KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There is very little these days that can dampen the mood of Florida volleyball coach Mary Wise, whose Gators knocked off reigning national champion Stanford in Thursday’s NCAA semifinals and face Nebraska tonight for the title.
Not the challenge of Nebraska, a four-time champion that has won 19 straight matches. Or the pressure of trying to win UF’s first championship after eight semifinal appearances. Wise even put a positive spin on playing in Kansas City, where thousands of Nebraska fans made the short drive to paint the building red Thursday.
"Red and loud," she replied, when ask what she expects tonight (9, ESPN2). "It’s great for women’s volleyball, to have 18,000-plus and to be televised on ESPN. It’s going to be a really fun environment."
The Gators have been steeled by going 4-0 in five-set matches, including their match against the Cardinal, when the Gators (30-1) took the opening two sets, then withstood a rally by taking the decisive set 15-10.
Then there’s the confidence of having opened the season by beating Nebraska (30-4) in a five-set thriller.
"Our theme has kind of been, ‘We’ve found a way to win,’?" said the Gators’ Rhamat Alhassan, who had 17 kills against Stanford.
LAKSA SCORES 40 FOR usf: Kitija Laksa made a career-high 11 3-pointers and scored 40, second-most in school history, as No. 22 USF routed visiting Southern 108-48 Friday night. Laksa, who made 11 straight 3s after missing her first one, added six rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals for the Bulls (8-2). Shantia Grace set the USF scoring record with 44 points against Coppin State in 2008. USF shot 60 percent (37-of-62) overall, making 21-of-31 3-pointers. The Jaguars (1-7) shot 30 percent (21-of-71). USF led 34-7 after the first quarter and 60-18 at halftime.
FOOTBALL: Florida hired Charlton Warren from Tennessee as an assistant, the same day UF offensive line coach Brad Davis left for Missouri. Warren, known mostly for his time on the Air Force staff, spent this season as defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator. … West Virginia quarterback Will Grier said he will return for his senior season. The transfer from Florida said "there is still a great deal that I want this team to accomplish.’’ He is likely out for the Dec. 26 Heart of Dallas Bowl because of a broken middle finger. … D’Angelo Fulford hit Justin Hill for a 42-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter and Mount Union won its 13th Division III national championship with a 12-0 victory over defending champion Mary Hardin-Baylor in Salem, Va. The Purple Raiders (15-0) ended a 29-game winning streak by the Crusaders (14-1), who had not trailed all season.