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Friday November 17, 2006VB Claims SEC Title Outright With 3-1 Win At Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.

Junior opposite hitter Amber McCray (Longview, Texas) recorded 21 kills on .326 hitting as the seventh-ranked University of Florida volleyball team won sole possession of its 16th consecutive Southeastern Conference title by defeating Tennessee 3-1 (30-15, 30-28, 29-31, 30-28) on Friday night before the third largest crowd ever at the Stokely Athletics Center.

 

Florida (25-2 overall, 18-1 SEC) picked up its 25th victory of the season to extend its streak of collecting at least 25 wins to 16 consecutive years Ė the longest stretch in the nation. Florida held its opponent to under .200 hitting for the 13th time in the last 16 matches as Tennessee hit .156, while the Gators hit .239. Florida also finished with more kills (71-65), digs (80-70) and blocks (17.0-11.0).

 

ďMy hatís off to Tennessee because they played very well tonight,Ē Florida coach Mary Wise said. ďTennessee is an NCAA Tournament team and they played inspired. But we won the SEC Championship outright tonight and Iím very proud of our team.Ē

 

The Gators picked up just the fifth win in the last 42 tries for Tennessee opponents at the Stokely Center and did so by limiting the Lady Vols to 11.0 total blocks after UT entered the match ranked 17th in the nation at 3.23 blocks per game.

 

Sophomore middle blocker Kelsey Bowers (Gainesville, Fla.) also had a banner match with a career-high 15 kills on .414 hitting, while also adding six blocks.

 

Junior setter Angie McGinnis (Fraser, Mich.) became the fastest player in Florida history to reach 4,000 assists and just the third overall by picking up 61 assists in the match, while adding 14 digs, four blocks and four kills.

 

Freshman libero Elyse Cusack (Melrose, Fla.) picked up a pair of noteworthy accomplishments in breaking the Gator record for consecutive matches in double figures in digs by a libero with her 23rd straight match after notching a match-high 19 digs. She also moved into fifth place on the Florida single season digs chart and now has 430.

 

Junior Marcie Hampton (Gainesville, Fla.) added 11 kills and 11 digs to become the first player in UF history to reach 300 in a season in their first three years.

The opening game was close until the Gators used an 8-1 run midway through before cruising to a 30-15 win. The game began well for the Gators as UF scored the first three points on a pair of kills from Bowers and a Tennessee attack error. Florida eventually went up by four at 7-3 following a kill down the middle by freshman middle blocker Kristina Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.). Tennessee battled back with four straight points and tied the game at 7-7. After each team recorded a point, the Gators went on a 7-1 run to move on top 15-9 entering the media timeout. Bowers had three kills in the run and a pair of block assists. After the timeout, junior Kisya Killingsworth (Deltona, Fla.) added another kill to give the Gators a 16-9 advantage. The Lady Vols came within six at 17-11, but Florida answered with a 7-0 run to force Tennessee to call a timeout with the Gators on top 24-11. McGinnis provided strong serving in the run with Hampton and McCray each recording a kill and McGinnis adding an ace. The Lady Vols never came closer than 12 points the rest of the way before the game ended with a UT attack error. The Gators out-hit Tennessee .375 to -.024 in the game with Florida recording 6.0 total blocks. Bowers led all players with five kills in the game on .714 hitting and added four block assists. Cusack led all players with six digs.

 

The Gators erased a five-point deficit at the midway point before going on to claim a 30-28 win in the second game. UF again started well with the first four points behind Cusackís serve before the Lady Vols fought back to tie things at 7-7. From there, the teams sided out until Tennessee scored three points off their serve to move in front 13-10. Florida ended the 4-0 UT run when senior Stefanie Douglas (Belton, Texas) entered the game and put down a ball from the right side. Freshman defensive specialist Alli Cecchini (Brentwood, Calif.) followed with an ace before Tennessee added a pair of points to move ahead 15-12 at the media timeout. Tennessee scored two more after the timeout to open up its biggest lead at 17-12. After Bowers collected a kill on a slide play, the Lady Vols picked up a kill to go back up by five at 18-13. Florida answered with kills on the next three points by McGinnis, Killingsworth and Johnson to force Tennessee to use its first timeout while still ahead 18-16. The Lady Vols scored a point out of the break before the Gators answered with two in a row to come within one at 19-18. Tennessee collected the next two to extend its lead back to three at 21-18, but Florida responded with kills from McCray and Johnson to narrow the gap to one at 21-20. After a UT kill, Hampton put down a ball followed by a Lady Vol attack error as the Gators tied the game at 22-22 and forced Tennessee to use its final timeout. The Lady Vols notched the next two points on a pair of kills as the Gators used their first timeout down 24-22. Florida came back with the next three points on a McCray kill, a Hampton kill and a Hampton solo block to take its first lead since 10-9 at 25-24. Tennessee picked up a kill before McGinnis answered with a kill to make it 26-25 Florida. After a block from the Lady Vols, Bowers recorded a kill on a slide play to give UF a 27-26 advantage. Tennessee answered with a kill and another block to move back in front 28-27 and force Florida to use its last timeout. The stoppage in play worked as McGinnis recorded a kill on a lengthy point to tie the game at 28-28 before McCray and Johnson stuffed a Lady Vol attack to set up game point at 29-28. Killingsworth picked up her fourth kill of the game from the left side to close things out. The Gators out-hit Tennessee .208-.196 with McCray leading the Gators with five kills and McGinnis also adding four. Cusack led all players with nine digs.

