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The Gators and coach Mary Wise are pumped for Friday night's SEC showdown against undefeated Missouri.

Thursday November 14, 2013Gators Pumped for Top-10 SEC Matchup with Undefeated Missouri

The Gators and coach Mary Wise are pumped for Friday night's SEC showdown against undefeated Missouri.

By Jenna Perlman Intern

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Mary Wise began her coaching career at the University of Florida in 1991. Not by coincidence, 1991 is also the first year Florida’s volleyball team earned a national ranking.

And the last year two top-10 SEC volleyball teams faced each other.

Since Wise’s first season the Gators have won 20 SEC titles, made 22 NCAA Tournament appearances and at one point went 10 years (1994-2004) without losing a regular-season SEC match.

In her 22 years as head coach Wise has led the Gators to more than 700 wins. She will try to add another one Friday night.

First, back to 1991.

That was the year the No. 10 Gators traveled to Baton Rouge to face the No. 6 LSU Tigers. Although the Gators fell in that match, the schools shared the regular-season conference title in the last SEC regular-season matchup between teams ranked in the top 10.

That will change Friday night when the Gators face a different Tiger team ranked in the top 10.

The fifth-ranked Gators (23-2) will host No. 7 Missouri (29-0) in the first top-10 SEC volleyball matchup since Wise’s win total at UF was still in double digits. In addition, it will be the first time under Wise the Gators have hosted a top-10 SEC opponent at home in the O’Connell Center.

In other words, it’s a big match.

Chloe Mann

The two teams are no strangers to one another. The Gators traveled to Missouri on Oct. 20 for what turned into one of the most intense games of the Gators’ 2013 season.

Led offensively by freshman outside hitter Alex Holston, who recorded 17 kills, Florida lost to the Tigers in four sets (23-25, 23-25, 25-23, 18-25).

“I think that it will motivate us,” said senior middle blocker Chloe Mann (photo, left). “We respect what they did during that match, but we know that we didn’t play our best match.

“We didn’t play at our potential and hopefully that will give us a little fire going in to Friday’s match to do what we need to do and prepare how we need to prepare in order to beat them.”

The Tigers won the first meeting, but the Gators are confident entering Round 2.

To keep their perfect season intact, the Tigers will have to defeat the Gators on their own court, which is something no team has done this season. The Gators are 13-0 at the O’Connell Center and expect a lively home crowd in their corner.

“We’re excited to have our fans support us and hopefully that will help carry us through.”“They packed the stadium when we played them there,” Mann said. “We’re used to that, but I definitely think it helped them. Even when we would get our runs, they had the crowd behind them and that helped them fight back.

The Tigers, led by senior outside hitter Lisa Henning and freshman defensive specialist Carly Kahn, come to Gainesville as one of only two remaining undefeated teams in the country.

Missouri joined the SEC last year and has quickly made itself at home.

“We knew that Missouri had a chance to come in here undefeated,’’ Wise said. “And that’s exactly where they are. Any team would love to play a top-10 team on their home court and we get a chance to do that.”

With the end of the regular season quickly approaching, Friday’s match is one of the Gators’ last opportunities to determine their readiness for postseason play.

In the next two weeks the Gators will play the five games and all are against SEC opponents.

“We are really fortunate that the SEC as a whole is getting better,” Mann said. “To be able to play Missouri so close to tournament time does help us stay focused and stay sharp. It helps us play our best volleyball toward the end of the season.

“I hope that everyone who is available to come will be in the O’Dome on Friday night. We’re looking forward to loud Gator cheering.”

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