and should secure one outside hitter spot while Janine Williams and Lauren Bledsoe have shown flashes of their abilities.

The really interesting thing will be watching six newcomers compete with the returning veterans for playing time. Florida signed a highly regarded recruiting class that features four players ranked by prepvolleyball.com in the top 26 in the nation. That group is led by the nation's top recruit Kelly Murphy and seventh-ranked Colleen Ward both of whom hail from Illinois. Add in redshirt outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel and this is likely to be the most talented group of newcomers in the nation.

Just when the rest of the SEC thought it was time for the Gators to take a step back they bring in an amazing class of talent. Don't rule out No. 18 come next fall.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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