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Spartans stand alone in the SSC ranking

By: Sydney Rhodes

UT’s Women’s Volleyball team has remained the only undefeated team in the Sunshine State Conference (SSC). After Saturday’s game against Nova Southeastern, UT set a new game percentage of 13 wins to one loss.

Two weeks ago, the women were announced the No. 12 team in the AVCA Division II Coaches Poll. Last Friday, the team traveled to West Palm Beach, where they faced the third team in the poll, Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA). PBA has been a top competitor and rival of UT since the women lost three consecutive times to them, but Tampa was able to triumph over PBA with a clean sweep of three matches to none.

On Saturday, Sept. 22, Tampa returned to the court the next day in Fort Lauderdale to challenge Nova Southeastern and win with another sweep of three games to none. After this game, Tampa was announced the only team in the conference that was undefeated and moved up in rankings to the top of the SSC.

So far, the team has really bought into taking ownership of the season. It’s all about how hard they want to work, what they want the culture to be, and what they are willing to sacrifice to make this season successful,” said assistant volleyball coach, Brian Imperiale. “We, as coaches, can tell them what it takes and we can push them to work harder, but in the end, they are the ones making the decisions. They have to come into the gym, weight room, or video room every day with a focused mindset, ready to improve a little bit each day.”

Although Tampa has been on a winning streak, they still had to focus and prepare to face Palm Beach Atlantic and Nova Southeastern last weekend.

“To prepare for the game against PBA, our team watched some films from last year’s games and addressed what we did well and what we didn’t,” said sophomore, outside hitter, Sorrel Houghton. “We used this to train and prepare the week prior to the game, since we knew PBA could be a tough match.”

The women have worked their way up in rankings these last few weeks. In late August, they were announced the 25th team in the coaches poll, then moved to 20th immediately after that. After beating Embry Riddle three matches to one a week later, Tampa was announced the 16th team. UT then moved up to their current ranking as 12th in the poll.

“Our team goal on the court it to win the Sunshine State Conference,” said Imperiale. “It’s not our only goal, but right now, it’s the most important one. If we can accomplish that, it sets us up to possibly host the regionals, and gives us the best opportunity for success in the postseason.”

Tampa jumped between 13 ranking in the first three weeks of the season. After this past weekend of wins, the team is bound to move up even higher in the coaches poll.

“It has been a big confidence boost for the girls and I to move this far in rankings in such a short period of time,” said junior, setter, Sammy Mueller. I can’t describe how it feels to have so many wins under our belt. I’m excited to see what’s next after sweeping out top competitor PBA, but we have to stay focused as well.”

Up next, the UT Volleyball team will play Lynn University and Barry University this Friday and Saturday, and then will follow with three home games  at the Martinez Athletic Center. The women will face Embry Riddle, Florida Southern and Saint Leo, all teams within the SSC, between Oct. 2-6.

Sydney Rhodes can be reached at sydney.rhodes@theminaretonline.com

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