The scales for Sunday’s Florida vs. Wisconsin faceoff couldn’t be more balanced. Both are top-3 ranked teams that have posted perfect records thus far (two of the five top 25 teams that have remained undefeated in Week 3). Here’s a side-by-side comparison:
|Sets dropped this season||6||7|
|Opp hitting %||0.163||0.194|
Wisconsin ranks 8th in the nation with its .311 clip, led by MB Carter Booth, who has swung an average of .468 (ranking her 13th nationally). However, the Badgers have yet to see a top-10 opponent this year. In Wednesday’s in-state clash with Marquette, it took two sets for the Badgers to orient themselves, getting pushed to 28-26 in the first and dropping the second, 25-20. Even though Wisconsin squeaked by in four, it produced a season-low hitting percentage (.244) and season-high service errors (19), Marquette acing eight serves to Wisconsin’s five. In order to keep its undefeated record and No. 1 AVCA ranking, Wisconsin must clean up the serve game and attempt to shove the Gators out of system.
Like Wisconsin’s previous struggle, the Gators are coming off a nail-biter with an unranked rival, Florida State, who pushed the Gators to five sets and out-hit UF .303 to .276. But so far this season, UF is 3-0 against ranked opponents, posting 3-0 shutouts against No. 5 Minnesota and No. 2 Stanford to boost its reputation early in the season. And it’s no secret that Florida is equipped with the artillery to make it a top-3 team — right side hitter Kennedy Martin, MB Gabbi Essix and setter Alexis Stucky are all ranked in the top-50 in the nation for individual stat lines; Martin adding 5.61 P/S (6th) and 4.58 K/S (11th), Essix registering 1.41 B/S (23rd) and Stucky averaging 10.39 assists per set (36th). As a program, Florida is 3-17 against No. 1 ranked opponents and is 3-3 in matchups between top-3 teams.
Exactly one year prior to Sunday’s match, Florida and Wisconsin met in a five-set showdown — competition was so tight that the teams posted the exact same hitting percentage, .115. UF just barely took the cake in the fifth and handed the No. 4 Badgers their second loss of the season.
In their 2022 match, the Badgers and Gators shattered the indoor NCAA regular-season attendance record with 16,833 fans in the Kohl Center. In its most recent match, Wisconsin one-upped itself and broke the same record again with 17,037 fans packed in Fiserv Forum to witness the Badgers take down Marquette. As for the O’Dome in Gainesville, the attendance record of 8,163 hasn’t been touched since 1994 — since the facility’s renovation, it has a capacity of around 10,500. And the Florida volleyball program is doing everything in its power to sniff the record; concert ticket giveaways, free donuts and handouts will entice fans.
Need you loud & rowdy on Sunday, Gator Nation 🗣️
— Gators Volleyball (@GatorsVB) September 14, 2023