August 29, 2005 - by
2005 FSU Volleyball Season Outlook

Aug. 29, 2005

ONE HEART BEAT

The first order of business for Florida State head coach Todd Kress after seasons end in 2004 was to find those players who wanted to compete with their heart. He started planning early because he dreamed of a 2005 squad that would show a passion and can-do attitude throughout the entire year. Eventually he landed 12 enthusiastic ladies–eight returners, two transfers, and two freshmen–who worked hard during the off-season in order to return to Florida State with a newfound attitude. While they represent three countries, five states, and seven ages, each one brings a different element to the team that forms a solid nucleus. The 2005 Seminoles are in rhythm both emotionally and physically so this year’s Florida State volleyball theme is simple: One Heart Beat. Whether FSU is in practice, in the weight room, on campus or preparing for the most important match of the season–one can expect the Seminoles to be in unison at all times.

BRIEFLY

The Seminoles ended 2004 with an 18-11 overall and 9-7 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) mark. The Tribe finished the year fourth in the league race and fell to North Carolina in the opening round of the ACC Tournament.


The addition of four new players and the loss of two prominent middle blockers, Aisha Carr and Amanda Santos, leave the Seminoles with an entire different look in 2005. While a fourth place finish in the ACC regular season might have fallen below the team’s expectations last year, the Tribe did pull together an impressive list of accomplishments. For one, then senior Amanda Santos not only landed on the All-ACC and All-East Region first team lists, but she also became the program’s very first American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American when she was tabbed an honorable mention selection at the Final Four. Quite as impressive is the fact that Kress celebrated career victory No. 200 on Oct. 15, 2004, against North Carolina, making him the second youngest active coach in history to achieve 200 wins in such a short amount of time.


As a team, seven players made the conference honor roll and the entire squad was recognized by Florida State University Athletics for logging the second most number of community service hours of any team. In the summer, sophomore Summer Weissing made a gigantic leap in her career by being chosen to represent the United States at the U20 World Championships. She started all five matches and led Team USA in defense. And finally, seniors Kristen Rust and Andreza Santos were selected to the 2005 Preseason All-ACC team. The two are expected to lead Kress’ troop on the court.

ON THE SEASON

Outside hitter Kristen Rust (Cincinnati, Ohio/McAuley HS), setter Jessica Skower (Naples, Fla./Naples HS), and libero Summer Weissing (Boca Raton, Fla./Olympic Heights HS) return as starters and join former letterwinners Kim Crawford (Ft. Myers, Fla./Ft. Myers HS), Sarah Griffin (Hereford, Texas/Hereford HS), Andreza Santos (Minas Gerais, Brazil/College of S. Idaho), Lauren Scott (Corona, Calif./Barton County CC), and Lauren Walker (Missouri City, Texas/Hightower HS). Transferring from Garden City Community College is junior setter Zrinka Tomic (Vinkovci, Croatia) and from Long Beach State sophomore Makini Thompson (Quincy, Mass). The final piece of the puzzle is found in two dynamic freshmen, Marrita Royster-Crockett (Tallahassee, Fla./Florida HS) and Gabrielle Rivera (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico/Academica San Jose HS) who are ranked as the 22nd-best recruiting class in the nation according to Volleyball Magazine. With a roster that numbers 12, fourth year head coach Kress will have many options and depth at every position. Kress concludes that the advantage of the depth will be the added competition among the players who are trying to earn starting positions.


According To Kress…

“I’m excited with the team as a whole this year. I think that everyone has really done their part preparing for the season…in fact they have put in a lot of preparation. The athletes did their hard work during the summer and are prepared for when we are ready to go on day one of the preseason. I think that preparation will pay off for a successful year.”


“Last year we were so middle dominated with Amanda Santos and Aisha Carr, so a lot of our offense went their direction and towards them. They were a big part of what made us go last season. This year the majority of our offense, from what I see, will come from our pins out at the antennas. Our left sides and opposites are going to be our strengths with Rust, Santos, Royster-Crockett, and Thompson. I really look for a lot of pop from those four. And for our middles, leading the way are Scott and Rivera. That will be the one position that we are going to need to be able to get some production out of to kind of stabilize our outsides.”

