Joining Keil and Green among front row defensive contributors was Katie Horton (six assisted blocks), Milica Kubura (three), Christina Ambrose (three) and Natasha Calkins (two). That unit combined for 19 team blocks and along the way established the Florida State three-set, rally scoring record for most blocks in a match since the NCAA moved to a 25-point format in 2008.
Green led the way for the Seminoles’ offense by converting 10 kills on 13 total attacks, posting a .692 attack percentage. She was joined among the offensive leaders by Horton (eight kills) and Keil (seven) as Florida State finished with 37 team kills and a .234 attack percentage.
Setters Hailey Luke (17 assists) and Brianne Burkert (14) led the way for an FSU unit that tallied 35 assists, while Cecilie Woie (16 digs) and Horton (eight) anchored the back row.
“It wasn’t perfect but we did a lot of good things,” said head coach Chris Poole of his team’s performance. “Blocking was outstanding and the middles both played great. Our offense needs to run smoother, but some of that may be nerves. The first match of the season is always tough for everyone because you have to get back that court team chemistry. I am very proud of Melanie (Keil) and Mara (Green) for stepping up big today.”
Florida State took advantage of 13 total blocks, including three solo blocks from Kiel, to earn the 25-23 victory in the opening set. Green was also active on the front row for the Seminoles, contributing three of FSU’s 10 assisted blocks, along with providing a set-high five kills.
An array of kills by Green, Keil, Kubura and Horton, knotted the match at 10-all in the opening set. The Seminoles took advantage of Luke’s service game, which forced three errors by the Knights, along with strikes by Kubura and Ambrose to open up a 15-11 advantage and force the first UCF timeout.
UCF countered by scoring six of the next 11 points, trimming the Seminole lead to 20-17, but a series of kills by Green kept FSU in the lead 22-19. The Knights made one last charge at the lead, trimming the deficit to 23-22 following a kill by Jeanne Westney and an unforced error, but a kill by Luke coupled with the seventh UCF error of the frame that gave the Seminoles the two-point win.
The two teams evenly split the first 14 points of the second set, before Florida State streaked out to a 17-10 lead by virtue four unforced UCF errors and service aces from Horton and Burkert. The Knights regained their composure and scored six unanswered points, but it a combination of kills from Burkert and Keil along with four additional errors by UCF gave the Seminoles a two-set advantage.
Sensing the opportunity to close out its opponent in three sets, Florida State opened the third set on an 8-4 run highlighted by two kills each by Green and Keil. After a Horton kill put the Seminoles into double figures, 10-6, Luke forced UCF into five straight attack errors as Florida State assumed the 15-6 advantage.
Timely kills by Ambrose and Kubura, coupled with a pair of UCF errors resulted in a 21-10 lead for the Seminoles. Florida State fought off two kills by Taylor Wickey to complete the 12-point victory with a kill by Horton.
The Seminoles now turn their attention to a trio of matches against Texas A&M (Sept. 1), Minnesota (Sept. 2) and Alabama (Sept. 3) in the Puerto Rico Tournament next weekend.
FSU will make its official home debut on Sept. 8 when it squares off against Baylor as part of the Home2 Suites by Hilton-Tallahassee Seminole Tournament.
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