Aug. 29, 2011
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In an in-state series that has gotten much closer over the last two seasons, the 25th-ranked Florida State University indoor volleyball team travels to Gainesville, Fla., for a matchup against ninth-ranked Florida on Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m.
The Seminoles (3-0) are trying to snap a 20-match losing streak against the Gators (3-0) that dates back to Oct. 10, 1995. Last season, FSU nearly knocked off the top-seeded Gators at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in the second round of the NCAA Championship until letting a late lead in the fifth set slip away as it fell 3-2 (25-20, 22-25, 25-22, 21-25, 15-17). In that match, the Seminoles had two match points in the final set, and were led by Jekaterina Stepanova’s 15 kills and 11 digs as she battled sickness in last year’s postseason.
On Aug. 31, 2009, FSU also had match-point chances against the Gators but narrowly missed another chance at victory as it fell to UF, 3-2 (19-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-22, 15-17). Current junior Fatma Yildirim connected on nine kills in that match, while junior setter Duygu Duzceler recorded 23 assists.
Tuesday’s match will mark the second consecutive season that both teams are meeting as nationally-ranked opponents. Last year, UF traveled to Tallahassee as the nation’s third-ranked team while FSU carried a No. 13 spot.
In the 55-match history of the two in-state rivals, Tuesday’s contest will mark the first time both schools have faced off as ranked opponents in two consecutive seasons.
UF leads the all-time series against FSU, owning a 34-21 overall record. The Seminoles’ last defeated the Gators on Oct. 31, 1994, in three sets (15-9, 15-13, 15-12).
Tuesday’s match marks the inaugural FSU-Florida rivalry series for the new athletic year. Both teams play each other head to head every season in 11 different sports, including football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s volleyball.
BACK IN THE TOP 25
The Florida State University Indoor Volleyball team has taken the 25th spot in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association poll released on Monday afternoon.
The Seminoles began the preseason receiving 61 votes in the poll, sitting just outside the Top 25. However, a 3-0 performance at this past weekend’s Florida State Invitational that included victories over three NCAA Tournament Teams from 2010 was good enough to move into the national rankings.
The Seminoles have now made their way into the AVCA Top 25 Poll in each of the last three seasons. Prior to the 2009 season, which was head coach Chris Poole’s second year at FSU, the Seminoles hadn’t been nationally ranked since earning the 22nd spot on Sept. 22, 1998.
POOLE VS. RANKED OPPONENTS AT FSU
Preparing for a slew of nationally-ranked opponents this season, FSU volleyball faced its first ranked team in the AVCA Poll and passed the test, defeating then-No. 23 Tulsa 3-1 (25-17, 21-25, 25-16, 25-19).
Since head coach Chris Poole has taken over in 2008, the Seminoles have defeated four nationally-ranked opponents. They included No. 8 Illinois in 2009, No. 13 Kentucky in 2009, No. 16 Kentucky in 2010 and No. 23 Tulsa in 2011.
FSU Invitational MVP Jekaterina Stepanova added to the Seminoles’ accolades when she was named the American Volleyball Scouting Report Player of the Week. The senior outside hitter from Riga, Latvia compiled a .339 hitting percentage, 26 kills and 31 digs in victories over Kentucky, Albany and then-No. 23 Tulsa.
Stepanova’s award means that a Seminole has won the AVSR Player of the Week honor for two consecutive weeks. The organization’s last weekly award in 2010 was given to FSU’s Rachael Morgan, who has been named as the organization’s player of the week four times.
NOT IN NEFF’S HOUSE
Sophomore middle blocker Ashley Neff was a blocking machine at the FSU Invitational, combining for 21 blocks in three matches and an impressive 2.10 blocks per set.
In the Seminoles’ season opener against Kentucky, Neff stood out as the player of the match after amassing a career-high 10 blocks while tying for a team-best seven kills. Kentucky, Albany and Tulsa combined to hit just .122 against FSU, with Neff’s presence at the net being one of many reasons why.
The talented native of Kennesaw, Ga., helped hold Kentucky to a -.013 hitting percentage on opening night.
Read the rest of the match notes HERE