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Friday November 16, 2001Gator Volleyball Opens SEC Tournament with Sweep

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.

The Florida volleyball team opened up play in the SEC Tournament this morning at the Stokely Athletics Center in Knoxville, Tenn. The Gators are looking for their ninth SEC Tournament championship. The Gators took their first step towards that ninth title with a 3-0 (30-25, 30-21, 30-17) win over the eighth-seeded Georgia Bulldogs in the first round.

Florida (21-1) has now won 19 straight matches. The Gators have swept their last 17 opponents and have won 54 consecutive games. UF extends its overall conference-winning streak to 66 matches, the seventh longest streak ever and the longest current streak in the country.

Benavia Jenkins, Nicole McCray and Aury Cruz all hit in double figures for the Gators. Cruz has now hit in double figures in every match this season. Jenkins had four blocks, two of them solo, this afternoon to lead the Gators. As a team, UF blocked eight Bulldog attacks. UF hit .394 as a team. With the potential of three matches in three days, 10 Gators saw action in today's match.

The Gators started slow, falling behind 3-1 before tying the first game at three. Georgia pulled back to take three-point leads at 7-4, 8-5 and 9-6. With the Gators down 13-8, UF called its first time out to try and stop the bleeding. Coming out of the timeout, Florida reeled off four straight points to pull to within one point. UF finally tied the match at 15 and took its first lead at 16-15 when Georgia was called for a lift violation. After a service ace by Jen Mandes gave the Gators a two-point lead. The lead changed hands four times before Niki Hartley served a service ace for a 22-20 UF lead. Florida inched closer to the Game 1 win at 27-23 when Georgia called a timeout. Florida made use of its second opportunity of game point when Georgia committed a service error, giving UF the game 30-25. Despite the slow start, Florida hit a blistering .467 in the first game.

Florida had a 12-6 lead in the second game before UGA came back to with in 12-8. Florida inched ahead and took a 19-13 lead. Benavia Jenkins made the lead 21-15, forcing Georgia to call a time out. A Bulldog hitting error gave UF a six-point advantage at 24-18. Aury Cruz served a ball into the net allowing UGA to stay within six points. Jenkins killed a quick-set to give UF a 26-19 lead. Florida won the second game after a Nicole McCray kill.

UF jumped out to an 8-5 lead at the outset of the third game. With the score 13-7 in favor of the Gators, Georgia called a timeout. The Bulldogs were plagued by hitting errors in the early going of the game. Jenkins and Kris Bova blocked a UGA attach to keep the Gator lead at seven. The lead was extended to 18-9 when Georgia called its final timeout. Florida streaked to take a 27-15 lead and took the clinching game 30-17.

The Gators will play the winner of tonight's Alabama/LSU match in tomorrow's semifinals. The match will be played at 2 pm and will be broadcast on WRUF-AM 850 and on Gatorzone.com.

End of Report

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