Tuesday, 26 September 2023

NCAA Womens Volleyball

Florida volleyball beats Penn State in ranked matchup on opening night

Florida volleyball beats Penn State in ranked matchup on opening night

The 2023 women’s volleyball season kicks off Friday with a top-15 contest between Florida and Penn State. Both recorded regional semifinal runs in last year’s NCAA tournament.

This highly anticipated matchup is a story of two vastly different situations: Florida relies on its trusted roster from last year, with 10 returning players, whereas the Nittany Lions have revamped their roster with five new transfers. The Road 2 Tampa Bay Invitational is the first regular season contest for both teams, and is also the site for December’s national semifinals and championship. Let’s take a peek at where each team stands:


The Gators landed at preseason No. 11 in the AVCA after snagging their 25th SEC championship in 2022 and staying alive for three rounds in last year’s tournament. Besides losing All-SEC player Marina Markova, the biggest shakeup of the program is the absence of Merritt Beason, one of the best opposites in the country who led the Gators in points (396.5) and service aces (34) last year. With Beason now at Nebraska, coach Mary Wise stocked her roster with Mizzou transfer Anna Dixon, freshmen outside hitters Madi Gravlee and Kira Hutson, and pin hitter Kennedy Martin.

But it’s the three returning starters, Trinity Adams, Gabby Essix and Alexis Stucky, and UF’s star libero, Elli McKissock, that will provide the backbone for the team. Stucky claimed SEC Freshman of the Year in 2022 and led the team to at least a .300 clip in 13 matches during her first campaign. Stucky and Essix competed with and won gold for Team USA (U21) in this summer’s Pan American Cup. The Gators showcased the dominant 2023 roster at their exhibition game against Stetson on Sunday, and will tackle Penn State and South Florida this weekend.

Penn State

Katie Schumacher-Cawley made early noise as a first-year head coach at her alma mater in 2022, leading the team to a 13-0 record against nonconference opponents and Penn State’s 42nd consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament. The additions of five transfers, headlined by setter Mac Podraza and OH Jess Mruzik, tabbed this team at preseason No. 8.

Podraza left Ohio State to spend her final year of eligibility with the Nittany Lions. In a fun twist, some of her career-best statistics came against Penn State in 2022, when she totaled five kills and 60 assists during the OSU vs. PSU match on Oct. 7, 2022, and 7.5…

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