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Friday December 12, 2003No. 3 VB Sweeps CSU, Advances to Regional Final

Gainesville, FL


The No. 3 University of Florida volleyball team moved one step closer to advancing to the Final Four after defeating No. 12 Colorado State 3-0 (30-13, 30-22, 30-26) in the East Regional semifinal Friday evening in front of 3,136 fans at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

Florida (34-1) will face Penn State (31-4) on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the O'Connell Center in the East Regional final with the winner heading to Dallas next week for the Final Four.

Senior outside hitter Aury Cruz had a match-high 16.5 points including 12 kills and 10 digs for the Gators. Cruz also added four service aces, which tied for the second-highest total in Florida's NCAA Tournament history.

Joining Cruz with double-figure kill totals were junior middle blocker Sherri Williams and sophomore outside hitter Jane Collymore with 11 and 10, respectively. Collymore recorded a match-high 14 digs.

"The important thing about tonight is that our season gets to continue," Florida coach Mary Wise said. "We thought that they were the toughest opponent in the tournament to face in the Regional Semifinal.

"I think in many ways our team was energized by Aury's serving and the way the crowd responded to it."

Colorado State (30-5) was led by Katie Jo Shirley's match-high 14 kills.

Florida took control of the match from its first serve against Colorado State, going on an 11-0 run to begin the match. Cruz recorded all four of her aces during the stretch, which was halted by Shirley's kill. Collymore had a kill and a block during a 6-0 run Gators run that put them ahead 17-5.

Cruz, who finished the first game with four kills and seven digs, shared a block with junior outside hitter Michelle Chatman and notched a kill on consecutive plays to extend Florida's lead to 25-11. Florida closed out the opening game with a 4-0 run capped off by back-to-back kills by Williams.

The Gators continued their dominance into the second game as they jumped out to a 6-1 lead behind two kills each from senior right-side hitter Jacque Robinson and Williams. Williams accounted for a kill and a block during a 5-0 Florida run that increased its lead to 13-3, but Colorado State would answer.

The Rams scored six consecutive points to trim the Gators' lead to 14-9 in the second game before junior setter Lauren Moscovic stopped the run with a kill. Colorado State came within three of Florida, 16-13, after going on a 3-0 run and trailed 24-22 later in the game.

That was as close as it would come, however, as the Gators scored the game's final six points.

Colorado State took its first lead of the match in the third game when it went ahead 3-2 on Becky Sarauer's kill. The Gators regained the lead at 7-6 after a kill by Chatman, and they scored three consecutive points to go ahead 13-10.

Florida fell behind the Rams again at 16-15 in the third game before it scored the next three points on two scores by Chatman and a kill by Robinson. The run prompted Colorado State to call a timeout, and the Gators did not trail for the remainder of the match. After Colorado State went on a 3-0 run when it faced match point, 29-26, Florida secured the victory on Sarauer's service error.

"They play fabulous defense, and you have to give them a lot of credit for that," Colorado State's Sarauer said.

The sweep extended the Gators' winning streak to 100 games, an NCAA record. Florida has now won 34 consecutive matches.

In the first semifinal match of the day, No. 10 Penn State rallied from a 1-0 deficit to defeat No. 6 Kansas State 3-1 (12-30, 30-27, 30-21, 31-29).

Erin Iceman recorded 14 kills for Penn State (31-4), and Kaleena Walters had 24 digs for the Nittany Lions. Kansas State (30-5) was led by Lauren Goehring's match-high 14 kills.

Led by Valeria Hejjas' five kills in the first game, Kansas State (30-5) cruised to a 1-0 lead in the match. Cara Smith's seven kills in the second game helped Penn State hold off a late Wildcats run to even the match at 1 before it went ahead 2-1 after three games.

Penn State trailed 29-28 in the fourth game before scoring the game's final points on two attack errors and a kill by Ashley Pederson.

Saturday's 6 p.m. East Regional final between Florida and Penn State will be televised live on Fox Sports Net Florida and on Cox channel 68.



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