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Saturday December 13, 2003VB Sweeps Penn State, Advances to National Semis

Gainesville, FL

 

The No. 3 University of Florida volleyball team earned an appearance in the NCAA national semifinals for the second straight season and seventh time in school history after defeating No. 10 Penn State 3-0 (30-21, 30-24, 30-16) in the East Regional final Saturday night at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

Florida advances to the national semifinal match without losing a game during the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. The crowd of 3,175 is the largest crowd at an NCAA Tournament match in Gainesville.

Senior right side hitter Jacque Robinson's kill on match point in the third game started a celebration on the Gators' side of the court and in the stands. Florida (35-1) will play the winner of the Hawaii/Georgia Tech match Thursday in Dallas.

"I think that the key to our winning today was what we did on the defensive side, both blocking and digging," Florida coach Mary Wise said. "I think we went toe-to-toe with one of the best defensive teams that has every played here in the O'Connell Center."

Sophomore outside hitter Jane Collymore recorded a match-high 18 points and 15 kills for Florida. Gators senior outside hitter Aury Cruz, named East Regional Most Valuable Player, had a match-high 21 digs and added 15 kills. Robinson (11) and junior middle blocker Sherri Williams (10) scored double-digit kill totals.

Penn State (31-5) was led by Erin Iceman's 10 kills. The Nittany Lions' Cara Smith added nine kills in the loss.

"They are overcoming the loss of a key player and are doing so very well," Penn State coach Russ Rose said of the Gators. "We got our clocks cleaned by a team that played terrific."

The Gators found themselves trailing 5-4 after the match opened at a feverish pace with both teams trading points. Cruz, who had six kills in the first game, scored on three consecutive kills during a 6-1 Florida run that gave it a 10-6 lead.

Florida scored six consecutive points to distance itself from Penn State later in the game. The Gators took a 17-8 lead as a result of the stretch, which saw Robinson and Cruz account for two kills each.

The Gators would extend their first-game advantage to 11 three times before a Penn State long attack gave them the 1-0 lead in the match.

Similar to game one, Florida fell behind Penn State, 4-3, in the early stages of game two. Clinging to a one-point lead at 10-9 and Penn State serving, Williams recorded a kill to give the Gators possession. Williams added a kill on the ensuing serve, and Collymore scored on an ace to give Florida a three-point lead that it would hold for most of the second game.

Collymore recorded three of her six game-two kills on consecutive scores as Florida took a 22-17 lead, and a Cruz kill at the end of a long volley on match point put Florida in position for the sweep.

With the third game tied at nine, Florida took the lead for good on a Penn State long attack. The Gators outscored the Nittany Lions 5-2 during a stretch that concluded with a Williams kill and gave Florida a 20-13 lead.

The Gators scored the match's final six points with junior outside hitter Michelle Chatman holding serve.

Florida extended its winning streak to 35 matches with the victory. The Gators have won an NCAA-record 103 consecutive games.

 

NCAA East Region All-Tournament Team

Aury Cruz, Florida - MVP

Jane Collymore, Florida

Lauren Moscovic, Florida

Sherri Williams, Florida

Erin Iceman, Penn State

Gabby Guerre, Kansas State

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