 

The Gators let a late three-point advantage slip away as Tennessee battled back to claim a 31-29 win. Florida again started well by scoring four of the first five points in moving ahead 4-1 following a kill from Hampton off the block before the Lady Vols came back to tie the game at 5-5. The teams then sided out for the most part with Florida picking up a pair of points off serve in moving ahead 10-9 after another Hampton kill off the block. Tennessee fought back and tied the game at 11-11 before taking its first lead after a kill at 13-12. Florida tied the game on a UT service error and retook the lead on a Lady Vol attack error. A UF attack error tied the game again before another Tennessee service error put Florida on top 15-14 at the media timeout. The siding out resumed for the next seven points until the Gators strung a pair together on a McCray kill from the right side and a Hampton kill on an angle shot from the left side to move ahead 20-18 as Tennessee used its first timeout. Florida added another point out of the break on a McGinnis solo block to move ahead 21-18. Tennessee couldnít score points off its serve and the Gators bumped their advantage up to four after a Lady Vol attack error at 25-21 with Tennessee then calling its last timeout. With Florida up 26-22 the Lady Vols collected kills on back-to-back points to come within two at 26-24 as the Gators used their first timeout. McCray then picked up a kill from the right side to make it 27-24 in favor of the Gators, but Tennessee didnít go away and answered with the next two points to close the gap to one at 27-26. Tennessee recorded a service error on its next point and followed up with an attack error to set up match point at 29-26. The Lady Vols fought off three-straight match points and then added two more to take the game. Tennessee out-hit the Gators .278-.234 in the game with McCray leading all players with seven kills on .778 hitting. Senior defensive specialist Rhian Davis (Austin, Texas) paced the Gators with six digs.

 

The Gators scored four of the final five points to close out the match with a 30-28 win in the fourth game. Florida jumped out to an early 5-3 advantage, but the Lady Vols responded with the next three points to move ahead 6-5. The Gators eventually retook the lead at 8-7 and the teams sided out until Florida scored two straight on a Bowers kill and a UT attack error to move in front 13-11. After a UF attack error, the Gators scored the next two on a Bowers kill and a tandem block from Bowers and McGinnis to put Florida up 15-12 at the media timeout. After the break, Tennessee picked up a kill before Killingsworth recorded a kill and Johnson and Killingsworth combined for a block to put the Gators ahead 17-13. The teams traded points until Johnson recorded a kill down the middle followed by another block from Hampton and McCray as the Gators built a five-point lead at 20-15 with the Lady Vols then using their first timeout. Tennessee notched the next four points to cut Floridaís advantage down to one at 20-19 with the Gators using their first timeout. The Lady Vols served the next point out of bounds before again coming within a point after a Florida ball handling error. But the Gators answered with a Hampton kill on a tip followed by a Tennessee attack error to move back in front by three at 23-20. After the Lady Vols used their final timeout, Tennessee notched the next three points to tie the game before Bowers ended the run with a kill on a slide play to make it 24-23 Florida. The Lady Vols didnít back down and recorded the next two points on a pair of kills to take their first lead since 7-6 at 25-24. Florida used its last timeout and tied the game on a tandem block from McGinnis and Bowers before Tennessee responded with a kill to move ahead 26-25. Johnson tied the game with a kill on a slide play before the Lady Vols again answered with a kill to move in front 27-26. McCray tied things up with a kill from the right side before a Tennessee attack error gave the Gators a 28-27 lead. McCray then recorded a kill to set up match point at 29-27 and the Lady Vols fought off the first one before the match ended with a McCray kill off the block.

 

Florida will conclude the SEC season when the Gators return home to face Kentucky on Senior Day on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. (ET). Fans can be admitted free to the match by bringing at least two canned goods in helping Florida with the Harvest Food Drive.

 

The contest will air live on FSN Florida and WRUF-AM 850. It will also be broadcast on www.GatorZone.com.

 

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