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Sherri Williams (right) notched five kills and six blocks Friday for the Gators.

Saturday August 23, 2003No. 3 VB Falls to No. 1 USC, 3-0

Honolulu, Hawaii

Sherri Williams (right) notched five kills and six blocks Friday for the Gators.

Benavia Jenkins scored 13 points on 10 kills and three blocks, and Aury Cruz added 12 points on 12 kills to lead Florida as the Gators fell to defending national champion USC 3-0 (31-29, 30-17, 30-25) in the opening match of the 2003 State Farm Classic presented by NACWAA.

"I thought that game one was pretty high-level elite volleyball for the start of the 2003 season," said UF Head Coach Mary Wise. "Unfortunately, losing that, we didn't recover quick enough in game two and battled fairly well in game three. This is one match, and there are no championships won in August. All of us will know that they are the team everyone will compare themselves to. They're a very good team, well-coached, and there is no question that they are the team to beat."

USC took the first game of the match 31-29 after battling point for point with the Gators throughout the opening stanza. After the Women of Troy took a 3-0 lead, Aury Cruz put Florida on the board with a kill, and Sherri Williams followed two plays later with a kill to cut the USC lead to 4-2. After another point from the Women of Troy, the Gators went on a 5-0 run that included kills from Williams and Jacque Robinson and block assists from Williams and Robinson to take a 7-5 lead. The two teams traded points, and after USC tied the game 9-9, the Gators went on a 3-0 run with a kill and a service ace from Michelle Chatman and a kill by Cruz. Florida's largest lead of the game came at 22-18 when Benavia Jenkins and Lauren Moscovic combined for a block to give the Gators a four-point lead. The Women of Troy came storming back, however, and tied the game at 23-23. After trading points again, Florida held a 29-28 lead when USC's April Ross' attack went wide. USC rattled off three straight after that, taking the game 31-29.

The Women of Troy picked up where they left off to begin the second game, scoring five straight points before a kill by Williams got Florida on the board. The Gators scored again before USC rattled off four more points to take an 11-2 lead. The Gators worked their way back to just a five point deficit at 17-12 behind back-to-back kills from Robinson and Cruz, respectively. With USC in the lead 20-12, Florida scored three straight to close to within five at 20-15. That was the closest the Gators would get to USC in game two, falling 30-17.

In game three, Florida scored the first point on a service error by Bibiana Candelas but quickly fell behind 4-1. Jenkins answered for Florida with a kill to make it 4-2. Again, the teams traded points, and with USC leading 14-10, the Gators answered with kills from Moscovic and Cruz. The Women of Troy scored two straight to take a 16-12 advantage. Williams took control for Florida after that and scored four straight points on one kill and three blocks (with Robinson and Chatman) to give the Gators a 17-16 lead. USC reclaimed the lead and held off a late surge by the Gators to take the final game 30-25.

"USC is a great team and you have to give a lot of credit to them," said Moscovic. "They have a great offense, but we also could've stepped it up, I think."

Williams added five kills and six blocks for the Gators, and Chatman tallied six kills, a service ace and one block.

For the Women of Troy, Keao Burdine tallied 12 kills, a service ace and a block assist to lead the team in points with 13.5. April Ross was one dig shy of a double-double, adding 10 kills and nine digs.

The Gators will face Kansas State Saturday at 11 p.m. EST.











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