THE COACHING STAFF

His philosophy is based on tradition of the past, working on excelling in the fundamentals of the game, focusing on hard work in the classroom, and grooming individuals to leave FSU as more well-rounded women in all areas of their lives. It didn’t take long for Todd Kress to make a lasting impression on his team and the ACC conference in just three seasons at Florida State. Not only has he posted a 55-41 record (.573 winning percentage), Kress has also logged winning seasons in two of three years, including a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2002. With this early success, Kress has immediately started a tradition at FSU and his ultimate goal is to establish a winning program at the university that carries on for many years.


In 10 seasons as the head coach at Fairfield University, North Illinois University and Florida State, Kress has logged an impressive career record of 207-116 (.641 winning percentage). Part of his success is due to the fact that he recognizes the importance of having a strong supporting cast around him. Therefore, last season Kress brought in associate head coach Rita Buck-Crockett, a successful professional athlete, coach, and Olympian, to spearhead the defensive training. During the off-season, strategic assistant John Spinney was hired by Kress to lead the setters and the new Florida State coaching staff was set in place with a mixture of both wisdom and talent.


Also returning this season is the strength and conditioning coach, Eric Gramza, who is an extremely important member of the coaching staff although he is often behind the scenes. Gramza works year around with the volleyball players and his primary responsibility is implementing the strength and conditioning program for the team.


According To Kress…

“Rita provides a lot in the fact that she does so much of the defensive training, concepts, and what we are going to be doing as a team. I know we are going to do some different things defensively this year…we are going to run different looks. I’d like to throw three to four different defenses out there in any given match as opposed to what we did last year. That will make us have a different look and I think she’ll prepare the team for those plans.”


“I brought John in to do our setter training. That will be his primary duty and then he’ll be in charge of the blocking scheme and what we’re going to do blocking wise every match. John is also very tactical. I think he is a very technical coach…he is very insightful in his thought and is great with match preparation. He’ll provide a lot in many different areas.”


“Eric is a valuable member of our staff and he does an excellent job with the strength and conditioning program at Florida State. He works hard and puts in a lot of hours year around to ensure that our players are physically fit and in top shape to compete at the collegiate level.”

THE NEWCOMERS

The 2004 recruiting class is quite interesting considering two are transfers (Makini Thompson, Zrinka Tomic) and two are true freshmen (Marrita Royster-Crockett, Gabrielle Rivera). Regardless of their ages, the fact is all four pose a threat considering each has a substantial amount of experience and skill and will compete for starting spots at their respective positions. Something also special about the newcomers is the fact that Royster-Crockett is the daughter of associate head coach Rita Buck-Crockett so the Seminoles mean it literally when they say they are just like family.

According To Kress…

“We have a very interesting group of newcomers. It’s far from a group of just freshmen coming in. We have two transfers and two true freshmen. Makini Thompson transferred from Long Beach State and we are very fortunate to pick her up. If Thompson is healthy she will definitely contribute a lot to our team because I see her only getting better and better as they days go on. Thompson is an unbelievable athlete. She has got a lot of pop, she can hit with a lot of pace, she has a wide range of shots, and she is going to be fun to watch. I really look forward to her staying healthy and helping us out a ton this year.”


“I believe Marrita Royster-Crockett is one of the top incoming freshmen in the entire national class of 2005. She is a great athlete and has the bloodline there with her mom and her father who are both tremendous athletes. She is becoming a student of the game and learning the game. By combing that with her athleticism I think she has a great chance of competing in her first year.”


Zrinka Tomic (pronounced Za-RINK-ah Tom-MITCH) is from Croatia but has played here in the states the last two years. She is very smart, very intelligent. She is left-handed as a setter so obviously that is a very huge plus for her. We may look at a 6-2 or running a lot of different options because she will allow us to have several different options on offense. Zrinka has great ball-handling skills but can also run a tight offense to help us out.”


Gabrielle Rivera is currently overseas playing in the junior national world championships. She is playing middle for Puerto Rico this summer. Our long term goal is to move her to the outside or the opposite. This year she is going to play middle blocker for us which is the most comfortable role for her because she has played that her entire life. Gaby could be one of the best players to go through this program. She has a ton of ability, a huge heart, and I think she’ll do great things.”

