Sunday November 17, 2002VB Sweeps Kentucky, Finishes SEC Season Undefeated
The fourth-ranked University of Florida volleyball team wrapped up its eighth consecutive undefeated SEC season Sunday with a 3-0 sweep (30-22, 30-19, 30-24) of Kentucky in front of 2012 at the O’Connell Center.
With the win, Florida (26-1, 16-0 SEC) finishes the regular season with an undefeated SEC record – its eighth straight season without a conference loss. The Gators also finish the season with a still-active streak of 114 consecutive regular season conference wins.
"Going into this match, knowing that whatever happened in the match would have no bearing on the seeding, and after having clinched the title against South Carolina Friday, there were some concerns about how this team would perform emotionally today," said UF Head Coach Mary Wise. "All credit to the play of our upperclassman – Aury, Nicole, Benavia and Jacque – because they were outstanding. Aury certainly set the tone with what she was doing in the back row defensively as we started the match. It was a good day at the office.
Florida scored the first two points of the match on a kill and a service ace by Aury Cruz (Levittown, Puerto Rico). Kentucky (13-15, 6-10 SEC) got the serve on a service error by Michelle Chatman (Woodridge, Ill.), but returned the favor with a service error or the next play. With an 11-9 lead, Cruz began a 7-0 serving run that included two kills and two blocks from Benavia Jenkins (Fort Pierce, Fla.), and Florida took a 17-9 advantage. The closest Kentucky would get was seven points at 28-21, but the Gators wrapped up the win in game one 30-22.
The Wildcats took the lead first in the second game, scoring off a block. With the score tied 2-2, however, the Gators took a 3-2 advantage and would never relinquish that lead. Florida opened up a 6-1 run that gave the Gators a 9-3 lead that culminated with a block from Cruz and Nicole McCray (Longview, Texas). Kentucky got to within four points at 15-11 before the Gators went on a 5-1 run to take an eight-point lead at 20-12. Florida’s largest lead of 11 points came at the final tally, when the Gators took game two 30-19.
Florida again scored first in game three off a Kentucky ball-handling error. Florida took a 6-2 lead, but the Wildcats scored two straight to close to within two. With the Gators holding a 9-5 lead, Kentucky scored three straight to cut the Florida lead to one point at 9-8. Point by point, however, the Gators added to their lead and won game three 30-24 to wrap up the match.
"There are still areas that we can always improve upon," said McCray, "but we are starting to peak and play our best volleyball towards the end of the season, and that’s what we wanted to do."
Cruz tied her own season-high of five service aces against Kentucky and added a team-high 16 kills and seven digs in the win. In her final regular season home appearance, McCray recorded nine kills and four blocks.
For Kentucky, Kristen Batt led the team with 12 kills, while Aleisha Craven’s eight digs was a team-high.
Prior to the match, the volleyball team honored seniors McCray and Jessica Riester for their contributions to the Gator program.
The Gators travel to Fayetteville, Ark., this week for the SEC Tournament. Florida is the No. 1 seed and will face the same Wildcats Friday at 3 p.m. EST. All tournament matches will be carried live on WRUF-AM850 and onwww.gatorzone.com.