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Aury Cruz was named the SEC Tournament MVP.

Sunday November 19, 2000Volleyball Wins Eighth SEC Tournament Title

Gainesville, FL

Aury Cruz was named the SEC Tournament MVP.

The 10th-ranked University of Florida volleyball team won its eighth Southeastern Conference Tournament title in nine years and the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament with a 15-5, 15-3, 15-10 sweep of LSU in front of 1,286 Sunday afternoon at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

UF (25-4) left no doubt it deserved its third consecutive title as it recorded at least twice as many kills, assists, aces and digs as seventh-seeded LSU. The Tigers (15-15), which upset two higher seeds to get to the final, had been playing relentless defense throughout the tournament. But, they were no match for UF's guns, which combined for a .352 hitting efficiency, its best effort since Nov. 3.

Defensively, UF out-dug LSU 44-22 and out-blocked it 7.5-4.5. The result was a negative .009 LSU hitting efficiency. It was the lowest attack average by a Gator opponent this year. Senior Jerilyn Hattendorf (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles) set the tone for the Gator defense with a match-high 14 digs.

"Coming into the game, our game plan was to match LSU's effort," Coach Mary Wise said. "We saw them win two matches by relentless pursuit of the ball. I think the message was sent real early that we had brought our competitive shoes today."

The Gators jumped out to 7-1 and 13-0 leads in the first two frames. UF had 29 kills and just five errors through those periods. In Game 2, UF hit at a stifling .538 clip, shutting out LSU until it served an ace to make it 13-1. Tournament MVP Aury Cruz (Levittown, Puerto Rico/Bayamon Military Academy) had just been taken out of the game after spraining her left ankle. LSU was able to tack on two more while the Gators adjusted to a new system.

Cruz returned in the final frame and helped UF overcome an 0-4 deficit with nine kills in the game. The Gators trailed throughout until freshman Jacque Robinson (Merced, Calif./Golden Valley) tied it at 10 with one of her seven kills. Cruz finished with a match-high 12 kills, seven digs and two blocks.

Junior Niki Hartley (San Jose, Calif./St. Francis) and freshman Benavia Jenkins (Ft. Pierce, Fla./John Carroll) were also named to the all-tournament team. Hartley had nine kills; Jenkins had eight and led all players with six blocks.

The Gators are the hosts of the Florida Volleyball Conference Challenge Nov. 24-25 at the Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Fla. UF plays Cincinnati Friday at 2 p.m. and Tulane Saturday at 2 p.m. The NCAA Tournament selection show will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. Nov. 26 on the Sunshine Network.

2000 SEC ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

Stacy Buerger (Georgia)

Lauren Cuyler (LSU)

Niki Hartley (Florida)

Benavia Jenkins (Florida)

Ariana Wilson (Tennessee)

MVP--Aury Cruz (Florida)

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