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Friday December 10, 1999VB Goes to East Region Final With Sweep of BYU

STOCKTON, Calif.

No. 4 Florida's defense punished one of the nation's best offensive and blocking teams No. 12 Brigham Young in a 15-12, 15-8, 15-10 sweep to advance the Gators to the NCAA East Regional Final at the Alex G. Spanos Center on the University of the Pacific campus Friday night.

The Gators (33-2) posted a 59-48 digs advantage, which made the difference in a match where both teams finished dead-locked with a .197 hitting efficiency. BYU (28-5) is sixth in the nation with its offensive attack. Florida also held the Cougars at the net with a 9-8.5 blocking advantage. But, more importantly, it held sophomore middle blocker Nina Puikkonen to three blocks. Puikkonen ranks third in the nation in blocks per game.

"This match speaks volumes of our program," Coach Mary Wise said. "We won because we won the serving and passing battle."

"Florida played a very fine match," BYU Coach Elaine Michaelis said. "They served very well. They played some great defense, too. (It was) amazing to seem dome of the digs that came up."

Florida served nine aces, the second-best effort this season, while BYU served 11 errors. Kris Bova (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior) led with three aces.

Senior All-America Jenny Manz (Orange Park, Fla./Middleburg) led all players with 17 digs and had two aces of her own. Manz added 11 kills for her 14th double-double of the season.

"We came out really strong with our passing game and gave (setter Jen Sanchez) a better look," Manz commented on her team's performance. "We were really pumped up and ready to play tonight."

Jenny Whitehead (Jenison, Mich./Jenison/Michigan State) put down a match-best 19 kills, and had eight digs and four blocks. She also posted a team-best .342 hitting efficiency, second in the match only to Puikkonen who had 18 kills for a .389 percentage. Whitehead ended the match, appropriately, with an ace. "We practiced serving all week," she said. "I was really focused each time I went back to the serving line."

Junior Heather Wright (Martinsville, Ind./Martinsville) racked up a match-high six blocks (1 solo, five assists).

Florida will make its eighth regional final appearance and will play host Pacific (31-2) Saturday at 10 p.m. Eastern. The Sunshine Network and WRUF-AM 850 will broadcast the match live.

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