The Florida volleyball team made it interesting on Thursday, but the Gators are now one step away from making program history.
The No. 2 seed Gators defeated third-seeded Stanford 3-2 in the NCAA Tournament semifinals in Kansas City, Mo., to punch their ticket to the finals on Saturday. Florida will face fifth-seeded Nebraska in the championship match with first serve set for 9 p.m. ET.
The Gators (30-1) had command of the match in the early going, winning the first two sets by scores of 25-22 and 25-21. The Cardinal, however, would not back down after intermission. Stanford exposed Florida’s defensive weaknesses and worked around its blocking prowess to take sets 3 and 4 and force a decisive fifth set.
Florida then returned to its strength. After exchanging points early in the winner-take-all set, Florida broke open with a 5-0 run to take a 9-4 lead that it never relinquished. The Gators clinched the set 15-10 on a kill by sophomore middle blocker Rachael Kramer.
Florida’s senior class once again carried the load in the win. Middle blocker Rhamat Alhassan recorded a team-high 17 kills along with 4 blocks and a service ace. Outside hitter Carli Snyder had 16 kills, 3 aces, 9 digs and a pair of blocks. Right-side hitter Shainah Joseph recorded 11 kills, and libero Caroline “CK” Knop tallied 20 digs out of the back row.
And now, this Florida team is one win away from claiming the program’s first national championship. It’s just the Gators’ second-ever appearance in the championship match and first since 2003. Coach Mary Wise, in her 27th season at Florida, would become the first female coach to win the Division I volleyball championship with a victory on Saturday.