Friday September 10, 1999Volleyball Advances to InnTowner Championship
On the strength of two senior All-Americans and a solid defense, the sixth-ranked Florida volleyball team advanced to the championship round of the InnTowner Invitational with a 15-11, 7-11, 15-5, 15-2 victory over North Carolina Friday night at host No. 13 Wisconsin's Field House.
Senior All-Americans Jenny Manz (Orange Park, Fla./Middleburg) and Jen Sanchez (San Antonio, Texas/Providence) each recorded double-doubles. Manz led all players with 17 kills and 16 digs and was second with a .406 hitting efficiency, committing only four errors on 32 attempts. Sanchez, who posted a match-high .500 hitting percentage (4-0-8), recorded 41 assists and 13 digs.
Florida's defense as a whole commanded the match, due in part to the return of sophomore Niki Hartley (San Jose, Calif./St. Francis) from the Junior World Championships. Hartley recorded a career-high 11 digs. As a team, Florida recorded a 69-52 digs and 11-5 blocks advantage. On the game, the Gators hit .279 to UNC's .150.
Game one opened with a 3-0 Florida (5-2, 0-0 SEC) lead, but it didn't take long for the Tarheels (2-3, 0-0 ACC) to catch up. North Carolina nipped at the Gators' heals throughout the match, tying the score two more times, including a key run, which knotted it at 11. UF pulled away with a UNC hitting error and a tip kill from Heather Wright (Martinsville, Ind./Martinsville), and closed it with an ace and a bobbled pass off of the serve.
"I think this match was a good reminder of how we'll continue to get everyone's best shots," Coach Mary Wise said. "UNC played very well through the first two games."
North Carolina ran away from a 2-2 tie in game two and led by as many as seven points twice in the game. The Tarheels hit .357 to the Gators' .227. Florida was doing its part defensively with a 21-15 digs advantage, but needed a quick change to beat the defending ACC Champions.
And quick it was. A revitalized Florida offense took only 29 minutes to dispose of the Tarheels in the final two games. Florida stepped up its play on both sides of the ball. The Gators produced a match-high .448 offensive effort in game four, and the Tarheels never averaged in positive numbers. Defensively, Florida notched a 2-0 and 5-1 blocking advantage through the final games.
"We really dominated at the net," Wise said. "Our blocking changed the course of the match."
The Gators will play No. 13 Wisconsin Saturday, Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. The host Badgers defeated Dayton 15-3, 15-9, 15-1 to advance. They have won the InnTowner Invitational title for the past four years.