Outside Hitters

The one area that should not pose a threat for the Seminoles is the outside hitter positions. Florida State has three senior veterans returning who are headlining the group–Kristen Rust, Andreza Santos, and Lauren Scott–and each of them will provide numerous options for the Tribe along with newcomers Gabrielle Rivera, Marrita Royster-Crockett, and Makini Thompson.


Rust led Florida State with 3.80 kills per game in 2004 and Santos, despite missing half the season with an injury, averaged a healthy 2.22 kpg. and .256 hitting percentage. Scott saw limited action last year but averaged a respectable 1.93 kpg. and hit a .209 clip, while Thompson hit .288 and averaged 3.24 kills per game for Long Beach State while leading the 49ers to the NCAA Tournament. With seven Tribe members capable of playing outside hitter, it is safe to say it’s the one area Florida State should dominate.


According To Kress…

“The hitters could be the most athletic group we have had since I’ve been here. The fact that we can throw Rust, Santos, Rivera, Thompson, Scott, and Royster-Crockett out there says a lot about my confidence in this group. They are all big jumpers and they all hit with pace. They just need to continue to learn to hit more shots which we are going to learn how to do in preseason. Also, they need to be smart about their shot selections. If they do that, I really am going to like our front row this year.”

Middle Blockers

With two key players lost to graduation, the Seminoles have their work cut out for them at the middle position. Senior Lauren Scott returns and although she saw limited action last year, she was able to learn a great deal from veterans Aisha Carr and Amanda Santos. With one season at the Division I level under her belt, 2005 could be a breakout season for Scott and Kress will rely on her to lead the way at the middle position.


She is a freshman and young, but Gabrielle Rivera is far from lacking talent or experience. Rivera, the daughter of a former Puerto Rican national basketball team member, has been a member of the PR Junior National team the last two seasons and just like teammate Summer Weissing, she competed at the U20 World Championships in Turkey this summer. Considered one of the top recruits in the nation, Rivera will look for an opportunity to transform into a starting middle at the college level.


According To Kress…

“Leading the way at middle are Laura Scott and Gabrielle Rivera. That will be the one position that we are going to need to be able to get some production out of to kind of stabilize our outsides. This will be a rebuilding year for our middles and I’ll look for someone to step up and assume a leadership role here. Anytime you lose two franchise-type players like Aisha Carr and Amanda Santos, it’s hard to fill those shoes right away. This will be a key position and I feel like we’ll need a lot of production and early hard work out of the middle blockers.”

Setters

Junior Jessica Skower quarterbacked the Seminoles in 2004 and started all but one match the entire season. With 1,348 set assists last season, she not only led the Seminoles, but ranked fifth in the ACC. In two seasons at FSU she has accumulated 1,952 total assists which ranks her eighth all-time on the Seminoles individual single season list.


One luxury about this year is Florida State will sport two setters who are both willing and able to guide the Seminole offense. Junior college transfer Zrinka Tomic will challenge Skower for playing time at the setter position and her stature will provide a completely different look for the Tribe.


According To Kress…

“Having two setters will give us the opportunity to look at a 6-2 at any given time or we may stick with the 5-1. Jessica Skower and Zrinka Tomic are both very capable of running our offense as Jessica did last season. Zrinka has experience and she has done it…she is a very heady player and has the ability to step right in at this level. I feel very comfortable at the setter position this year.”

Defensive Specialist/Libero

She has permanently inked her name in the Florida State record book after tallying an impressive 399 digs (3.66 dpg) during her freshman season in 2004–and she’s only getting started. A fan favorite thanks to the passion and enthusiasm she displays at matches, Summer Weissing returns as the frontrunner at the libero position in 2005. Weissing is one of the nation’s best liberos and she landed on the United State’s U20 World Championship team this past summer, traveling to Turkey, with the red, white and blue. In October, Weissing was named Volleyball Magazine’s “Player of the Month,” which was a huge accomplishment for both the native of Boca Raton, Fla., and the FSU volleyball program as a whole. Weissing is a gem for the Seminoles and she is on track to become the Seminoles all-time dig leader. Joining Weissing are veteran defensive specialists Kim Crawford, Sarah Griffin and Lauren Walker who will compete for playing time. Griffin is used as a utility player and logged a considerable amount of playing time in 2004. She averaged 1.85 dpg and registered 21 aces in 104 games. A leader both on and off the court, Griffin sets the bar in all areas of her life for others to follow.


