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Sunday November 21, 1999VB Wins SEC Tournament With 3-1 Win Over Arkansas

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.

No. 4 Florida captured its seventh Southeastern ConferenceTournament title and placed three players on the all-tournament team with a 6-15, 15-9, 15-1, 15-2 decision over No. 24 Arkansas to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament Sunday at the Stokely Athletics Center.

The Gators (28-2) have defeated the Lady'Backs (27-6) in four of the past five consecutive meetings in the tournament finals.

Senior Jenny Whitehead (Jenison, Mich./Jenison/Michigan State) was named the MVP. She was the only Gator to record double-digit kills in all three matches. It is her first such honor. Senior setter Jen Sanchez (San Antonio, Texas/Providence) and Jerilyn Hattendorf (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles) joined Whithead in the honors for Florida.

Arkansas held Florida to a .032 hitting efficiency in game one to give Florida its first single-game loss since Oct. 8 vs. Auburn, breaking a 41-game winning streak and ending a string of 13 consecutive sweeps. But, Florida continued to improve throughout the match. They rebounded and took game two as the Gators hit .156 to Arkansas' -.044.

"Arkansas had a good game plan and played very loose early," UF Coach Mary Wise said. "The first game wasn't lack of effort on our part. Arkansas was just flawless in serving and passing."

Florida dominated the final two games. Florida won 30 of 33 points, including an 11-0 lead in game four. A 15-9 digging effort kept the Lady'Backs from gaining any rhythm during that series. Sophomore Kris Bova (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior) came up with six of those digs. She finished with a match-high 13.

"Games three and four were certainly a result of our passing and the defensive production we got out of Kris Bova in the back row," Wise said. " I thought she was a huge key to this match."

The team combined to hit .522 in game three and .444 in game four. Florida had 26 kills and only two errors on 50 attempts through the last half. Florida's third-game attack highlighted the match. The Gators had 12 kills with no errors on 23 attempts.

"We play well for only half of the match…against a team as talented as Florida, you can't do that and expect to win," Arkansas Coach Chris Poole said.

Senior Jenny Manz (Orange Park, Fla./Middleburg) and freshman Nicole McCray (Longview, Texas/Pine Tree) led all hitters with 11 kills. McCray posted a match-high .611 hitting efficiency. She was errorless with 11 kills on 18 attempts and added three blocks. Manz added five digs. Whitehead was close behind with 10 kills and earned her eighth double-double of the season with 11 digs. Hattendorf pounded nine kills, and recorded 10 digs and a block solo.

All-tournament team honoree, Lady'Back Yarleen Santiago, led her squad with nine kills and three blocks.

Host Tennessee's Ariana Wilson and Kentucky's Kristin Batt rounded out the all-tournament team.

Florida will play host to the second annual Florida Volleyball Conference Challenge at the Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex Nov. 26-27. The Gators play South Florida Friday, Nov. 27 at 2 p.m. Kentucky and Marquette kick off the tournament at noon.

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