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Friday September 7, 2001Volleyball Team Turns Back N. Illinois, 3-0

CHAMPAIGN, Ill.

The 11th ranked Florida volleyball team was in Champaign, Ill., tonight for the first round of the State Farm Illini Classic. The Gators used 14 kills by Aury Cruz, six total blocks by Benavia Jenkins and tenacious defense to post a 3-0 win over Northern Illinois, 30-24, 30-22, 30-17. The Gators will play the winner of tonight's second match between Butler and the host Fighting Illini. Illinois has won 12 State Farm Illini Classic titles, including the last six consecutively. Illini head coach Don Hardin has never lost a match in the tournament.

Florida (3-1) jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first game on a kill and a solo block by Jenkins. A solo block by Jacque Robinson advance the Gator lead to 6-2 before Northern Illinois came back to get within 7-5. The Huskies shaved the Florida lead to 15-14 before Niki Hartley registered her second kill of the match. Florida subsequently scored points on Hartley's serve to force Northern Illinois to take its first time out of the game. Coming out of the time out Florida won six of the next nine points to take a 24-18 lead. Florida had game point at 29-23, but would win the game a point later on a kill by Cruz. Curz ended the game with seven kills and a dig. Hartley led Florida in digs with four in Game 1. As a team, Florida hit .243 in the first game.

Northern Illinois took its first lead of the match with a 5-2 lead at the beginning of Game 2. The Gators cam back to tie the game with kills by Cruz and Michelle Chatman. After exchanging points, Northern Illinois took a 16-14 lead back to back blocks. Florida would come back after two straight attack errors by the Huskies. With the score 19-17, Cruz's ninth kill of the match prompted Northern Illinois to take a time out. With the score 22-20 UF, a block by Robinson and Nicole McCray gave the Gators a three-point advantage. Cruz's 10th kill of the match, a bullet down the sideline, gave Florida a 27-21 lead. Northern Illinois served the ball by the wrong player to give Florida its 28th point of the game. Two points later, Florida had a 30-22 Game 2 win. The final point came courtesy a Jenkins and Kris Bova block. The Florida defense held NIU to a -.044 hitting percentage in the second game.

Florida jumped to a 5-0 lead at the outset of the third game. Jenkins and Cruz recorded back-to-back block assists to help the Gators to the early lead. Three Husky service errors led to an 8-3 Florida lead and a kill by Bova extended it to 9-6. Jenkins registered two more blocks and a kill to help Florida to a 17-8 lead. Florida extended its lead to 22-11 with a kill by Cruz. At 24-12, NIU called a time out after a kill by McCray. McCray had three kills in the final game to pace UF to the 30-17 match-clinching win. The Gators hit .500 in the final game to NIU's -.029.

Hartley ended the match with nine digs and six kills. Jenkins also had six kills. Both Robinson and McCray had five assists. Cruz added six digs to her match totals.

"This win had a lot to do with blocking," UF Head Coach Mary Wise stated. "We created a lot of our offense off of our blocking."

UF will play in tomorrow's championship match against the winner of the Illinois-Butler. Match time will be 8 p.m. central, 9 p, eastern. The match will be broadcast on gatorzone.com.

End of Report

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