According To Kress…

“At defensive specialist, Summer Weissing has obviously taken her game to a completely different level this summer. She represented the United States in Turkey at the U20 World Championships, which is an incredible honor for her. That is really a testament to her work ethic and determination. So, I really look forward to her showing off her stuff and making all those around her better. As for Kim Crawford, Sarah Griffin, and Lauren Walker, we are going to need production out of them. Ball handling is going to be huge for us this year. That is going to be a big key for us. We are going to need them to step up and make our offense go.”

The Schedule

The Florida State volleyball scheduled is loaded with a great deal of exhilaration and challenge for the upcoming season as three teams ranked in the CSTV/AVCA Coaches Top 25 preseason poll and six 2004 NCAA Tournament teams will face off against the Seminoles. FSU will battle instate rivals South Florida, preseason No. 8 Florida, and Miami during the course of the season.


The Tribe will open the year with the FSU Invitational where they will play host to Mercer, Pittsburgh, and South Carolina during Sept. 2-3 in Tallahassee. The Panthers advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year before falling to No. 25 Ohio State in the opening round. On Sept. 9-10, the Seminole travel to the Midwest with perhaps their toughest competition of the year slated at the Kansas State Invitational. The Seminoles take on host and 2004 NCAA Tournament team K-State on Sept. 9 (Friday) at 7:30 p.m. before battling 2004 NCAA Semi-finalist, Minnesota, on Saturday, Sept. 10. FSU closes out the weekend with a match-up versus Houston. The Kansas State Wildcats finished 2004 with a final No. 23 ranking and the Gophers were No. 2, respectively.


After a home contest against South Florida Sept. 14, the Seminoles will gear up for a competitive road trip that finds the Tribe playing at Florida (Sept. 19), Maryland and Boston College. The Gators completed the season with a No. 13 final ranking and a trip to the NCAA Tournament, while the Terps also advanced to the NCAA Tournament and will be the first ACC squad Florida State faces on Sept. 23. The following evening, Sept. 24, FSU concludes the weekend in Chestnut Hill, Ma., as the Tribe faces new league opponent, Boston College, at 7:00 p.m. The Seminoles finish the month of September with an ACC home match versus Georgia Tech on the 30th at 7:00 p.m.


Nineteen ACC contests are planned for the months of October and November for the Tribe. There will no longer be a conference tournament at the end of each season.


One goal of the team is a trip to the NCAA tournament in 2005. Post-season play begins on Dec. 1-4 with first-round and second-round matches on the site of participating institutions. Regional sites are pre-selected with Nebraska (Omaha, Neb.), Penn State (State College, Pa.), Stanford (Palo Alto, Calif.) and Texas A&M (College Station, Texas) hosting play on Dec. 8-11. The 2005 NCAA Championship will be held in San Antonio, Texas, on Dec. 15 and 17.


According To Kress…

“The schedule is very competitive this year. Our first home tournament with Mercer, Pittsburgh, and South Carolina, is going to provide us with two teams that go to the NCAA Tournament any given year. The next weekend we travel and face Minnesota who was in the NCAA Championship match last year, Kansas State that is a Top 10 program, and Houston. Then we face intrastate rivals like Florida and South Florida. So, pre-conference we are looking at playing maybe four or five Top 20 programs and then of course Minnesota that competed in the national championship match. So, we have a very competitive preseason that will prepare us for the ACC.”


“The ACC is obviously going to have a new look this year in two different facets. No. 1, the addition of Boston College, which I think is going to round out the ACC and make it one of the best conferences in the country. And then secondly, we will have no conference tournament. That is something we all, as ACC coaches, felt was very important for us in order to take the next step as a conference as far as the volleyball end of it to make us more competitive with the top 2-3 conferences in the nation. Those conferences don’t have tournaments…they just play double round-robin and that is where they get their strength of schedule. So, our league is really looking to enhance our RPI by playing each other and playing a double round-robin instead of the hosting a conference tournament each season.”

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