Dec. 11, 2009
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – And the dream season continues.
The No. 12 Florida State volleyball defeated No. 13 Kentucky 3-2 (16-25, 26-24, 25-17, 19-25, 17-15) Friday night in the third round of the NCAA Championship at the University of Minnesota’s Sports Pavilion.
With the thrilling triumph, the Seminoles (31-2) advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history and will face the winner of Friday night’s Minnesota vs. Colorado State match live on ESPNU Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET.
In the decisive fifth set, the teams switched benches at the eighth point after Stephanie Neville’s kill gave FSU an 8-6 lead. Mira Djuric’s kill moved the FSU advantage to 11-8 and the Wildcats’ (29-5) coaching staff was forced to call a timeout.
The short break worked in UK’s favor as the team scored back-to-back points to make it an 11-10 score. But reigning ACC Player of the Year Brianna Barry’s key solo block pushed the Seminole lead up to 12-10.
Two Kentucky kills then tied the game at 12 points apiece and set up some very exciting moments.
Djuric answered with a kill to the side of the court and the Wildcats returned the favor to make it a 13-13 game. After a Kentucky service error put the set at match-point in favor of FSU, the ‘Cats kept their season alive by tying the game at 14-14.
An error and ensuing timeout by the Wildcats put them on the brink again but they tied it once more.
After Neville’s kill made it 16-15, Kentucky couldn’t return Jenna Romanelli’s serve and the ‘Noles escaped with a memorable 17-15 win.
“It was really just two good offenses out there,” said FSU head coach Chris Poole, whose ballclub has now won a staggering 19 consecutive matches. “Neither one of the teams could stop the other one very often. I am really proud of the girls for finding a way to win and for playing better as the match went on.”
Sophomore Rachael Morgan led FSU with 15 kills while adding six digs and two blocks. Djuric had 13 kills, one ace, three digs and one block.
Barry and true freshman Fatma Yildirim had nine kills apiece. Barry also contributed four blocks and Yildirim posted 15 digs.
Junior libero Romanelli had a fantastic game with 25 digs and just two errors against a Kentucky team that had four players register double-digit kills.
“I just really tried to play as well as I could and not let my team down,” Romanelli said. “I worked really hard to get to ever ball and make a good pass each time the ball was on our side of the net.”
Both teams had 11 blocks.
After dropping the first set 25-16, the Seminoles rallied late in the second game behind some Djuric heroics.
After Morgan tied the game at 21-21, Djuric connected for two kills in the final moments and then slammed the game-winning ace to give FSU a 26-24 win that tied the match at 1-1.
Any early-match jitters that FSU may have been experiencing quickly disappeared after the team returned to the court in the third set.
The Seminoles and Wildcats battled back and forth to a 9-9 score before the ‘Noles officially caught fire and raced to a 22-16 advantage. Yildirim then registered a kill and combined with Price for a block as FSU took the game to set-point at 24-16.
Price’s well-placed shot to the back of the court was then good for the final point that put FSU on top 2-1.
FSU came out strong in the third set and looked like it may finish off the ‘Cats for good. But after the ‘Noles jumped out to an 8-4 lead, Kentucky went on a 17-6 run.
A kill by Price and an error by the Wildcats trimmed the Seminole deficit to 21-16 before UK moved the score to 22-16. Kills by Djuric and Yildirim made the score 22-18 but Florida State wouldn’t get any closer in a 25-19 defeat.
“Both Minnesota and Colorado State are great teams,” Poole said. “I have a lot of respect for the program here at Minnesota and Colorado State has proven how good they are after eliminating Washington earlier in the tournament.”
A win Saturday would send the Seminoles to the Final Four at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla.