Gritty win sends No. 2 Florida volleyball to first national title game since 2003

By Adam Silverstein
December 15, 2017
Gritty win sends No. 2 Florida volleyball to first national title game since 2003

Image Credit: Matt Stamey / @GatorsVB

History is now in the sights of No. 2 Florida Gators volleyball, which dominated early and faltered yet still managed to gut out an impressive 3-2 win over the No. 3 Stanford Cardinal to advance to the NCAA National Championship for the first time since 2003.

Florida (30-1) took a commanding 2-0 lead on Stanford (30-4) only to see it disappear as it got outscored 50-36 in the third and fourth set on Thursday evening. Once the fifth set got going, however, the Gators would not be deterred. A 5-0 run put Florida up 9-4, and UF matched its cross-sport rival 6-6 down the stretch to cap its Final Four victory with a 15-10 final in the last set.

Senior middle back Rhamat Alhassan dominated for Florida with a team-high 17 kills including consecutive strikes in the final set that fueled the aforementioned run. Senior outside hitter Carli Snyder added 16 kills, while senior libero Caroline Knop scored 20 digs, including a number of clutch ones down the stretch saving points that would have otherwise been won by Stanford.

Though the Gators got it together late, they were wholly inconsistent down the stretch, hitting a .179, .111 and .207 in the final three sets. Florida will undoubtedly need to renew its focus when it takes on the No. 5 Nebraska Cornhuskers for the national title on Saturday evening at 9 p.m. ET.

Gators volleyball has never won a national title in program history. Florida entered Thursday 1-7 in the Final Four and will play for the championship for just the second time (2003). Head coach Mary Wise, who has led the Gators since 1991, was recognized Thursday as the 2017 AVCA Coach of the Year and is looking to become the first woman in NCAA history to bring her team a national championship in women’s volleyball.

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