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Friday September 21, 2001UF Volleyball Stages Comeback Win to Open SEC Play

COLUMBIA, S.C.

The 10th-ranked Florida volleyball team won its SEC opener by posting a 3-2 comeback win over 19th-ranked South Carolina. A USC volleyball record-crowd of 1,793 witnessed one of the most stirring comebacks in Florida volleyball history. After being down two games to none at the break, Florida came back to win the final three games to extend its NCAA-leading regular season winning streak in conference matches to 85. The final line score read 24-30, 28-30, 30-17, 30-24, 15-11 in a match that lasted 2:31.

The Gator win was the first time UF came back from an 0-2 deficit against an SEC team since Oct. 22, 1986. In that match, UF was down to Kentucky before rallying to win. Gator head coach Mary Wise was an assistant coach for Kentucky in that match. The last time UF won any match after being down 0-2 was August 30, 1996 when UF defeated Duke in the University Centre Hotel Invitational.

Aury Cruz led Florida (5-1/1-0 SEC) with 28 kills, three shy of her career high, and 16 digs. Niki Hartley recorded 12 kills and 12 digs in the match. Nicole McCray recorded nine kills on 19 swings to hit .421 As a team, Florida hit .259 and had 12 total blocks after only two in the first two games.

South Carolina (6-1/0-1 SEC) had a 13-8 lead in the first game and took a 15-10 lead going into the first time out of the match. A kill by Jacque Robinson and a hitting error by the Gamecocks coupled with a Lauren Moscovic service ace closed the gap. Another Moscovic ace and a Gator block evened the game at 16 before South Carolina called its first time out. Neither team had a lead larger than five points in the first game. The two teams played virtually even throughout and Florida called its first time out, down 23-20 to the Gamecocks. South Carolina extended its lead to 26-23 when Florida called its second timeout. USC came out of the time out and scored three consecutive points on the serve of Megan Hosp to earn its first game point. The Gamecocks would win the first stanza 30-24 two points later on a Florida service error. Cruz, Nicole McCray and Robinson all had two kills in that first game. Freshman Cally Plummer recorded four kills in the first game for the Gamecocks.

After spotting South Carolina a 6-2 lead in game two, the Gators jumped back to get within 8-6 on a Cruz kill. Consecutive kills by Jenkins and Cruz moved Florida to 10-9 before two hitting errors by the Gators and two by the Gamecocks made the score 12-10. A block by Jenkins and an ace by Cruz tied the score at 12. The two teams exchanged points to 19-19 when South Carolina took a 21-19 lead to force Florida to spend a time out. A hitting error by the Gators and two straight solo blocks by the Gamecocks gave USC a 27-22 lead. A questionable line call extended the lead to 28-22 before Niki Hartley recorded a kill and a hitting error by USC. Florida staved off five game points on the serve of Hartley before USC recorded a kill for the deciding point. After hitting .000 in the first game, Florida came back in the second to hit a .257 clip.

"In the first two games, you have to credit the South Carolina coaching staff," Wise said followig the match. "They made some coaching moves that really kept us on our heels.

"After the second game, we only had two blocks. To beat a Top 20 team you have to block better than that," Wise continued. "We cretainly did that after the break.

After South Carolina jumped out to a 5-1 lead at the outset of the third game, Florida called a time out to regroup. Two points on Cruz's serve moved Florida to within two and a Hartley kill gave USC a one-point advantage. A UF block and two South Carolina hitting errors gave UF its first lead since early in the first game. With that lead UF went on a 10-2 run over the next 12 points to move its lead to 15-9. A Kris Bova service ace gave Florida a 17-10 lead, forcing USC to use its final time out. The Gators scored four straigh points on the serve of McCray to extend the lead to 25-16. Two Gator kills, a block and and an attack error by South Carolina gave UF its first game point at 29-16. Two points later, a Jenkins kill put Florida back in the match with a Game 3 win. UF out-hit USC .342 to .022 in the third game.

With new life after taking Game 3, UF jumped to a 3-0 lead to start game 4. The serve of Moscovic extended Florida's lead to 7-2 before USC called a time out. Another four points on Moscovic's serve gave Florida an 11-2 lead, forcing the Gamecocks to call their final time out. South Carolina moved to within 16-10 of the Gators before head coach Mary Wise used one of her timeouts. UF led 19-14 before South Carolina edged back to get within three points at 19-16. Four points later, UF's lead was only one at 20-19. Three kills and a block later, the Gators had a 24-19 lead. Florida took a 28-24 lead in the fourth game on a Gamecock attack error. Hartley served the final two points as Florida took the fourth game 30-24.

USC jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the deciding fifth game. It extended its lead to 4-1 on back to back kills. Florida regained momentum on a block and a Carolina attack error. A service ace by McCray that was followed by a Jenkins block gave UF its first lead of the fifth game. With the Gator lead 7-5 USC called a time out. Coming out of the time out, UF rallied off the next three points to lead 10-6. The longest rally of the match went to the Gamecocks to pull them to within 13-10. Florida got match point after a Hartley kill. A kill down the middle by Cruz won the match for UF.

UF will next play at No. 25 Texas on Monday night. The match will start at 8:30 eastern time and will be broadcast on both WRUF-AM 850 and Gatorzone.com. The match will also be televised live by the Sunshine Network.

End of Report

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