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Monday October 21, 2013 Gators volleyball team ready to start another streak after Sunday's loss at Mizzou

Updated: 5:56pm, October 21

Mary Wise

UF volleyball coach Mary Wise's team has six of its final 10 SEC matches at the O'Connell Center.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Florida volleyball team had been cruising along at such a steady pace you wondered when they were going to lose another set, much less drop a match.

Florida swept right through head coach Mary Wise’s 700th win at UF -- and beyond -- in recent weeks.

The Gators left town for their match at Arkansas on Friday with nine consecutive sweeps packed away. That streak ended when the Razorbacks won the first set 25-22. Still, the Gators extended their win streak to 13 in a row by storming back and taking the final three sets.

The Gators’ 3-1 win over the Razorbacks set up a key SEC showdown Sunday at Missouri. A day after the Florida football team lost 36-17 to the undefeated Tigers, the Gators’ volleyball team hoped to have a better stay in Columbia.

Wise’s team discovered what Will Muschamp’s did the day before: Missouri is adjusting to the SEC rather well.

The undefeated Tigers (23-0), one of only two unbeaten teams remaining in Division I – 17-0 Colorado State is the other – beat the Gators 3-1 for their first win over UF since joining the SEC in 2012.

The loss was Florida’s first since a 3-0 defeat to Penn State in early September at the Big Four Classic in Austin, Texas.

After the match, the Gators returned home, finally arriving on campus around 3 a.m. Monday. Wise was back on campus a few hours later for her weekly press conference.

If you expected the veteran coach to be in a sour mood over the Gators’ loss, you were probably disappointed.

She is more fired up about returning to the court this weekend for home matches against Auburn on Friday and Tennessee on Sunday.

The loss to the Tigers is one that Wise can live with.

The Gators, ranked No. 2 entering Sunday’s match, were in position to move to No. 1 in the AVCA national poll if they had won. That’s because No. 1 USC lost over the weekend, too.

Instead, the Gators (18-2) dropped three spots to No. 5 on Monday, a spot behind USC (17-2). Texas (13-2), Penn State (16-2) and Washington (15-1) own the top three spots.

“It was really a high-level volleyball match,’’ Wise said of Sunday’s loss. “Those first three sets couldn’t get any closer. I just felt Missouri made a few more plays. From it, we will use the video and information – we always say you learn more from a loss than you do a win.

“You can see why they are undefeated and one of the best in the country. It was a great experience for our team.”

As the Gators move deeper into the heart of their SEC schedule – Florida is 7-1 in the conference and has a rematch with the Tigers (7-0 in SEC) at the O’Dome on Nov. 15 – they will be at home more than on the road.

Six of their final 10 SEC matches are at the O’Connell Center.

Wise said the biggest issue the Gators had at Missouri was their passing.

“If you don’t pass well, your team becomes very average offensively,’’ she said.

Freshman right-side hitter Alex Holston was the Gators’ bright spot Sunday. Holston had a team-high 17 kills and .583 hitting percentage. The 6-foot-1 Holston continues to get better as the season goes on.

“Alex has been great for us week after week,’’ Wise said. “I think after this past weekend, I can’t imagine she is staying under the radar as some people have had her. She was really good for us both nights.”

The Gators hope they have many good nights ahead. Including when the Tigers come to town in a few weeks.

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