Sunday October 8, 2000Volleyball Downs USC 3-1, Takes First in SEC East
Ninth-ranked Florida snapped South Carolina's 10-match win streak with a 15-4, 15-7, 14-16, 15-4 victory to become the only undefeated Southeastern Conference volleyball team and claim first place in the Eastern Division Sunday afternoon at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.
Setter Kris Bova (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior) dished out 51 assists against one of the nation's top offensive teams as UF (13-3, 5-0 SEC) had four hitters record double-digit kills to jump ahead of USC (14-4, 5-1 SEC) in the divisional race. The Gators—now on a season-high seven-win streak—also had four players in double-digit digs and recorded 10 aces. The Gamecocks, which led the league in aces, had just two.
Coach Mary Wise prepared her team well, but admitted she did not expect to those numbers, especially USC's 13 service errors. The Gators had eight. "Our ability to pass well against such good servers was a key," Wise said. "We worked really hard (on that)."
USC took an early 4-1 lead in the opener, getting extra chances from three UF serving errors. But, the Gators gained a rhythm that resulted in a 14-0 scoring run and a .423 offensive production. UF committed just one error. USC, ranked 11th nationally in hitting efficiency, averaged a .000 attack.
Middles Nicole McCray (Longview, Texas/Pine Tree) and Benavia Jenkins (Fort Pierce, Fla./John Carroll), the forerunners of UF's offense today, led with five kills a piece.
UF patiently put up points through a marathon Game 2. USC only allowed UF three consecutive points once, except the last four. The game lasted 31 minutes.
"Game 2 was probably the best evidence that women's volleyball could use a scoring change," Wise said. "The play was good, it was just constant side outs. We'd like to run points, but we never got a chance. Credit USC for that. They were able to do it with good substitutions, and their offense played better."
UF dug a 9-2 deficit to begin Game 3. USC posted its best offensive effort at .156, while the Gators had their worst, hitting .087. Wise felt her team was "able to hold good passing" through the first two games, but the long break after them broke that concentration.
The Gators, though, found a go-to player in Aury Cruz (Levittown, Puerto Rico/Bayamon Military Academy). Cruz had seven kills as UF reeled off 12 tough points to go up 14-12. But, USC forced three errors in the stretch and Cally Plummer put down the game-winning kill.
UF stopped the Gamecocks' threat by jumping out ahead 14-2 in Game 4. USC ticked off three more and held off two match points, but couldn't overcome its 10 hitting errors, which doubled UF's.
For the 15th consecutive match UF out-blocked its opponent 11-7, proving why it is one of the nation's best blocking teams. Jenkins led with five. The Gators out-dug the Gamecocks 62-43. Overall, the UF defense kept USC's Berna Dwyer in check. The sophomore, who came into the match as one of the nation's Top 10 hitting efficiency leaders, hit .069.
"It was part of our game plan," Wise said. "We felt she's a player who is good enough to beat us. We prepared for her all week."
Cruz led UF with 14 kills and had 10 digs. McCray and Niki Hartley (San Jose, Calif./St. Francis) each had 13 kills. McCray led all players with four aces and was in on four blocks. Hartley recorded a match-high 15 digs for her team-best sixth double-double. Jenkins was third with 10 kills and averaged a .412 attack percentage. It was the sixth-straight match she hit better than .500.
Back row players Kelli Notestine (Valkaria, Fla./Melbourne Central Catholic) and Jerilyn Hattendorf (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles) were indispensable to UF. They recorded 12 and 11 digs, respectively, in limited court time.
SEC action continues Oct. 13 at Kentucky. First serve is at 7 p.m. WRUF-AM 850 will broadcast the match live.