March 28, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – Using the spring season to continuously work out the offensive and defensive kinks, the Florida State University volleyball team put forth a good showing at last weekend’s Spring Fling Tournament held on the UCF campus in Orlando, Fla.
The Seminoles defeated Georgia Southern, their first-round NCAA opponent last season, by a 2-0 score and tied with Florida International, 1-1. FSU fell in matches to Auburn and Miami by 2-0 scores, although the results are not totally indicative of the team’s overall play after head coach Chris Poole mixed and matched several rotations.
“We again used five different starting line-ups,” Poole said. “We have this pre-determined, so it isn’t based on who is playing good or bad. This allows us to try and use a lot of different options and rotations. It is always scary to experiment in the fall, because of taking a chance on losing a match. The spring matches are great for allowing players to make mistakes and see how they respond under pressure.”
Poole was very pleased with one critical defensive aspect of the matches – blocking. Middle blockers Ashley Neff, Sareea Freeman, Marija Milosavljevic and right-side hitter Rachael Morgan all averaged well over one block per set, making it difficult for opposing attackers to put balls down.
“Our blocking was a real highlight for the day and something that our blocking coach, Holly Watts, has really focused on this spring,” said Poole of the associate head coach and former Texas Longhorn standout. “As a team we averaged 3.6 blocks per set, which is outstanding against this level of competition.”
Junior outside hitter Jekaterina Stepanova led the Seminoles with 17 kills in the four matches, while Neff trailed with 13 put-downs. Elise Walch also added 13 kills while Morgan contributed with 12 of her own. Visnja Djurdjevic, a returning AVCA Honorable Mention All-American, tallied 11 kills, and Fatma Yildirim and Milosavljevic had seven apiece.
Stepanova also added 23 digs on the day, and freshman Kaitlin Mosher totaled 21 to lead the back-row players.
“These were all competitive matches and it was exciting to see the progression of some of the players from only one additional week of practice,” Poole added. “We are learning a lot about the players that are stepping up big under pressure and who plays well in different rotations. This is very important to try to identify potential lineups for the fall semester. We have a lot of talent, but players may play better next to different players in a lineup.”
The Seminoles get back to practice for the next two weeks before heading to Gainesville, Fla., to take on Florida for the second time this spring.