Dec. 13, 2009
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The greatest season in the history of Florida State volleyball came to an end Saturday night at the Sports Pavilion on the campus of the University of Minnesota as the Seminoles fell in their Elite 8 match to the Golden Gophers, 3-1 (20-25, 7-25, 25-18, 17-25).
By losing to No. 11 Minnesota (28-8), the No. 12 Seminoles (31-3) head back to Tallahassee on Sunday as a team that far exceeded expectations this season.
The 2009 campaign will forever be remembered as the year in which head coach Chris Poole and his staff helped guide a team that broke a plethora of school records.
From winning the Atlantic Coast Conference crown outright for the first time to making it to the Elite 8 for the first time, Poole said he was more than pleased with his team’s performance all year despite the outcome in Minnesota.
“I am just so proud of these girls for working so hard all year long,” Poole said. “There are 63 teams that will close out their year with a loss in the NCAA Tournament and we are one of them. Obviously you want to be the one that finishes with a win but I am very proud of them for what they accomplished.”
Against the Golden Gophers, senior Mira Djuric led the Seminoles with 11 kills while adding an ace and four digs. Junior Stephanie Neville had nine kills and senior Brianna Barry added eight of her own.
The Seminoles were out-blocked by Minnesota, 8-5.
“It did get frustrating for us at times,” Barry said. “We are used to our balls hitting the court but Minnesota is a great blocking team and it frustrated us at times. They did a great job tonight.”
A night after dropping the first set in the match against Kentucky, FSU suffered the same setback against Minnesota.
The Seminoles never led in the set but got to within a two-point deficit at 21-19. Unfortunately, the ‘Noles wouldn’t get any closer in the Golden Gopher’s 25-20 win.
The second set wasn’t any kinder to the Seminoles. Minnesota built a 16-3 lead and never let up. By set’s end Florida State had sustained its most lopsided loss of the year, 25-7, and fell behind 2-0 in a match for the first time all season.
But if Minnesota’s raucous home crowd thought that a tough match like that would mean the end for FSU, they certainly didn’t know about the resilient Seminoles. Florida State came back out in the third set and took the lead at 5-4 for the first time all evening.
The Gophers tied the game at 6-6 but FSU answered and generated an 18-12 advantage before sophomore Rachael Morgan’s kill made it 19-12. True freshman Duygu Duzceler then served up an ace to make it 20-12 and force a Minnesota timeout.
It wouldn’t do much good, though, as Barry and Neville connected for back-to-back kills on the final two points and the ‘Noles prolonged their season with a 25-18 win.
Unfortunately, the magical season wouldn’t last much longer.
In the fourth set, Djuric got a kill and an ace to make the score 16-12 in favor of the Golden Gophers. Then the Seminoles then cut the deficit to just 17-14 but Minnesota retaliated with a 8-3 run to finish the set and take the match.
For the efforts in Minnesota, Djuric and Morgan were named to the Minneapolis All-Regional Team.
“It’s a great experience for the freshmen and sophomores and juniors on this team,” Djuric said. “As seniors, we never had the chance to make it this far. I am happy that they got to experience this and they can now build off what we did this year.”