Sept. 4, 2010
HOUSTON, Texas – It was a tale of two matches for the 13th-ranked Florida State University women’s volleyball team on Saturday at the Houston Invitational in the Athletic/Alumni Center.
The Seminoles (5-1) began the day with a hard-fought loss to Southeastern Conference favorite Tennessee, 0-3 (20-25, 23-25, 20-25), but came back to emerge victorious over Oklahoma in the nightcap by a 3-1 (25-16, 19-25, 25-18, 25-16) margin.
“We knew Tennessee would be tough,”coach Chris Poole said. “But in the second match we got better. We get to bring home an opportunity to learn new things. Last year our team lost early to Florida, and we ended up turning our season around. We need to have a good week of practice before we participate in another tournament next weekend that will prepare us well for ACC play.”
The second match was highlighted by junior outside hitter Visnja Djurdjevic’s second double-double of the season. The Zitiste, Serbia, native had a match-high 15 kills and 14 digs, while junior Rachael Morgan also had a sterling performance with 14 kills, five blocks and four digs.
Middle blocker Marija Milosavljevic contributed with seven kills and a team-high six blocks. Senior libero Jenna Romanelli added 13 digs and a kill, while setters Duygu Duzceler and Patricia Figueiredo combined for 50 of FSU’s 61 assists. Junior Jekaterina Stepanova also stepped up with seven kills and 10 digs.
The Seminoles recorded a .323 hitting percentage, and forced the Sooners (4-3) into a .232 clip.
“Visnja and Rachael really played well for us this weekend,”Poole stated. “Rachael is really adjusting well at the right side, and Visnja has been great for us so far.”
Morgan and Fatma Yildirim led the Seminoles in the first set against Oklahoma. Yildirim, an Istanbul, Turkey, native, tallied six kills, while Morgan filled the stat sheet with two kills, two blocks, one ace and one assist. The Seminoles took control following a brief 8-8 tie in the set, as Milosavljevic’s kill expanded the FSU advantage to 18-13. The Seminoles won four of the next five points, and ended the set with a kill by Morgan, who was set up nicely by Duzceler.
The Sooners responded with a well-played second set. After being tied at 13-13, Oklahoma won six of the next seven points and was aided by five kills from junior Suzy Boulavsky.
Stepanova recorded five kills and one block in a critical third set for the Seminoles. After Oklahoma built a 9-5 lead, FSU fought back to take a 16-11 advantage on a kill by sophomore Sareea Freeman. FSU won the final three points of the set on a kill and subsequent service ace by Djurdjevic, followed by a bad set from redshirt senior middle blocker Francie Ekwerekwu of Oklahoma.
FSU was in full control of the fourth and final set, creating leads of 19-7 and 20-8 to prevent any sort of comeback by the Sooners.
The Seminoles suffered their first loss of the season in the morning match against the Lady Volunteers (5-0). Morgan led the hitters with nine kills and a .368 hitting percentage, but Tennessee racked up 37 digs and forced FSU into a .158 attack percentage.
“This was a very good match for us to play early in the season,” Poole added. “We know we have a lot of new players that have to learn to play together. You can’t accomplish that by only winning. We have to see how the team responds when we are being pushed and how to play under adversity. This is a team that will continue to get better as we get pushed in these type of matches.
“Tennessee is picked to win the SEC and has a lot of returning players. They remind me of our team last year where we had most of the team returning and much easier to move forward in pre-season. We will get better as the season progresses and more time to train together.”
Tennessee’s Leslie Cikra recorded 10 kills, while Kelsey Robinson and Kayla Jeter added nine apiece for the Lady Vols.
FSU returns with the University of Kentucky tournament beginning on Friday, Sept. 10, with an 11 a.m. contest versus Kansas State. The Seminoles then have a rematch of last season’s Elite Eight thriller against 16th-ranked Kentucky later that evening at 6 p.m., followed by a Saturday match versus Virginia Commonwealth.