Physical play powers Gators


Published: Sunday, September 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, September 1, 2002 at 12:14 a.m.
If No. 7 Florida is looking for an identity early on this season, it may have well found it Saturday against No. 19 Illinois at the University Centre Hotel Invitational.
Against the Illini, who play with four players standing 6-foot-3 or taller, Illinois was outhustled and outmuscled at the net by Florida's middle blockers in the Gators' 3-0 (30-16, 32-30, 30-25) win before 3,404 fans at the O'Connell Center.
Through three games, Florida (3-0) has proven to be quick, athletic and imposing at the net. Illinois' All-American candidate Lisa Argabright, a 6-foot-4 junior, was held to nine kills and a .091 hitting efficiency and her team hit just .050.
"Lisa Argabright is every bit as tall as 6-4, that's not a stretch in the media guide," UF coach Mary Wise said. "The only way we stay with her was because of our athleticism."
Invitational MVP Jacque Robinson was part of it, recording 11 kills while freshman Jane Collymore added 12. Florida also blocked a total of nine balls, led by senior middle blocker Nicole McCray's three.
"Most definitely their blocking slowed us down," seventh-year Illinois coach Don Hardin said. "They are not just athletic, but they are smart with what they are doing. That is what impressed me."
Florida, though, endured a few tense moments at the end of Game 2. The Gators fought off two Illini game points before holding on to win when Melissa Vandrey's attack went into the net. Illinois wasted its two chances for a 1-1 tie when Sue Webber hit an attack into the net at 29-28 and committed a service error at 30-29.
"We just wanted to come out here and outquick them with ball control," McCray said. "We knew that we could spread our offense and get things open for all of our hitters."
Sophomore setter Lauren Moscovic continued her solid early season play, recording 38 assists a day after totaling 58 in Florida's two wins Friday.
Florida and Illinois haven't been strangers in recent years. The Gators defeated the Illini 3-0 last season in Champagne, Ill., and also defeated them 3-2 in an NCAA Regional at the O'Dome in 1999.
Florida faces an even tougher test next weekend with matches against No. 3 Southern Cal and No. 23 BYU at the BYU Classic in Provo, Utah. Adding to the challenge, it now seems unlikely junior Aury Cruz will join the team for the trip.
Cruz led the Puerto Rican national team to a shocking 3-0 upset of the Dominican Republic Saturday at the World Volleyball Championships in Germany. Puerto Rico is now 2-0.
Meanwhile, in Saturday's other match at the O'Connell Center, Rhode Isand defeated Alabama-Birmingham 3-0 (30-27, 30-27, 30-20).
You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or by e-mail at zimmerb@gvillesun.com

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