Florida senior Carli Snyder is good in our book
Hard to tell what's more versatile. Is it Carli Snyder's stat line during a volleyball match or her taste in reading?
Consider the Florida senior packed "Gone with the Wind" for the team's weekend trip to Tennessee, and bought Stephen King's "It" in the airport.
Those are two of the four books the outside hitter is currently reading. Usually her backpack carries a stash as impressive as her numbers: Snyder notched 15 kills and zero errors on 29 attempts, a .517 hitting percentage, in Florida's sweep of Kentucky last week. The Wildcats had beat the Gators 3-1 just 17 days before in Gainesville.
The two teams sit tied atop the SEC.
On Sunday, Snyder's double-double (12 kills and 13 digs) along with four blocks led the Gators past Tennessee. The pair of performances earned espnW national volleyball player of the week honors for the Macomb, Michigan, native.
Snyder leads the Gators in service aces and kills and is second to libero Caroline Knop in digs.
In between reads, we chatted with her about:
"Gone with the Wind" and "It": "They're very different. I don't think I'm going to get them confused."
Avenging the loss to Kentucky: "That was one of my favorite wins of my career. We played so high-IQ, and that's something our team puts a huge weight on -- how can we play smart volleyball."
Playing clean: "My error percentage for the year is usually pretty low and that's something I think of -- not making an error in a bad situation. But there are times you have to go for it. It's about finding that balance."
Her versatility on court: "I take the different skills I am doing and play one point at a time. That's been a huge change for me this season, playing super mindful in whatever I'm doing. So if I'm in serve-receive, I'm going to think just on serve-receive and do the best I can do with that. If I'm in first-ball attack, I'm going to make a smart play and do the best I can do. Controlling the chaos on the court is how I see my role as a senior."
Fun facts: "I speak Swahili. I enjoy meditation. I love going to get coffee in different parts of Gainesville."
Her major (international studies -- Africa): "I'm hoping to empower women in some way and work with refugees as far as education. I have this passion for empowering women, probably from [Florida coach] Mary Wise, because I think she's one of the most empowered women I've ever met, and so is my own mother."
Vision for the Gators: "I feel really good about where we are physically and mentally. We have a really good idea of what we need to get better at by the first week of December."
Florida (20-1) remained at No. 4 in this week's AVCA poll. The top three also stayed the same: Penn State, Stanford and Texas.
Two months of wins for Western Kentucky
Last week we told you about Virginia Commonwealth -- now up to 24 straight victories, an NCAA-best, and a win away from claiming its first Atlantic 10 title.
Right behind the Rams: Western Kentucky, which clinched a share of the Conference USA title by sweeping Middle Tennessee on Sunday for its 23rd consecutive win. That makes the Hilltoppers the first program in conference history to four-peat as regular season champs. A win on Thursday over North Texas and they own the title outright.
WKU has won 21 of those matches without losing a set, the most sweeps for any team in the NCAA. Another notable: Western Kentucky has won its last 38 over Conference USA foes.
The team's losses, back-to-back against Louisville and Illinois, were more than two months ago. The Hilltoppers were ranked 25 in last week's poll; this week they are the top team receiving votes.
Western Kentucky's resume includes a five-set victory over ACC leader Pitt and a sweep of Ohio State.
For the first time, the Hilltoppers have two players who are Senior CLASS Award nominees: Alyssa Cavanaugh and Jessica Lucas. Cavanaugh, the CUSA player of the year in 2016, is the top offensive threat with 389 kills. Lucas, the reigning CUSA setter of the year, recently reached her 5,000th assist.
Last season the Hilltoppers were swept by Boise State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
At last week's NCAA reveal, the committee had Penn State, Nebraska, Minnesota and Stanford in line for the top four seeds with just a little over three weeks remaining in the regular season.
"I was hoping that was just to create dialogue," said Gators coach Mary Wise, whose team was placed at No. 6 by the committee. "If the NCAA tournament was to happen this weekend, certainly they would have us higher than what they did. I just have to go with that."
Florida is the lone team in the nation with three wins over the current RPI top six. The Gators also boast the top nonconference RPI and have an overall RPI of 3. The seedings were unveiled prior to Florida's sweep of Kentucky.
A seed in the top four would guarantee home matches through the end of the region. A year ago, three of the top four seeds -- Nebraska, Minnesota and Texas -- reached the final four. The one exception was Wisconsin, which took a 2-0 lead in the regional final before losing to eventual national champion Stanford.
Last year marked a return to home sites, rather than neutral sites, for regionals. Wise, for one, prefers neutral sites.
"When the volleyball committee chose to go back to home sites, I think it was turning back the clock," she said. "When you turn back the clock to the '90s -- and the proof is there -- teams that hosted, advanced."
Wise said she would like the NCAA to give volleyball a portion of the proceeds given to women's basketball for promotions and ticket sales.
"Let us use that and see what we can do," she said. "Give money to the neutral-site hosts and let them sell tickets. They do it in other sports. I just don't know why they don't want to do it in volleyball."
Rocky Mountain high
A year ago Colorado wasn't a factor in the Pac-12, finishing 6-14 in the conference and 14-16 overall. The Buffaloes ended 2016 losing nine of their final 11.
To say they've regrouped is an understatement. Colorado (19-6) is tied for third in the Pac-12 with a 9-5 mark. The Buffs have won seven of their last eight, three of those over ranked teams (USC, Washington, Oregon). The lone loss in that string was a five-setter to UCLA, their opponent on Thursday in Los Angeles.
Colorado also is one of two Pac-12 teams to extend frontrunner Stanford to five sets.
After that match, Buffs outside hitter Alexa Smith noted: "I think that it shows how we can play. We need to live up to that level."
Smith is an important part of the Colorado offense, ranking sixth in the conference in kills and points. The Buffs have a more aggressive attack behind Brynna Deluzio, second in the conference in assists.
Deluzio took over this season when last year's starting setter, Gabby Simpson, transferred to Kansas for her final year of eligibility.
The Windermere, Florida, native has been the conference freshman of the week three times already. She rolled her ankle in Friday's match against Washington, leaving after the first set. Six days off until the UCLA match should provide time to heal, said Colorado coach Jesse Mahoney.
"We need her to be successful," he said.
While Colorado re-entered the poll this week at 25, more impressively the Buffs have an RPI of 11.
"Last year we were injured during the second half of Pac-12 play, and we just weren't firing on all cylinders," Mahoney said. "We're a year older, a year wiser. The last three weeks, our kids have been all over it, game planning before games and adjusting during games. Defensively, we've been ahead of the other team tactically for the last couple of matches."
No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 21 Purdue: These Big Ten contenders meet for the first time on Saturday. The matchup features two of the biggest hitters in the conference in Badgers freshman Dana Rettke and Purdue senior Danielle Cuttino.
No. 2 Stanford at No. 13 Washington: The Cardinal are vying to become the first Pac-12 team to sweep through the conference since USC in 2003. They go to Seattle on Wednesday for a dogfight against the Huskies, the last team to extend Stanford to five sets (when the teams met on Oct. 19).
No. 25 Colorado at No. 18 UCLA: The Bruins survived a 16-14 fifth set to decide the match in Boulder on Oct. 21. That was the last time the Buffs lost, and they await the rematch on Thursday.
Arkansas at No. 4 Florida: Arkansas' Pilar Victoria leads the nation in points and kills. We all know how good the Gators defense is, led by Rhamat Alhassan, who set the program record for blocks on Sunday. The Gators won six of the match's final nine points to hold on for a five-set victory when the teams played on Sept. 24. Victoria notched 30 kills in that match, and Alhassan 20. Catch Round 2 on Friday.