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Aury Cruz turned in 21 kills and 11 digs in UF's 3-1 NCAA Second Round win vs. USF.

Saturday December 7, 2002VB Defeats USF 3-1 - UF to Host NCAA Regional

Gainesville, FL

Aury Cruz turned in 21 kills and 11 digs in UF's 3-1 NCAA Second Round win vs. USF.

Behind 21 kills and 11 digs from Aury Cruz, the Florida Gator volleyball team knocked South Florida out of the NCAA Tournament with a 3-1 (35-33, 30-24, 20-30, 30-18) win in front of 1,864 Saturday at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

With the win, Florida (32-2) moves on to face Temple, who was a 3-1 winner Saturday over Penn State. The regional will be played in Gainesville beginning Friday. It will be the sixth time since 1991 that the Gators have hosted a regional.

"We had an opportunity to catch live the South Florida-Louisville match in the Conference USA Tournament Finals. Watching I thought, 'There is a team no one would want any part of'," said UF Head Coach Mary Wise. "We talked to the team, with everything they had going for (South Florida), as good as they are, as experienced as they are, used to winning, in-state rival - it would take all of our 'A' games to beat them."

It took 35 points for the Gators to beat the Bulls (30-7) in game one, the most points a Florida team has ever scored. South Florida were ahead of the Gators 15-7, the Bulls' largest lead of the game, before Florida worked its way back to a 19-19 tie. South Florida then went on a 3-0 run to take the 22-19 advantage. The Bulls were up 27-23m then the Gators reeled off four straight to knot the game at 27. After the game was tied 31-31, a block by Benavia Jenkins and Cruz gave Florida game point, but South Florida's Shameka Mitchell's kill tied the game again. The game was knotted again at 33, but two consecutive Bulls' hitting errors ended the game 35-33.

Florida took over the momentum in game two, never trailing. Florida's largest lead was seven points, and the Gators held on to win game two 30-24. After the break between games two and three, however, South Florida took over the momentum, as Michelle Collier recorded seven of her 28 kills in that game alone. The Bulls took control early and took game three 30-20.

After the Bulls started game four with an 8-3 lead the Gators came roaring back to tie the game at 8-8. The two teams stayed within one point of each other until Florida took a 15-14 lead. After that point, the Gators went on a 15-4 run to end the game and South Florida's season.

"We knew it was going to be close for the beginning of the game," said UF's Nicole McCray. "We tried to do a point scoring run where we were up two points at every fifth interval. That is what we tried to do, just score points one at a time and use our blocking and defense in the front and back row. We tried to be up 5-3, 10-8, 15-13. That allowed up to keep pushing."

McCray and Jacque Robinson also registered double digits in kills with 15 and 13, respectively, while Michelle Chatman added 12 digs on the defensive end for the Gators. Jenkins kept her blocking going, with five blocks, including two solo blocks.

For South Florida, Collier's 28 kills led the team, followed by 21 from Jolene Patton and 12 from Mitchell. Five Bulls registered double digits in digs, and Collier added three service aces in the effort.

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