Aury Cruz is named a first-team All-American; Benavia Jenkins is second.


Published: Monday, July 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 2, 2002 at 1:38 p.m.

Aury Cruz and Benavia Jenkins made it to San Diego this weekend after all. Just not with the rest of their Gators volleyball teammates.

Cruz and Jenkins were honored as 2001 All-Americans at a banquet Friday night in San Diego, the site of this year's Final Four. Cruz, a sophomore outside hitter, was announced as a first-team selection while Jenkins, a sophomore middle blocker, made the second-team.

Cruz became the first Florida Gator to be be named a first-team All-American since Jenny Manz in 1998. The award comes less than a month after Cruz was named the SEC Player of the Year.

"We would like to think she is one of the top 12 players in the nation," said Florida coach Mary Wise, who is also in San Diego this weekend.

A 5-foot-11 outside hitter from Puerto Rico, Cruz averaged 4.88 kills per game this season in leading Florida to the NCAA Regional finals. Cruz tied a Florida NCAA Tournament record with a match-high 31 kills in the Gators' 3-2 loss at Nebraska in last Saturday's Elite Eight. Cruz became just the second Florida sophomore to be a first-team All-American and first since Aycan Gokberk in 1993.

While Cruz' selection to the first-team seemed to be expected, Jenkins' second-team selection was not. It was well-deserved nonetheless. A 6-foot middle blocker from Fort Pierce, Jenkins' athleticism allowed her to be a force both offensively and defensively as she was a vital cog of Florida's 28-2 season. Jenkins averaged 3.02 kills per game while hitting an amazing .412. She also became the leader of Florida's defensive front, averaging 1.60 blocks per game.

This is the first time Florida has had two sophomore All-Americans in the same season. Both All-American teams were selected by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

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