WACO, Texas – The 2017 volleyball season officially kicks off this weekend, as the Florida State indoor volleyball team heads to Waco, Texas for its first tournament of the season. The No. 15 Seminoles will face Baylor, Illinois State and UC Santa Barbara in the Hampton Inn & Suites Waco North Baylor Invitational.
The Seminoles start off the season in three non-conference tournaments, traveling for the first but hosting and co-hosting the next two. FSU is now 66-11 in the 27 in-season tournaments that it has participated in since the arrival of head coach Chris Poole in 2008.
With one of the youngest rosters the team has seen in years, and after losing four key members of the 2016 starting rotation, head coach Chris Poole is looking to his top-10 recruiting class to fill in the gaps.
“We know we’re going to have to have a minimum of two freshmen starting for sure,” Poole said, “simply because we have three freshman middles, and two of the three will have to start, we don’t have any other middles on our roster right now. It’s going to be really important for them to step up.”
In addition to the five freshmen, Poole added two transfers to the roster this season – junior libero Logan Holanchock and redshirt sophomore setter Annie Tietjens. The seven newcomers join a veteran group of returning starters, including standout seniors Natasha Calkins, Milica Kubura and Cecilie Woie.
After having the opportunity to try out seven different rotations in the Garnet and Gold scrimmage last weekend, the team feels confident that it is ready for its first real competition of the season.
“With seven new players we had a lot of questions,” said junior setter Brianne Burkert, “but since we’ve had these two weeks of preseason to get better we’ve gotten better every single day. I’m super excited to play. Our energy is better than ever, our team chemistry is better than ever and our communication is better than ever, so I think we have a lot of potential.”
The Seminoles start the tournament facing Baylor on its home court on Friday night (Aug. 25), followed by Illinois State and UC Santa Barbara on Saturday (Aug. 26). Fans can follow a live stream of the matches here on Baylor’s site, and follow @FSU_Volleyball on Twitter for live tweets of the action.
Schedule of Events
Friday, Aug. 25
4 p.m. – Illinois State vs. UCSB
7 p.m. – Baylor vs. Florida State
Saturday, Aug. 26
11:30 a.m. – Florida State vs. Illinois State
4:30 p.m. – UCSB vs. Florida State
7 p.m. – Baylor vs. Illinois State
Sunday, Aug. 27
2 p.m. – Baylor vs. UCSB
The team listed first will be considered the home team.
Scouting the Competition
Series record: Florida State leads 3-0
Last meeting: No. 16 FSU won 3-2 on September 8, 2016 in Tallahassee, dropping the first and fourth sets.
Before facing off in 2016, the Bears and the Seminoles had not met since 1990, and 1981 before that. Baylor has seen a huge upswing in its volleyball program in the last few years, posting a 22-12 record in 2016 – its best record since 2009 (24-10). The Bears also advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years in 2016, earning an upset win in the first round but falling in the second.
Baylor has a young roster, not unlike FSU’s, as it brought on six freshmen this season. The Bears returned five starters plus a libero, but lost setter Morgan Reed, a staple in the BU lineup, who earned herself a top-10 ranking for single season assists in Baylor’s history, notching 1,330 in 2016.
Head Coach Ryan McGuyre served as Florida State’s associate head coach under Coach Poole in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. McGuyre saw FSU’s back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, and notched a 56-11 record in his two-year stint with the Seminoles.
Series record: Florida State leads 4-3
Last meeting: ILS won 3-0 on August 30, 2002 in Normal, Ill., FSU was not ranked.
Illinois State enters the 2017 season with a brand new head coach, as Leah Johnson was hired following the 2016 season. In 2016, the Redbirds notched a 17-15 overall record (9-9 MVC) after coming off a pair of 22+ win seasons and going undefeated in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2014.
The Redbirds return five starters and ten letterwinners this season, and added four freshmen to the roster.
UC Santa Barbara
Series record: UCSB leads 2-0
Last meeting: No. 9 UCSB won 3-0 on September 15, 1999 in Tallahassee, FSU was not ranked.
The Gauchos will prove to be new competition for the Seminoles, as the two have not met in 18 years. Under head coach Cecile Reynaud, Florida State fell to a ranked UC Santa Barbara team in both 1998 and 1999 –the Gauchos advanced to the NCAA Tournament Regionals both of those seasons.
UCSB returns four starters and a libero in 2017, including last season’s star outside hitter, Lindsey Ruddins. Ruddins earned numerous accolades following her redshirt freshman season in 2016, including an All-American Honorable Mention and a selection to the All-Big West First Team.
UCSB is in a similar position as FSU, with an almost entirely new group of middle blockers. While Florida State will look to its freshman to fill that role, UCSB will return 2016 Big West All-Freshman pick Rowan Ennis to balance out the position.
For more information, visit Facebook (Florida State Seminoles Volleyball), Twitter (FSU_Volleyball) and Instagram (FSUvolleyball).