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Jessica Riester had to play a big role for UF tonight.

Friday October 27, 2000Volleyball Sweeps Tennessee

Gainesville, FL

Jessica Riester had to play a big role for UF tonight.

The University of Florida volleyball team knew it needed some big numbers to make up for a big void in the middle and hold off Southeastern Conference-foe Tennessee in the Eastern Division race Friday night at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. The 10th-ranked Gators (18-3, 10-0 SEC) stepped up to that challenge by posting team and individual superlatives to knock off the third-place LadyVols (19-5, 7-3 SEC) 15-7, 15-8, 15-7 for the second time this season.

The Gators had 64 kills en route to a .326 hitting efficiency and 62 digs, both of which were team-bests for a three game match this year. In contrast, UT recorded 47 kills and 56 digs. UF, which has won 12 straight matches, also continued its dominance at the net, out-blocking the LadyVols 13-6. It has now out-blocked its opponents in 20 consecutive matches.

The Gators did it all without the help of SEC Player of the Year candidate and one of the nation's top middle blockers Nicole McCray (Longview, Texas/Pine Tree), who is out with a left ankle sprain. Sophomore Jessica Riester (Palmetto, Fla./Berkeley Prep) played all the way around in McCray's spot. The right-side hitter posted four kills, seven digs and a personal-best four blocks in her transition role.

Freshman Aury Cruz (Levittown, Puerto Rico/Bayamon Military Academy) picked up the offensive load for UF, whipping out a career-high 21 kills. Cruz also had 14 digs for her seventh double-double. Coach Mary Wise, who was coaching her 500th career match, was impressed with Cruz's play under the pressure. "She responded…not like a typical freshman."

Eleven of her kills came in Game 1 on 17 perfect swings, propelling UF to victory after a sluggish start and a 3-0 deficit against UT's resilient side-out play.

"We had a new lineup because of the injury, and it just took getting used to playing next to a new person," Senior Jerilyn Hattendorf (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles), who had 10 digs, said. "We had to get comfortable and get in the zone, and we did."

In its "zone," UF posted a match-best .421 hitting efficiency on 29 kills. Even though it was early, it was the key to the victory, according to Wise. "The beginning…where we almost ran out of subs after the first rotation…That was really where the match was won in terms of our own psyche. Overall, we had great contributions out of a lot of our players. It was a good win for our team."

Junior Niki Hartley (San Jose, Calif./St. Francis) had 12 kills and 20 digs (four short of a personal-best). The outside hitter leads the squad with eight double-doubles this year. Freshman Benavia Jenkins (Fort Pierce, Fla./John Carroll) was second on the team with 13 kills and had six a match-high six blocks.

Setter Kris Bova (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior) dished out her 1,000th career assist in only her first year as a starter. Bova hit that mark with a helper to Hartley in the second frame. The junior had 50 on the match, and added six kills, eight digs and two blocks.

UT's Janelle Hester led the LadyVols with 15 kills. Arianna Wilson was second with 14.

The Gators will face Kentucky Sunday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. in the O'Connell Center. WRUF-AM 850 will broadcast the match live beginning at 1:50 p.m. For tickets call 1.800.34.GATOR (in Florida only) or 352.375.4683.

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