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Florida A&M draws Florida in NCAA Volleyball Tournament

The Florida A&M women’s volleyball program will be taking on the University of Florida in the first round.

The SWAC Champion Florida A&M Lady Rattler volleyball team will make their appearance as an automatic qualifier in the 2022 NCAA Volleyball Tournament in the Gainesville Regional facing the overall No.3 seeded Florida Gators.  Florida Gulf Coast University and Iowa State will round out the four-team field.

The Rattlers make their second consecutive appearance after winning the 2022 SWAC Championship in Houston, defeating the Alabama State Hornets in a 3-0 shutout.

The seeding with the Gators comes as no surprise to head coach Gokhan Yilmas.  “We knew it would be a big name, the way it works in the NCAA is it is usually driving distance in the preliminary round,” Yilmas said.   “ We didn’t play a great game against the Gators last year, but we’ll be better prepared this year after having that experience.”

The Gators are a talented squad

The Lady Rattlers will face a talented SEC team with three stars who earned postseason honors.  Leading the charge is SEC Freshman of the Year Alexis Stucky.  Merritt Beason and Marina Markova also earned All-SEC honors.  

This is Beason’s second SEC honor as she was named to the 2021 SEC All-Freshman team in 2021.  She has recorded double-digit kills in 19 matches this season.  She’s also tallied four double-doubles this season with a career-high 21 kills against Wisconsin.

Markova garners her first SEC honor after earning ACC honors in 2021 before her transfer.  She has recorded double-digit kills in 20 games this season.  She posted a career-high 18 kills in her final regular season match, eclipsing the 1,000 kill milestone for her career.

Stucky’s first season was one for the record books, with the stamp on the season being bestowed All-SEC honors.  She posted five double-doubles this season.  She recorded at least 40 assists in 13 matches this season and led the team to at least a .300 clip in 13 matches this season.

Florida A&M set the pace in the SWAC

Florida A&M has some outstanding players as well.  Two-time SWAC Volleyball Player of the Year Dominique Washington is set to lead the squad into the tournament.  Washington also won the Most Outstanding Player for her performance in the 2022 SWAC Championship.

Washington was one of the best hitters in the nation and the top hitter in the SWAC, finishing with 391 kills (49th in the nation and 1stin SWAC). During league play she finished first in kills per set (4.02). She was the only player in the league to average four or more kills per set during conference play. She also led the league with 443.5 points. She was also a top contributor on the defensive end finishing second on the team with 272 digs (2.57 digs per set).

Also earning SWAC superlatives were Broke Lynn Watts (SWAC Newcomer of the Year), Brooke Hudson (SWAC Libero of the Year) and Irem Ucar (SWAC Setter of the Year).

Hudson was one of the best defensive players in the nation and the top defensive player in the SWAC, finishing with 487 digs (44th in the nation and 1st in SWAC). During conference play, she led the league in total digs (267) and digs per set (4.68). Hudson was consistent on the defensive end recording 10+ digs in 28 matches and 20+ in seven matches during regular season competition. She earned SWAC Defensive Player of the Week a total of five times this past season.

Ucar had a stellar season setting her teammates up for kills while finishing with a league-leading 837 assists (10.2 assists per set) during regular season play. She was the only player in the league to average 10+ assists per set. Ucar also ranked 55th in the nation in assists per set. 

Watts was a significant contributor for the Rattlers in her first season as she was tabbed as SWAC Newcomer of the Week four times and SWAC Offensive Player of the Week once this past season. During league play, she averaged 2.78 kills per set (7th in SWAC). Watts also finished eighth in points (317) and points per set (3.23). She recorded a season-high 21 kills during the Florida A&M win at Alabama State. Watts also contributed significantly defensively, finishing the season with 218 digs. 

Gokhan is banking on FAMU’s experience for a better tourney showing

Gokhan is optimistic that his team is not on a stage too big, after planning this season with more top competitors to get the team ready for possible postseason play.  “The first year in tournament play is more difficult, it allows you to see the need.,” Gokhan said.   We recruited the way we did to fill the deficiencies we discovered in the NCAA tournament last year.  To better prepare our team, we played Kansas State, Florida State,  NC State and Ole Miss.  It will help us to be better prepared for tournament play.  This is how you build programs.  You do it and learn how to get better the next you encounter this level of competition.”

FAMUAthletics.com and Gatorzone.com contributed to this story

Florida A&M draws Florida in NCAA Volleyball Tournament
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