Aug. 6, 2006
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
At the end of the 2005 regular season, no team in the Atlantic Coast Conference may have been playing better than Florida State. The Seminoles won seven of their last 10 matches to move up to fifth place in the league. Florida State began its quest for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002 with its first official practices on August 5.
The fifth season under head coach Todd Kress will be a balance between experience veterans and a crop of highly touted newcomers. Florida State brings back four starters from last year’s squad, including libero Summer Weissing (Boca Raton, Fla.) who is coming of a record-setting 2005 campaign in which she reset the school’s single-season mark for digs and setter Jessica Skower (Naples, Fla.) who is poised to move up to fourth on the all-time top ten assist list.
While all seven returners saw some time in the starting line-up last season, the veterans will be in the minority this year as the Seminoles incoming class includes eight newcomers. Sophomore Alex Plummer (Woodbury, Minn.) earned First-Team All-Big South Conference honors in her only season at Birmingham-Southern. Four of the seven freshmen on this year’s team: setter Nikki Baker (Findlay, Ohio), outside hitter Jackie BonSalle (Albuquerque, N.M.), defensive specialist/outside hitter Malorie Wessel (Cincinnati, Ohio) and middle blocker Lauren Young (Ben Wheeler, Texas) were top Top 100 recruits.
Florida State opens the 2006 season on August 25 when it travels to Mercer University before returning to play host to the FSU Invitational (September 1-2). The following week the Seminoles travel to South Carolina for a tournament that includes national powerhouse Southern California. FSU plays host to instate rival Florida on September 12 before opening the always challenge ACC schedule.
FSU Head Coach Todd Kress
On the first few practices:
“Good energy, good cohesiveness. Very coachable, disciplined and determined. Those are a lot of the intangibles I look for and right now those are almost the most important aspects because the things like technique and putting in plays will come along but those other are ingrained. If we’ve got those things in place I think we can be very successful. We just need to keep up our energy and all those other things throughout the preseason.”
On the newcomers:
“Everyone is meshing, everyone is challenging each other. Do we have a long way to go? Absolutely, but with those intangibles in place it’s going to be a lot easier to get there.”
On building on last year’s momentum:
“I think the momentum from last year has definitely carried into this year. The seniors and the upperclassmen are very determined to build off last year and make this a very special season.”
Senior Jessica Skower
On the first few practices:
“The first few practices have gone really well. I’m not going to lie, they’ve been really hard, but the team has done really well and the freshmen have stepped in. We’ve done a lot of condition and everyone did really well and in the past we’ve struggle with that so that’s a big bonus. Everyone is great shape, now we have to get the skills down.”
On the importance of carrying over the momentum from 2005:
“It’s really important because volleyball is all about chemistry. We established a team concept at the end of last year, carried it into the spring and now into the new season.”
On starting final preseason:
“It feels so strange. My four years have gone by so fast. When I was a freshman I remember the seniors telling me how fast it goes by and I never believed them but now I can’t believe how fast it’s going.”
Freshman Malorie Wessel
On her first collegiate practice:
“It was a little different than I expected but I really feel like a college athlete now. The biggest difference has been sustaining the mental toughness, but everyone has the same goal here and everyone is working hard.”