Nov. 11, 2011
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WINSTON SALEM, N.C. – For the second time this season the 17th-ranked Florida State University indoor volleyball team received all it could handle from Wake Forest, yet FSU maintained its poise down the stretch and came out with a 3-2 victory (23-25, 25-20, 23-25, 25-22, 16-14) over the Demon Deacons on Friday evening at Reynolds Gym in Winston Salem, N.C.
“What an incredible effort tonight,” head coach Chris Poole said following his 96th victory as a member of the Garnet and Gold. “Wake Forest played very inspired. We struggled to find our rhythm offensively but played with tremendous heart defensively. The pressure is mounting with each match. It’s not easy to go through a long conference season undefeated and we are asking this team to play at a high level every game.”
The Seminoles (22-4, 16-0) were saved by their talented middle blocking tandem of Ashley Neff and Sareea Freeman. Neff, a sophomore from Kennesaw, Ga., continued her All-America caliber season with 13 kills for a .370 hitting percentage and 10 blocks in what should strengthen her national lead in blocks per set. Neff is now averaging 1.70 blocks per set in 2011.
Equally as impressive was Freeman, who put on one of the best offensive performances of her career when FSU needed it the most. The Fresno, Calif., native amassed a career-high 14 kills and had an outstanding .520 attack percentage while adding four blocks. Freeman ended tonight’s tight battle with a solo block off an attack by Wake Forest’s Kristin Grissom in the fifth set.
FSU continues to add more milestones to its 2011 season, especially within ACC play. The team’s 16-0 conference record makes it the first ACC team to go 16-0 in conference play since Georgia Tech finished with the same ACC record in 2004 in what was then a 16-match regular season. The 1996 and 1997 Maryland Terrapins were the only other ACC squads to go 16-0 as they finished the conference season undefeated.
A victory at Duke on Sunday afternoon would make the Seminoles the first ACC team to ever show a 17-0 record within the conference, partly because they now play a 20-match regular-season schedule.
FSU’s magic number to clinch the ACC championship is two with the assumption that second-place Miami (22-3, 13-3) finishes its last four matches undefeated. Should the Hurricanes lose at all down the stretch, FSU’s magic number is reduced.
The Seminoles were unable to get an efficient hitting attack in place for most of the evening, showing a .196 percentage. Like it has in previous matches, FSU covered its mild offensive woes with great play at the net, tallying 14 team blocks while Wake Forest mustered seven. Neff’s 10 blocks was her fourth double-digit blocking performance of the season.
Senior outside hitter Jekaterina Stepanova led FSU with 15 kills and 13 digs for her 12th double-double of the year. Visnja Djurdjevic added 12 kills and 13 digs for her 10th double-double of the season. Junior setter Duygu Duzceler recorded 32 assists in the match, her second-most this season. The Istanbul, Turkey, native’s career-high was set this year against Wake Forest when she registered 37. Duzceler had her third double-double of the season and even produced four kills.
Freshman setter Sarah Wickstrom was also effective, showing 27 assists in the five-set affair and adding 11 digs. FSU had five performers with double-digit digs, highlighted by redshirt freshman libero Katie Mosher’s 26. Mosher now has 435 digs this season, moving into 10th-place on FSU single-season list. She is just six digs shy of passing former player Kristine Cousins (1990) for ninth place.
A tense fifth set saw FSU face an 8-3 deficit after Wake Forest’s Carlin Salmon and Kristin Grissom earned a block on a Stepanova attack. FSU fought back with three consecutive points which included kills by Stepanova and Freeman, then later won three consecutive points again when it was aided by Wake Forest miscues.
Trailing 12-11, Neff and Morgan combined for a match-tying block, then Neff recorded a solo block on an attack from Salmon. After a kill by Megan Carnell, she followed with a service error to give FSU match point at 14-13. Kadija Fornah, who had 20 kills on the night, tied the match once again at 14-14 before Neff’s kill and Freeman’s clutch solo block ended the match.
FSU will attempt to extend its winning streak to 17 matches at Duke on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium. If the Seminoles win, they will tie the 1989 team for the third-longest win streak in school history.