Saturday August 18, 2012Gator Volleyball's Orange & Blue Scrimmage Highlights Verizon Fan Day
The Florida volleyball team participated in the second annual Verizon Fan Day on Saturday afternoon, featuring the Gator volleyball and football teams, as well as appearances by the Florida soccer team and members of the Gator spirit squads. Over 2,500 Gator fans came out to the Stephen C. O'Connell Center to catch a glimpse of the 2012 Gators both on the volleyball court and at each of the autograph tables.
The Gators split into an Orange squad and a Blue squad (though they donned white jerseys), but due to the nature of the match as a scrimmage, several players switched sides throughout the afternoon to prepare different combinations and match-ups. Florida played three sets to 25 points each.
"There is nothing we can do in training to simulate a match-like atmosphere," Florida head coach Mary Wise said. "That's the great thing about the Orange and Blue Scrimmage – in terms of giving our players a feel of the gameday routine and playing in the O'Dome in front of our fans, that's something we can't replicate."
"With all the first-year players, this was a chance for them to play in front of a crowd for the first time," Wise continued. "Freshman jitters are part of Orange and Blue Day. This experience only helps us in preparation for next weekend. They're definitely ready to see someone other than their teammates across the net. For our fans, it is a great opportunity to give them a peek of what they're going to see from the 2012 Gators."
Fans had the opportunity to see the Gators run a 5-1 for the first time in over four seasons, as setters Taylor Brauneis (Crystal Lake, Ill.) and Dana Backlund (Wildomar, Calif.) quarterbacked the offense on either side of the net. Along with Brauneis and Backlund, there are six other newcomers on the roster who got to play in front of Gator fans for the first time. Gabby Mallette (Orange Park, Fla.), Živa Recek (Kočevje, Slovenia), Jackie Swalchick (Melbourne, Fla.) and Berkley Whaley (Saint Petersburg, Fla.) all provided depth on the pins along with sophomore Noami Santos-Lamb (Carolina, Puerto Rico) and senior Tangerine Wiggs (Seattle, Wash.).
Defensive specialist Nikki O'Rourke (Clearwater, Fla.) joined returners Madison Monserez (Orlando, Fla.), Holly Pole (Ocala, Fla.), Taylor Unroe (Muncie, Ind.) and Sundai Weston (Naples, Fla.) in the back row, while redshirt freshman Simone Antwi (Lorton, Va.) went up with veterans Chloe Mann (Gainesville, Fla.) and senior captain Betsy Smith (Atlanta, Ga.) in the middle.
Following the team's Orange and Blue Scrimmage, Gator players and coaches signed autographs of the official 2012 team poster for fans for well over an hour at the O'Connell Center.
Florida begins the 2012 campaign Aug. 24-25, when they host the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational, featuring a Sunshine State lineup of the Gators, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida A&M and Florida International.
Season tickets are on sale now for the 2012 Florida volleyball season and fans have multiple options to enjoy the Gators in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.
For all of the latest information on Florida volleyball, please log on to www.GatorZone.com/Volleyball or, for up-to-the-minute updates, follow Florida volleyball on Twitter at @GatorZoneVB or www.twitter.com/GatorZoneVB and Coach Mary Wise on Twitter at @GatorMary or www.twitter.com/GatorMary. You can also find the Gators on Facebook.