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Michella Chester | NCAA.com | February 23, 2021

Mary Wise builds her ultimate Florida women's volleyball dream player

The Florida volleyball ultimate dream player, built by Mary Wise

Mary Wise has been the head coach of the Florida women's volleyball team since 1991. 

There are 24 SEC titles in those 30 years, including 18 straight from 1991-2008 — the Division I record for most consecutive conference titles by a single program. There are also 29 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, eight Final Fours, 15 SEC Coach of the Year honors, and trips to the NCAA championship match in 2003 and 2017. 

She has built a storied program at Florida and has coached a litany of amazing players during her career at UF. 

NCAA.com tasked Wise to create her ultimate Florida volleyball dream player, picking one player for 11 different categories. Here are her picks for each category and what she had to say about each player:

The Quarterback

Jen Sanchez

"A phenomenal setter in terms of delivery, reliability. Everyone had a good look, each night, each set, because of her skills."

Jen Sanchez (1996-99) 

  • Set UF single-season assist record with 1,745
  • 1998: AVCA second-team All-American
  • 3759 total assists

The Terminator

Jenny Manz

"She terminated. Just an elite arm. I think it was 35 kills at Hawaii. You're terminating balls in a big way if you can do that on the road. She was the first player I said in recruiting she can 'thump it', and to this day I'm asking our assistants, when we are looking for attackers, 'Can she thump it?' That was Jenny Manz."

 Jenny Manz (1996-99)

  • 2nd in kills (1,657), matches played (147) and attacks (3,768) at Florida
  • 3rd in digs (1,202), 10th in blocks (296), 3rd in aces (152)
  • 1998 AVCA first-team All-American

The Brick Wall

Rhamat Alhassan

"What made Rhamat so special was, she was so high above the net, literally, she is blocking balls as the hitter is hitting balls. If you set the ball tight against her, she's going to hurt your feelings. She is the type of blocker that would stay in your head long after the play is over."

Rhamat Alhassan (2014-17)

  • 2017-18 Honda Sport Award winner (first Gator to earn the award)
  • 2017 SEC Player of the Year
  • Second Gator in history (Kelly Murphy) to earn a spot on one of the three AVCA All-America teams four times
  • Four-time AVCA All-American (2014 — Second Team; 2015, 2017 — First Team; 2016 -- Third Team)
  • The second player in Division I history to tally at least 1,250 kills, 605 blocks, and a .420 clip
  • School record holder in career total blocks (674) and block assists (584)
  • Career 1.52 blocks per set average ranks second in UF history

The Energizer

Joseph

"People might remember Shainah in the NCAA run of 2017 and how I would have to wait at timeouts when she was talking to the team before I could get in there. Why she is deserving of the hypeman award is because that is who she was when she was a redshirt and not even playing, that is who she was when she was deep at the end of the bench before her game had evolved." 

Shainah Joseph (2013-17)

  • 2017 AVCA All-America Second Team
  • 2017 All-SEC

 

The Captain

Nicole McCray

"Her senior year she was the only senior, team captain. Being the only senior is not easy. Captains often rely on other players in their class to help them lead, Nicole didn't have that opportunity. Nicole would probably admit now as a college coach that she would not have been captain-worthy early in her career, but she grew into the position and just willed the team." 

Nicole McCray (1998-02) 

  • AVCA second-team All-American (2002)
  • First-team All-SEC (2002), first-team All-SEC (2001)
  • Was two kills away from recording the first triple-double in UF history

The Pancake Getter

Cusack

"The getter no matter what type of breakfast food you're eating... that is Elyse Cusack. The all-time dig leader at Florida. This is a softball player who played shortstop. The skills she learned starting at a young age playing softball, transferred perfectly to the libero position."

Elyse Cusack (2006-09)

  • Finished her collegiate career as the Southeastern Conference’s all-time leader in career digs (2,138)
  • Captured the SEC Defensive Player of the Week honor four times in 2009 and a league-leading 13 times in her career
  • Led the team and ranked second in the SEC with 4.67 digs per set

The Ace Machine

Carli Snyder

"This award goes to Carli Snyder. And before she set a Florida record for aces in an NCAA tournament, people would think I am crazy for that. There was a match her freshman year, she missed seven serves. She evolved her game. In that USC match when were down in the fifth set, to advance to the NCAA championships... that was Carli Snyder behind the end line. The same player that couldn't serve the ball in her freshman year." 

 Carli Synder (2014-17) 

  • 2017 AVCA All-America Second Team
  • 2015 and 2016 AVCA All-America Honorable Mention
  • Ranked tied for sixth nationally with 0.49 service aces per set, which was also the ninth-highest single-season average in school history in her senior year
  • Notched three-plus service aces in nine matches her senior year

The Unsung Hero

"This is a player who played three different positions for us. Her junior year, she played left, right, and then when we lost our starting middle, Benavia Jenkins, to a torn ACL, Michelle had to play middle. An undersized middle. That team advanced to the national championship. There were so many elite players that I don't think Michelle ever got the credit she deserved. But how many players would be willing to play out of position to help a team win?" 

Michelle Chatman (2001-04) 

  •  All-SEC First Team (2004)

The Dirty Worker

Nikki ORourke

"Bruises, cuts. She had a cut on her knee where the blood seeped through the kneepad, a lot. It didn't even phase her. I often wondered did she learn those skills in terms of being fearless from being a surfer? You don't know whats in the ocean... doesn't bother Nikki."

Nikki O’Rourke (2012-15)

  • Career-high 19 digs vs. LSU (11/1/13)

The Swiss Army Knife

Aury Cruz

"An all-around complete player, in that what she did for the Gators in terms of leading us in kills, digs, I think she led us in aces, and one of the best passers I have ever coached. Everyone around her took such a small part of the court because of Aury's skills." 

Aury Cruz (2000-03) 

  • First-team AVCA All-American (2001, 2002, 2003)
  • Southeastern Conference Player of the Year (2001 and 2002)
  • NCAA Tournament Region MVP (2002)
  • First Team All-SEC (2000, 2001, 2002)

The Clutch Gene

"Aycan is a player who transcended her era, I think Aycan could start for any top-10 women's volleyball team today as an adult. She is that gifted and that talented. At clutch-time, whether she was hitting, blocking, serving or passing... she could do any of those skills today, with her clutch gene."  

Aycan Gokberk (1992-95)

  • AVCA All-American (1993, 1995)
  • SEC Player of the Year (1993, 1995)

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