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Friday August 27, 1999Gator Volleyball Upsets Top-ranked Penn State

Lincoln, Neb.

The eighth-ranked Florida volleyball team capitalized on an outstanding blocking effort to upset No. 1 Penn State 3-2 Friday night in the season-opener and advance to the championship round of the State Farm/NACWAA Volleyball Classic as Head Coach Mary Wise earned her 300th school victory in Nebraska Coliseum.

Florida's "new look" team that is bigger at the net and started two new players supported critics who said its preseason ranking was too low. In the midst of the 15-12, 8-15, 15-10, 10-15, 15-12 victory, Florida (1-0, 0-0 SEC) out-blocked the Nittany Lions (0-1, 0-0 Big Ten) 21.5-15. Last season, Penn State finished third in the nation with a 3.75 blocks per game average, while the Gators were 29th with 2.84 bpg. The Gator defense also tallied 105 digs to the Lions' 94. Additionally, five Gators finished with double-digit kills, and six with double-digit digs and double-doubles.

"We out-blocked a perennial powerhouse in that field," Wise (now 353-91 career and 272-28 at Florida) said.

The biggest reasons for that being redshirt freshman Nicole McCray (Longview, Texas/Pine Tree) and Jenny Whitehead (Jenison, Mich./Jenison/Michigan State). The pair combined for nine of those team blocks while also producing nearly one half of Florida's offense. Along with Heather Wright (Martinsville, Ind./Martinsville) and Jen Sanchez (San Antonio, Texas/Providence), they broke the tournament record for total blocks, with Wright setting the standard with 10. Florida's 35 block assists on the match stands as the third most in a single match in program history.

Whitehead led Florida with a career-high and tournament record 25 kills and also added a career-high 16 digs (Previous highs were 15 and 9, respectively.) Jenny Manz (Orange Park, Fla./Middleburg) was close behind with 21 kills and digs. Kris Bova (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior) and Sanchez also recorded 21 digs apiece. The trio is now in the tournament record book for that category.

But, at the helm of the success was Sanchez, who dished out a career-high 75 assists, tying the second-best single-match mark in Florida history.

The Gators will play the winner of the Nebraska-Pacific contest for their first appearance in the championship match Saturday, Aug. 28 at 8 p.m. WRUF-AM 850 will broadcast the match live, and ESPN2 will telecast it on taped delay at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 29.

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