Their opponent has won 98 consecutive and the last two NCAA Championships. But when No. 16 Florida plays No. 1 Penn State tonight in the NCAA Volleyball Regional Semifinals, it will be in Gainesville. That's probably the only advantage the Gators have tonight.
Gator Volleyball, by their own standards, had a down year. They are used to dominating the SEC, not finishing second in their division. They still have stars like senior libero Elyse Cusack (who could set the SEC record for most digs) and sophomore setter Kelly Murphy, who has played very well in a position that younger players struggle at. The Gators have been underdogs in spots this season, but Penn State's dominance is historic. Florida also has the history of great regular seasons, but always falling short of a National Championship. The Gators and coach Mary Wise deserve a lot of credit for the growth of girls' volleyball in Florida's high schools, but you do not get a fancy banner for that.
It will be nearly impossible for Florida to defeat Penn State tonight. While Florida has won as a team, Penn State has the top player in hitting percentage (Arielle Wilson, who is also second in blocks), and sixth best in assists per set. As a team, Penn State is first in hitting and blocks per set. If you're a Gator Volleyball fan, don't expect miracles tonight. But at least it is in our building.