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Saturday December 20, 2003VB Falls to USC 3-1 in National Title Match

Dallas, TX

The University of Florida volleyball team (36-2) fell to Southern California in the national title match Saturday 3-1

(25-30, 30-27, 30-19, 30-26). Aury Cruz led the Gators with 18 kills and 18 digs in the effort.

Jacque Robinson tallied a season-high 14 kills, while Jane Collymore and Sherri Williams each also recorded double figure kills for Florida with 14 and 10, respectively, and Williams led the Gators defensive effort with nine blocks.

Florida outblocked USC by one, something they had not counted on doing. The Women of Troy out dug Florida by nine, something that Florida Head Coach Mary Wise felt was a big part of USCís win.

"We didnít feel like (blocking) was a stat we would win in the battle of the boxscore," Wise said. "To win a championship you have to be able to block balls. The back row play of Ross and Burdine really came through. USCís back row defense is stellar and many of those digs came back as transition kills."

"USC is a terrific team with talent. They overcame our great effort with great size. Out team showed a lot of fight in battling a great team."

Floridaís Cruz and Collymore were named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament team along with USCís Burdine, April Ross and Bibiana Candelas and Cassie Busse from Minnesota.

"I will always remember this," Cruz said. "Weíve worked hard all season. This was the best season. Getting to the final game is one of the best things I could ever feel."

Florida held the lead from the first point in game one. USC was able to tie the game twice early, but were never able to overcome an 8-2 Gator run. The Gators pulled ahead to lead by as many as seven at 12-5 on a block by Michelle Chatman and Aury Cruz. USC fought back later coming within one at 23-22, but Florida rattled off a 4-0 run on Jane Collymore's serve to pull further in the lead. Florida took the game on the second game point at 30-25 when USCís Bibiana Candelas was called for being in the net.

The two teamís battled in a close game through game two. The Women of Troy took their first lead of the match at 16-15. Florida tied the game at 17, but were not able to pull ahead again. USC lead by as many as four at 29-25. Florida continued to battled and forced USC to thee game points before scoring the final point on a block by Emily Adams and Katie Olsovsky at 30-28.

USC used a 6-0 run and two 4-0 runs to take game three at 30-19. The Women of Troy were led in that game by six kills a piece from Burdine and Ross.

The Women of Troy led from the first point in the fourth and final game. They led by seven at 22-15, but the Gators began to stage a comeback and came within two at 25-23, but were not able to overcome the strong USC offensive effort. The Gators lost game four 30-26, with USCís Candelas putting down a kill for match point.

Championship All-Tournament Most Outstanding Player Keao Burdine led both teams with 23 kills.

The team will arrive at the Gainesville Regional Airport around 1:15 a.m., Sunday, Dec. 21.

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