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Gabby Mallette, No. 7, is a force at the net for UF's No. 2-ranked volleyball team.

Thursday October 17, 2013New Role, No Problem for Gabby Mallette

Gabby Mallette, No. 7, is a force at the net for UF's No. 2-ranked volleyball team.

By Jenna Perlman Intern

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gabby Mallette isn’t at Bolles School any longer.

Mallette could toy with opponents as a prep star at the Jacksonville private school. At 6-foot-2 and armed with exceptional leaping ability and a powerful swing, overwhelmed challengers were often helpless with Mallette across the net.

That changed when the sophomore outside hitter arrived at UF last year.

Gators coach Mary Wise knew it. Mallette’s teammates knew it. And she knew it.

Mallette stuck with what she knew best as she tried to carve out playing time.

“Coming in to Florida I always had confidence in my blocking ability,” Mallette said. “I could tell what a hitter was trying to do and adjust to that. Last year I think that was pretty much the only thing I knew I was doing.”

But after a season of learning, Mallette knows what she is doing and has grown into her role not only as a blocker, but also as a major contributor to the Gators’ high-powered offense.

Eighteen matches into her second season Mallette is fifth on the team in points scored (155.5) and has more kills (137) than she did all of her freshman season (111).

“I think as I got more comfortable and more experienced the coaches have put more on my plate,” Mallette said. “There’s more things that I have to be able to do.”

Mallette worked with associate head coach Dave Boos in the offseason to get ready for the added responsibility she would take on for the Gators in the 2013 season.

“He would throw random balls in the air, and I would have to hit it as hard as I could over the net with some sort of intelligence,” Mallet said. “I was serving, and I was passing. It wasn’t just hitting and blocking like I was used to doing.”

Offseason work has given Mallette more confidence in her ability to block but also her ability to put balls down anywhere on the court.

Which is great for the Gators, but not so great for opponents who will now have to defend against Mallette’s powerful swing, incredible height and newfound role on the Gators’ front row.

“There’s no substitute for hard work,” Wise said. “We knew when she came in that she had the potential to be one of the best pin blockers that we have ever had. And she’s right on that path.”

In addition to being a leader in the lineup the Gators can count on, Mallette has become a leader off the court as well.

She has helped freshman right-side hitter Alex Holston adjust to the speed and expectations of big-time collegiate volleyball.

“I look up to her,” Holston said. “She’s a very inspiring person, and she has a lot of energy.”

Holston, who was named the SEC Freshman of the Week on Oct. 7, and Mallette have a special relationship.

Often times the only things separating Mallette and Holston are an inch in height – Mallette is 6-2 and Holston, 6-1 -- a year of eligibility, and the net.

“We’re always together,” Holston said. “We challenge each other when we play against each other. I’m hitting and she’s blocking just because we are such big bodies and so physical together.”

When the No. 2 Gators take the road to face Arkansas on Friday and No. 18 Missouri on Sunday, Mallette’s physicality above the net and her ability to score will be crucial if the Gators want to remain undefeated in the SEC.

Her expanded role sees to fit Mallette fine.

"As a returning player with more experience we are asking her to be a bigger part of both the offense and the defense,” Wise said. “Last year she was growing in to her position and sharing playing time. Now she is playing like a veteran.”

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