Sept. 1, 2011
Follow the FSU Volleyball Team on Twitter: @fsu_volleyball
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The 25th-ranked Florida State University indoor volleyball team continues its early-season gauntlet as it faces its third ranked opponent in five matches when it battles No. 14 Northern Iowa to begin the Delaware Invitational. FSU and UNI square off at 4 p.m. ET on Friday in Newark, Del.
The Seminoles (3-1) and Panthers (4-0) have met just once, as FSU defeated UNI in five sets (15-11, 15-5, 8-15, 12-15, 15-12) at the Florida State Classic at Tully Gym on Sept. 5, 1998. The Panthers are off to a fast start after posting three-set victories over IUPUI, Northern Illinois and Marquette as well as a four-set win versus Cincinnati. Krista DeGeest leads the Panthers with 46 kills and 3.54 kills per set, while setter Bre Payton shows 11.54 assists per set.
FSU then faces tournament host Delaware, a perennial Colonial Athletic Association powerhouse that has won either the regular-season or conference championship of the CAA since 2007. The Blue Hens (1-2) made the NCAA Tournament in 2010, giving FSU six consecutive matchups against 2010 postseason participants to start its season. Delaware has already played Pac-12 contenders Stanford and 16th-ranked Oregon and hung tough despite three-set losses. Middle blocker Karina Evans leads the team with 14 blocks.
The final matchup occurs against UC-Irvine. The Seminoles are 0-2 all-time against the Anteaters (2-1), losing both matches in Irvine in 1991 and 2003. The Anteaters are led by Aly Squires’ 60 kills and 5.45 kills per set, and have defeated San Diego State while falling to Nevada and Portland.
The Seminoles were taken to their second extra-set match as they lost at ninth-ranked Florida on Tuesday evening. Sophomore outside hitter Elise Walch was effective in the contest with eight kills and a .304 hitting percentage, as FSU went toe-to-toe with its in-state rival before giving up large leads in the second and third frames.
Through their first four matches, FSU is holding opponents to a .153 attack percentage and has out-blocked the opposition 39-13.5.
Another Challenging Opponent
The Seminoles have another daunting challenge this weekend at the Delaware Invitational, including its first opponent in No. 14 Northern Iowa. If FSU pulls off the neutral-site win, it would be head coach Chris Poole’s second highest ranked opponent he’s defeated since arriving at FSU in 2008.
Preparing for a slew of nationally-ranked opponents this season, FSU volleyball faced its first ranked team in the AVCA Poll at the FSU Invite and passed the test, defeating then-No. 23 Tulsa 3-1 (25-17, 21-25, 25-16, 25-19).
Since Poole has taken over, the Seminoles have defeated four nationally-ranked opponents. They include No. 8 Illinois in 2009, 13th-ranked Kentucky in 2009, 16th-ranked Kentucky in 2010 and 23rd-ranked Tulsa in 2011.
The Stuart Stalwarts
Just like the 2010 year, the FSU volleyball team has already gotten a lift from some of its newcomers. Two notable newbies include freshman setter Sarah Wickstrom and sophomore outside hitter Elise Walch. Both players played club volleyball together for four years and have done their part to get the Seminoles clicking.
Wickstrom has already earned significant time despite being a freshman, playing in all 13 sets. Her lengthy body has allowed her to position others well for her sets, adding 55 assists in four matches. In her last two matches against nationally-ranked opponents in Tulsa (16 assists, 12 digs) and Florida (10 assists, 11 digs), Wickstrom has registered double-doubles.
Walch has totaled 22 kills and 10 blocks in three matches played, including a season-high nine against Tulsa. In each of her three performances, Walch has registered at least a .300 hitting percentage or greater, including a .400 clip in her debut against Kentucky.
One of the strengths of the Seminoles is their height up front, which includes four players that are 6-3 or taller.
Associate head coach Holly Watts has worked diligently with her middle blockers and the results are paying off so far. Through four matches, FSU is out-blocking its opponents by nearly three-fold (39 to 13.5).
FSU’s four performers at the net are Ashley Neff (6-3), Marija Milosavljevic (6-4), Sareea Freeman (6-4) and Elise Walch (6-5). Neff leads the team with 23 blocks, while Freeman trails with 16 that includes a solo block against UF.
Walch is third on the team with 10 bat-downs. All three are averaging one block or greater per set in the young season.
For more facts about the FSU indoor volleyball team, click HERE