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Saturday September 13, 2003No. 3 VB Sweeps No. 20 Minnesota

Gainesville, FL

The No. 3 University of Florida volleyball team defeated its fourth ranked opponent of the season Saturday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center with a 3-0 (30-19, 30-28, 30-24) win against No. 20 Minnesota in the Hilton Volleyball Classic.

The Gators improve to 8-1 on the season while the Golden Gophers drop to 3-5.

"It was two heavy weights duking it out, and we exchanged punches," Florida coach Mary Wise said. "That’s what it’s like when you play top teams."

Florida was led by tournament MVP Aury Cruz, a senior outside hitter who registered 10 kills and four blocks for a total of 12.5 points. Florida senior middle blocker Benavia Jenkins, who was honored before the match for becoming Florida’s all-time blocks leader Friday, had a match-high seven blocks and added five kills. Sophomore outside hitter Jane Collymore had nine kills and finished with 11.5 points for the Gators.

Minnesota challenged the Gators in the first game, alternating scores with them until the fifth point and taking a 7-6 lead. The play of junior middle blocker Sherri Williams during the first game helped Florida go on a 9-1 run to take a commanding 20-12 lead. Williams, who finished the match with six kills, accounted for three kills and a block during that stretch and scored the match point with a powerful kill.

Minnesota matched the Gators’ play for most of the second game and was tied with them at 18. It appeared Florida had pulled away in game two when a Jenkins block capped off a 5-0 run that put Florida up 23-18, but Minnesota would make it close with the Gators facing match point. After senior Jacque Robinson’s kill put match point within the Gators’ reach at 29-26, Minnesota scored two consecutive points before its serve was long.

After taking a 1-0 lead to start game three, Florida did not lead again until Jenkins’ kill put it ahead 20-19. A 6-2 run, during which Collymore had two kills, put the Gators up 28-22. Cruz’s kill on match point secured the victory for Florida.

The 5,019 in attendance at the O’Connell Center for the Florida-Minnesota match was the seventh-best crowd in school history.

Before the Gators’ match, Florida A&M defeated Xavier 3-0 (30-17, 30-22, 30-20). The Rattlers’ Adriana Kostadinova and Andreina Ruiz each had 12 kills as Florida A&M improved to 3-3. Xavier, which dropped to 5-3 on the season, was led by Kate Duchek’s 11 kills and Molly Martin’s 18 assists.

Joining Cruz on the all-tournament team were Florida's Jenkins and Jen Mandes, Minnesota's Cassie Busse and Paula Gentil, and Florida A&M's Adriana Kostadinova and Andreina Ruiz.

Florida travels to Chicago next week to play in the 2003 Wildcat Classic. The Gators will open the three-day tournament Friday against Chicago State at 5 p.m.

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