Oh, you thought we were abandoning our The Top 10 Gators Games of 2013-14 series after going two weeks without a second entry? WRONG.
Someday, Florida will win a national championship in volleyball. The Gators have been too good for too long under Mary Wise — she holds a .902 winning percentage at Florida, and the Gators have won 19 SEC titles in her 23 years in Gainesville — for that not to be a reasonable expectation, whether under Wise or her eventual successor, even though Florida's still very much on the outside looking in when it comes to the national landscape of the sport.
You need look no further than the Nike Big Four for confirmation of that. The four-year, four-team competition began in 2010 and featured Florida, Penn State, Stanford, and Texas — and all three other teams had a national title at the outset of the event, with Penn State coming off two consecutive unbeaten seasons. Since then, Texas has added its second national title, and Penn State its sixth — tying Stanford for the most in Division I history.
And not only is Florida still stuck on zero titles, the Gators haven't been to the Final Four since 2003.
So the Big Four was always going to be a measuring stick for Florida, an attempt to see how the Gators stacked up against three titans of the game. In 2010, at home, Florida lost to Penn State and beat Texas. In 2011, at Stanford, Florida beat Texas and lost to Stanford. In 2012, at Penn State, Florida lost to both Texas and Stanford. The Gators' 2-4 record in Big Four matches was the worst in the competition coming into 2013's edition, taking place at Texas.
Then, on the same Saturday that brought Florida football's loss to Miami, the Gators didn't just beat Stanford: They defeated the Cardinal in four sets, 28-26, 25-17, 18-25, 25-22. It was the Gators' first win over a ranked opponent since the 2011 NCAA Tournament, and their first win over Stanford since 2009. It was big enough that the GatorZone writeup used "in stunning fashion" in its lede — and it felt right.
Florida would lose its second Big Four match to eventual national champion Penn State in straight sets, and ended up having a weirdly disappointing 28-4 campaign: Two of those losses came to upstart Missouri, which used them to win the SEC title in the sport, and the final one came to Florida State at home in the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. 2013 was not to be Florida's year to break through and win a national title.
But one of these years will be. And the glimpse that these Gators showed in that win over Stanford is a reminder that it's really just a matter of time.