Hi Seminole fans!! I truly can't believe where my team and I are at right now in our season - this is the first time in my career here at FSU that we are practicing past Thanksgiving!! Which only means one thing - we're in the NCAA Tournament! Last week when we found out that we were ranked so high in the brackets and that we would be hosting the first and second rounds of the tournament, a surge of energy went through my body and I couldn't wait to start playing! We had Monday off which was well deserved and needed of course and on Monday amazing news was spread to our team. FSU volleyball had won some major awards and was being honored throughout the ACC. First off, and most important to me and my teammates was that Coach Poole was named ACC Coach of the Year. CP has done amazing things for this program and we couldn't have asked for a better coach to come in and impact the program like he has. In my interview with Brandon, our sports information director, I said, "As a team, we quickly realized what an amazing teacher Coach Poole is when he first got here last year. He has a calm and collected demeanor that helps all of us stay relaxed when we are playing. He is so smart and his knowledge of the game of volleyball has helped me and my teammates see a whole new side to the game. We love playing for him." Couldn't have said it any better. And CP being the humble man he is had to say this in his interview, "This is not an award that one person can win all alone. I have been very blessed with great players who were highly motivated to succeed. I've had incredible assistants and Holly Watts and Gokhan Yilmaz both deserve part of this award. The academics staff, our sports information director, our training room and our managers that work with our program have made my job easier and continue to help the girls on and off the court. This administration showed tremendous faith in me 18 months ago and I am honored to be part of the Florida State University family."
We began practicing Tuesday and started preparing for Alabama A&M, who had won the SWAC and as we watched game film on them they seemed to put up a fight against any team they played. Things wouldn't exactly be that way on Friday night when they came to Tully.
With the new bleachers in place and the NCAA logos all around Tully my team and I knew that it was game time and that we needed to step up and play FSU volleyball. Warm-ups started and there was one evident thing that anyone in the gym would be able to notice - compared to Alabama A&M, my team looked HUGE - in a good way of course! Our height definitely helped us in the match - beating the Bulldogs in three straight sets. CP said, "I certainly was pleased the way we played most of the match. We've really have worked hard the last few weeks to try to limit our errors as much as possible and to go three sets and only have seven hitting errors is very good. We also limited the amount of serving errors we had and that's something else that we've really been trying to focus on is to really play in more control on our side of the net." I was very proud of my team that night because we stayed very consistent and played our level of volleyball - not letting who we played affect the way we performed.
But this match was for CP - when we beat Alabama A&M, CP registered his 600th win in his coaching career. Brandon says that CP became the 16th active Division I volleyball coach to reach 600 wins! Our painted guys showed CP some support with their paint schemes that night and we had a surprise waiting for him after the match. Holly emailed us during the week and she told us there was an art project in the locker room for us to work on. Little did we know how big of a project it was! As I walked into the locker room, there spread out on the ground from the bathrooms to the other side of the front room was a big banner that said, "CONGRATS CP! 600 WINS!" Fatma and I started the process and painted each letter alternating garnet then gold. It turned out pretty good! We almost got busted because CP needed to talk to us after practice and we had to hide this massive sign. So we brought it into the bathroom and put our suitcase in front of the entrance so he couldn't see anything! When Friday came around we gave our sign to Tyler, Eric, and Kyle who at the end of the match ran across the front of the crowd and un-rolled the sign for CP!
When we were in the huddle, Jordana got the grand idea that we should pick up CP...but that didn't go over well. As you can see by the picture, J is trying pretty hard but the rest of us are standing their laughing mostly because CP was like NOO!
After the match was over, things were a little different for my team and I. normally we get the chance to go and sign the fight song with the band then say hi to everyone who came to watch us play. But because we were in the NCAA Tournament, Tully was not considered our "home" court, so we had to go straight downstairs to the locker room and then certain people were called up to the media room for the press conference. Rachael, Mira, and I were chosen and we made our way upstairs in Tully into one of the rooms - which was so weird because I had class in that classroom! We sat down behind the "NCAA Volleyball" poster and looked at the stats shown on the table and the media began to ask questions. Most of them were directed towards CP, but getting the chance to be involved in such a cool aspect of the tournament will stay with me for a long time! And I guess something was funny to Rachael in this picture!
Saturday came very quickly and we didn't have much time to get prepared for the match we were to play at 3 p.m. against Jacksonville State who had beaten FAMU Friday before our match. We watched the game film from the match that happened on Friday between the two teams and had our serve and pass practice beforehand to get us loose. There was one thing about this team that stood out to my coaches and my team - they played on a lot of emotion. CP said, "They're dangerous because they play with so much emotion. They're a very good serving team and very scrappy on defense so we are going to have to play really well. We can't lie down and allow them to get into their rhythm. We will really have to try to dictate the offense and the tempo ourselves on our side of the net. Certainly we have a lot of respect for them and we're going to have to go out and play well." As the match started you could tell right away that what the coaches said was true, they were very loud trying to bring as much energy to their side of the court as possible, which in turn worked for them because it impacted my teammates in a bad way. Instead of staying calm and collected like we had all season - we let their emotions run all over us and made us go a little crazy. But we were able to pull out the first two sets, and we went into the side tent for intermission. I looked to my team and said, "We have got to play our own game of volleyball." We were trying so hard to counteract their emotions and it was getting to us and making us make mistakes that we never did earlier in the season. We came out in set three and finished off the match winning 3-0. CP said, "They were serving very tough, which caused them to miss a lot because they knew they had to serve tough in order to pull us out of our offense. We still offensively, I felt like we were able to hold up pretty well when we got the passing in and when we had control. It wasn't as clean as a game as what I would like for it to be, but at the same time, it's a win that we can kind of learn from, get better from and move on to the next round." We had girls on my team step up in that match and it helped us push through the obstacle of JSU and come out in the end with a win. We had a new addition to the painted guys this match - my cousin Quinn stepped in for Kyle who had tutoring for a final - so of course we took a picture of all of them - but Kyle just looked so out of place not painted! We are going to miss them when we travel this weekend.
With that win in meant only one thing - SWEET 16 BABY!! For the first time in school history we will be making an appearance in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament when we travel to Minnesota this weekend to take on the Kentucky Wildcats in the third round. If someone was to tell me at the beginning of the season that we would be going into the third round of the NCAA Tournament I don't know if I would have believed them. I have always had confidence in my team, but I had no idea that this season was going to be the Dream Season that is has been! CP said, "Certainly when we came in that was our intention to build a program that every year was a top 15 nationally recognized program and that's something we wanted to do right off. We've been lucky, blessed and had a lot of breaks to get where we are right now. Certainly we worked hard to try to get here but we know that we've got to continue to play well because when you're in this situation it's one and done. You have a bad match, you have some bad points, bad rallies and it can be over. Going up to Minnesota we know we're going to have to play well and we're going to have to be ready to battle a very, very good Kentucky team." I am so proud to be part of such an amazing team and I know we are going to play so hard this weekend that we won't have any regrets!
We leave today for the frozen tundra with big poufy jackets in hand to prove to the nation that we do deserve the No. 3 seed we have received in the tournament. Our first match against Kentucky is going to be on Gametracker and can be watched online at NCAA.com, then when things go well for us we hope to play the winner of the Minnesota / Colorado State Match Saturday at 6:30 - and that will be on ESPNU! Thank you to everyone who has made this season so much better not only for me but my team as a whole and we're gonna make everyone proud this weekend!