September 2, 2006 - by
Hosts Beat Eastern Illinois 3-0 to Take FSU Invitational, Seminoles Equal Best Start In Kress Era

Sept. 2, 2006

Box Score | 

Through the first two matches of the FSU Invitational, Florida State University head volleyball coach Todd Kress was rotating his newcomers into the line-up more than usual to gain them valuable experience, but with the title on the line it was back to the normal starting line-up. The regulars were running on all cylinders as FSU swept Eastern Illinois 3-0 (30-12, 30-23, 30-24) to win the championship on Saturday (Sept. 2) on Lucy McDaniel Court at Tully Gymnasium.

With the victory, Florida State improved to 5-0, equaling the start of Kress’ 2004 Seminole squad. The Panthers were handed their first loss as they dropped to 3-1.

“We’re serving very well, serving aggressively, we’re keeping teams out of system and I think that’s attributing to the low hitting percentage our opponents are having,” Kress said. “There are still a lot of things we need to clean up, but it was a solid performance.”

Leading FSU all weekend long was senior middle blocker Sarah Griffin (Hereford, Texas) and she was rewarded for her efforts with tournament MVP honors. Also making it onto the all-tournament team was senior outside hitter Jessica Skower (Naples, Fla.) and freshman outside hitter Malorie Wessel (West Chester, Ohio).

“She’s our heart and soul,” Kress said of Griffin. “She jump serves, she’s playing middle for us this year, she’s defending, she’s hitting from the back row, she’s doing it all for us. We look to her in crunch time and she continues the lead the way.”

For the third match of the tournament, Griffin reached double figure kills as she tallied a match-high 12 while hitting .500 (12-of-20). She also had a team-best 14 points, three blocks as well as seven digs. Florida State hit .422 as a team, giving it a .300 hitting percentage or higher in all five matches, with five players at a .400 clip or better. Skower led the way with her .643 (9-of-14) rate.

Adding a double-digit kill night was Wessel with her 11 winners. Senior setter Zrinka Tomic (Nustar, Croatia) had her first double-double of the year with 31 assists and 10 digs. After climbing into the career digs list in the morning match against South Alabama, libero Summer Weissing (Boca Raton, Fla.) had 16 digs and tied Skower for the team-high with three aces. FSU had a season-best ten aces.

“I was really happy for the way Jess hit the ball all weekend, she found a way to score,” Kress added. “This may have been her best weekend as a Florida State Seminole. I thought she did a great job.”

As was the case all weekend, the Seminoles got out to a fast start as a pair of Skower aces gave FSU a quick 5-1 lead. FSU broke the game open with a 10-4 run that saw middle blocker Brianna Barry (Winter Springs, Fla.), Griffin and Wessel each record a pair of kills. The lead would continue to grow as Barry and Skower added two more kills as FSU took a 23-9 advantage. The Seminoles would close the match on a 7-0 run that including a pair of kills from Tomic for the 30-12 victory.

The rookie Barry had a game-high five kills, while Weissing picked up nine digs. Skower had four kills and a pair of blocks. Tomic added 11 assists. The Seminoles hit .538 as a team.

The Seminoles tried to run away with game two as Weissing picked up three points on her serve from two Wessel kills to stake FSU a 13-6 lead. A kill by Skower would extend the lead to 16-8 but the Panther dug in and started to chip away at the Seminole lead. Caitlin Balsam served five-straight points then four consecutive FSU errors made it a 17-17 contest.

The two teams traded points then after a kill by outside hitter Makini Thompson (Quincy, Mass.), sophomore Alex Plummer (Woodbury, Minn.) served three-straight points to give FSU a 22-18 margin. EIU got it back to one point (24-23) but the Seminoles forced Eastern Illinois into four errors down the stretch as they took the game 30-23.

Wessel had a great all-around game, notching a set-high six kills with a .714 hitting percentage to go along with four digs. Griffin and Skower had three kills a piece while FSU hit .367.

Game three was the tightest of the three bouts as neither team would mount more than a two-point advantage until a Griffin kill gave FSU a 16-13 margin. The senior captain showed why she was tournament MVP as she extended a two-point lead to five (21-16) by serving three-straights points to put the game and the match out of reach. The lead would grow to as many as seven (28-21) on an EIU attacking error and Griffin closed out the match with her 12th kill to give FSU the hardware with the 30-17 victory. Griffin was at her best in the third game, notching seven of her 12 kills while hitting .700 (7-of-10).

Florida State is on the road for its next three matches as it travels to the South Carolina Tournament, Sept. 8-9. The Seminoles will take on No. 14 Southern California, St. John’s and the host Gamecocks.

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