Volleyball Streak in Jeopardy

Since Mary Wise took over the Florida Volleyball program in 1991 the Gators have totally dominated the SEC. How totally? Well, the Gators have won or shared the SEC title for 18 years and entered this season with a 270-8 record in league play. Think about that a minute, Florida had won 97 percent of its SEC matches over an 18-year period.

In fact at one stage the Gators had nine consecutive undefeated seasons against the SEC (1995-2003).

But all of that is in danger of ending this fall.

Florida dropped a 3-0 decision at LSU Sunday night, making the Gators 6-2 in the SEC. Florida no longer controls its destiny in conference play and will need at least a little help to hold on to even a share of the trophy. First, let's take a look at the current SEC records of the top contenders.

Kentucky 7-0
LSU 7-1
Florida 6-2
Tennessee 5-2

The Gators still have one match against each of the top three, but the Tennessee (11/20) and Kentucky (11/22) rematches will be on the road. Florida will host LSU on November 13. Kentucky has already beaten Florida, and with the Gators now having a second SEC loss someone will have to beat Kentucky for the match in Lexington to mean anything for the SEC race.

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More Needed From the Middle

The LSU match pretty much told the story of this season for Mary Wise's squad. LSU middle blocker Brittnee Cooper dominated the match with 18 kills and an incredible .692 attack percentage. Florida simply cannot match up with top flight middles and that weakness has been the Achilles heel this season just as it was last.

This is still a terrific team, deserving of a national ranking and capable of beating most teams. But this is not a dominant Florida squad like we have seen more often than not in Wise's remarkable tenure in Gainesville. This team needs to operate on all cylinders and maximize the effectiveness of outside hitters Rachel Ward and Kristi Jaeckel as well as the all around talents of Kelly Murphy. Florida got a strong effort from Callie Rivers in the LSU loss and that is a good sign for the rest of the season, but the team needs to get more offense from the middle in order to diversify the attack.

It's a daunting challenge facing the Gators as they try to hold on to their SEC Title, but it would be a big mistake to bet against Mary Wise figuring out a way to get it done. She always has.


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