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Sunday November 18, 2001UF Volleyball Wins SEC Tournament in Five Games

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.

For the sixth time in the last seven years, Florida and Arkansas matched up for the championship of the SEC Tournament. The Gators are in their 11th championship match, looking for their ninth title. The Lady Razorbacks are in their sixth title tilt, looking for their second title. It was the Gators that won the match 3-2 (27-30, 28-30, 30-19, 30-16, 19-17) in exciting fashion and the SEC Tournament.

Florida received career performances from Benavia Jenkins 21 kills, seven total blocks and a career high three block solos. Jacque Robinson contributed 19 kills and Kris Bova had 80 assists, which ranks third all-time at UF for a match and a career high eight kills. Aury Cruz, who went down with a shoulder injury in the fourth game, returned and had 18 kills. Nicole McCray had 19 kills to aid the Gator cause. After hitting .022 in the first game, Florida ended the match with a .290 team attack percentage. Florida blocking was once again a factor in the match, notching 16 blocks to Arkansas' seven blocks.

Florida opened the match with a 9-5 lead. In that early lead, Florida recorded three blocks, one of them a solo block from McCray. With the lead 11-7, Florida reeled off two points to take its largest lead of the game to that point. Arkansas inched to within two points after a UF hitting error and a block of its own. Five points later, the game was tied at 19 apiece. A rally that lasted nearly a full minute was won by the Gators and a kill by Cruz gave UF a 21-19 advantage and forced Arkansas to call a time out. The Lady Razorbacks won the next three points to take their first lead of the match and forced Florida to take a time out. After losing the next five of the next six points, Florida called a time out to try and delete the 26-22 Arkansas advantage. Arkansas won the first game 30-27, ending Florida's streak of 57 straight games won. The last time UF dropped a game was Sept.21 at South Carolina.

After outblocking Arkansas 7-3 in the first game, Florida took an early 4-2 lead in the second game. Florida's lead was three before Arkansas inched to within one point. With the score 9-9, Florida inched ahead with a 15-13 lead at the television time out. What was once Florida's two-point lead, quickly became Arkansas' 17-16 advantage, after which Florida called a timeout. Robinson served up an ace and assisted on a block coming out of the time out to give UF the lead once again. UF's largest lead of the game was three points at 21-18. Florida had a 27-26 advantage before the Gators were called for an illegal rotation violation, which tied the game at 27. After a Florida time out, Arkansas earned two quick points and earned game point. The Lady Razorbacks won the second game on their second game point.

In stark contrast to the first two games, Florida opened the scoring in the third game with a 5-1 lead. The timeout called by Arkansas at that point did not help as the Gators reeled off another two points to extend the lead to 7-1. Niki Hartley killed an attack and Jen Mandes served an ace to give Florida an 11-4 lead. Robinson killed a ball and McCray and Bova assisted on a block to give Florida a commanding 16-7 lead. Florida had a 20-10 lead in the third game and won 10 of the final 19 points to work its way back into the match. Florida hit .514 in the second game, Robinson contributed six kills in the game.

Florida raced out to a 6-2 lead before Arkansas called a timeout in an attempt to thwart the Gator run. UF came out and won four of the next seven points to take a 10-4 lead. Arkansas inched back to get within 10-7. Jenkins recorded a solo block to give the Gators a 15-10 lead before Arkansas called a timeout. Out of timeouts, Arkansas could not stop the next Gator run until the score was 19-11. Florida continued to control the game and held a 25-14 lead before finishing off the game 30-16.

For the second time this season, Florida came back from an 0-2 deficit to force a game five. In the rally-scored fifth game to 15, Arkansas leapt out to a 4-1 lead before Florida called a time out. The Gators came back and received back-to-back kills from McCray and got within 6-7. Arkansas had a two-point lead at 10-8 before pulling to within one on a Razorback service error. UF tied the fifth game for the first time when McCray killed an attack down the middle of the court. Arkansas was the first team to have a chance at match point at 14-13. After a Hartley kill, Robinson served an ace for Florida's chance at match point. Bova served up the match point as Jenkins killed an attack for the win.

Florida will return to action on Friday, November 23 in the first round of the Conference Challenge. The Gators will take on Virginia Tech on Friday and Notre Dame on Saturday. The tournament will be held at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Orlando.

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