Kentucky is coming off of a 3-0 win over South Carolina and is control of their own fate when it comes to an SEC Championship. Entering the match against UF, Kentucky is perfect in the SEC at 10-0 and 16-4 on the season. Florida is 10-1 in SEC and 19-4 on the season.
In the past seven meetings between the two squads, the home team has yet to be victorious.
Florida is a very solid team, but is most recognized by their stellar offense. Freshman outside hitter Thayer Hall was the Gatorade National Player of the Year as a senior at Dorman High School. For the Gators this year, Thayer has led the Gators with over 260 kills this season and is averaging 3 kills per set.
Alongside Hall, there are two other outstanding offensive players that helped Florida become National Runner-Up last year. Junior middle blocker Rachael Kramer has 180 kills in 2018 and averages 2.5 kills per set, which will be one person that Kentucky must stop if they want to win on Wednesday night. It is also a homecoming for sophomore outside hitter Paige Hammons, who comes back to the Bluegrass state averaging 153 kills an 1.7 kills per set.
The Gator defense will have a challenging time with UK’s offense, but is well equip. Junior libero Allie Gregory is from Louisville, KY and carries the defense. Her stats are as good as any libero in the country, with 340 digs and 94 assists. The rest of the defense is very solid and is very deep, which may give UK problems if the match goes to 4 or 5 sets.
All around, Florida is a top-10 team with no true weakness. From the setter to the defensive specialists, UF is a threat and will be a challenge for Kentucky to handle. In elite games, Florida is known to step up. However, loses to Southern California and Northern Arizona can prove that the better team does not always win. One thing is for sure, this will be a great match.
As many of you have seen this season, this Kentucky team is very good. Many offensive threats have emerged this season and a few have been unexpected. Sophomore middle blocker Kendyl Paris and junior opposite Caitlyn Cooper have been great additions this season and been a huge part of Kentucky’s 13 match win streak.
Other notable offensive players include junior outside hitter Leah Edmond, freshman outside hitter Alli Stumler, and senior middle blocker Brooke Morgan. Each player has the ability to get hot and contribute to double-digit kills at any moment, which will be much needed against this potent Florida team.
Setter Madison Lilley has been lights out in her sophomore season and can seemingly do no wrong. This offense is top 5 in the nation for hitting percentage, but needs their middle blockers to step up against Florida if they want to have a chance.
Defensively, Kentucky has experience and leadership. In the tenure of head Coach Craig Skinner, Kentucky has been a defense-heavy team. This year is no different. Two senior defensive specialists McKenzie Watson and Merideth Jewell will add experience to this back row to UK and are alongside one of the nation’s best libero’s: Gabby Curry. It will be sweet for freshman and native Floridian Lauren Tharp to battle her home team, which can only make her play even better. This is a deep defensive team for UK and will compete for every point.
Additionally, freshman Gabby Goddard and junior defensive specialist Kylie Schmaltz are unavailable for the match, which leaves 13 players on the roster available to play.
I believe that this match is very balanced offensively and defensively. Florida has the edge in the middle blocker position, but Kentucky has an extremely solid defense. Both squads have elite level setters and outside hitters. This game will be one by a small margin and requires the small things to be done right: serving, passing, blocking and court awareness. This match could easily go either way and will be a war throughout.
If you want to come witness a potential record-snapping match, then come out to Memorial Coliseum for some prizes and see a top-15 volleyball match. Wear blue, be loud, and Go Cats!