Which brings us to UF volleyball fifth-year player Anna Dixon. On her third collegiate stop, Dixon has paired her skills for adaptation with a remarkable element of sacrifice. Gators coach Mary Wise put it this way: “One of the most selfless acts I’ve ever seen in all my years of coaching.”
Over the summer, junior middle blocker Gabrielle Essix suffered a hand injury that put a dent in the depth of the Florida defense. While the UF staff was kicking around options to cover for Essix, one was presented to them. By Dixon.
“I’ll move there,” she said.
Associate head coach Dave Boos looked at Dixon like she was crazy. “Are you sure?”
The 6-foot-3 Dixon was a standout outside hitter for three seasons at Missouri (2020-22), and for one season as a freshman at Kansas State (2019) before that. At Louisburg (Kan.) High, she was a finalist for Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year and ranked as a Top-50 national recruit, also as an outside hitter. Dixon had not played middle blocker since the seventh grade. More than a decade ago.
This was a player who after graduating from Mizzou last December was leaning toward heading overseas to turn professional. Before making that decision, Dixon put her name in the transfer portal, got a call from Wise and was lured by the notion of putting her pro career — as an outside hitter — on hold for one more college season and a graduate certificate from UF in sports management. Neither Dixon, her coaches nor teammates could ever have seen the change-of-position development coming.
“With this group of girls and how much we enjoy playing with each other, doing hard things is easy,” Dixon said.
Their outcomes to date would seem to confirm as much, what the No. 3 Gators (8-0) rocketing up the rankings with wins over a trio of top-10 opponents (Penn State, Stanford and Minnesota) already in the books, but with their biggest (literally) challenge to date on the immediate horizon with Sunday’s 3 p.m. mega-matchup against No. 1 Wisconsin (8-0) at Exactech Arena, where the team hopes to set an O’Dome volleyball attendance record before an ESPN national audience.