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Nicole McCray led the Gators against South Carolina with 16 kills and a .727 hitting efficiency.

Sunday October 27, 2002No. 3 VB Fights Off No. 21 South Carolina

Columbia, SC

Nicole McCray led the Gators against South Carolina with 16 kills and a .727 hitting efficiency.

The No. 3-ranked Florida Gator volleyball team swept No. 21 South Carolina 3-0 (30-24, 30-23, 32-30) on Sunday in front of 1,276 at the Volleyball Competition Facility in a match that was much closer than the final score.

"This was SEC volleyball at its very finest," said UF Head Coach Mary Wise. "The atmosphere at South Carolina, the level of play - both teams will benefit from having played this match."

South Carolina (17-4, 10-1 SEC) jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead before Florida (20-1, 10-0 SEC) answered on a kill by Benavia Jenkins (Fort Pierce, Fla.). Another kill by Jenkins and a Gator point on an overpass equaled the score at 3-3. After South Carolina again took the lead at 4-3, Jenkins recorded a solo block to knot the game again at 4-4. The Gators took their first lead of the game on the next play, as South Carolina was called for a net violation. With the Gators leading 6-4, the Gamecocks answered to move within one point before consecutive kills by Aury Cruz (Levittown, Puerto Rico) and Jacque Robinson (Merced, Calif.) gave Florida the 8-5 advantage. Leading 9-6, the Gators were on the winning end of a call on a South Carolina attack that was first ruled in bounds but overruled by the down official, giving Florida the 10-6 lead. The Gators eventually built a 19-14 lead, but the Gamecocks answered with three straight points to cut the Gator lead to two at 19-17. Florida quickly answered with two points to bring its lead back to four at 21-17. South Carolina fought throughout the end of game one, but Florida took the lead in the match with a 30-24 win.

The Gamecocks took the lead to begin game two, but again, Jenkins answered with a kill to get Florida on the board. After trading points, the game was eventually tied at 8-8. South Carolina then began a 4-0 run to go up 12-8. The Gators worked their way back to within one point several times but did not regain the lead until a Jenkins kill put Florida up 19-18. After a Cruz service error tied the game at 19-19, a block by Jenkins on an attempt by Gamecock setter Megan Hosp gave the Gators the 20-19 advantage. The two teams again traded points, and with the score tied at 21-21, Michelle Chatman (Woodridge, Ill.) began a 7-0 serving run to put Florida ahead 28-21 and put game two out of reach for the Gamecocks. Florida took a 2-0 lead in the match with a 30-23 win in game two.

As they did in the first two games, the Gamecocks got on the board first in game three, but Nicole McCray (Longview, Texas) answered with a kill to tie the game at 1-1. The teams again traded possessions, but with the score tied 3-3, South Carolina opened up a 7-4 lead. After Florida answered with a point of its own, the Gamecocks did the same, taking an 8-5 lead. The Gators went on a 3-1 run to move to within one point at 9-8. Florida tied the game at 11-11 on a service ace by Cruz and took a 12-11 lead on her second consecutive ace. After South Carolina knotted the game at 12-12, Chatman nailed a kill to give Florida the 13-12 advantage. The Gamecocks then went on a 4-0 run to regain the lead at 16-13. After the Gators scored to move to within two, South Carolina answered with a 3-0 run to go ahead 19-14. Florida pulled to within three points at 21-18, but the Gamecocks scored two straight points to go back up by five at 23-18. A kill by Cruz and a Robinson block brought Florida back to within three at 23-20. South Carolina answered to go up 24-20, and after giving up a point to Florida, the Gamecocks added a point of their own to take a 25-21 lead. The Gators then went on a 6-0 run that included a Robinson service ace and a Chatman kill to take the 27-25 advantage. South Carolina would not go away, though, scoring the next two points to tie the game at 27-27 and force the Gators to call their final timeout. On the next rally, Chatman registered a kill to put the Gators back up and take the serve. A hitting error by the Gamecocks gave Florida match point at 29-27, but again, South Carolina fought back and scored the next two points to knot the game at 29-29. A Cruz kill gave the Gators match point again at 30-29, but the Gamecocks answered with a kill to tie the game at 30. A service error by South Carolina gave Florida its third match point opportunity, and Cruz once again lived up to her billing as one of the best players In the country by nailing the final kill to give Florida the 32-30 win in game three.

McCray led the team with 16 kills and no errors in 22 attempts for a .727 hitting efficiency. McCray was followed by Cruz with 15 kills and Robinson with 10. Defensively, Cruz and libero Jen Mandes (Carolina, Puerto Rico) registered 10 digs to lead the Gators. As a team, Florida tallied four solo blocks, including two by Jenkins.

Florida concludes its three-match road swing Wednesday when the Gators travel to Athens, Ga., to face the Georgia Bulldogs. The match begins at 7 p.m. and will be aired live on WRUF-AM850 and at


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