TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After posting a 24-5 overall record, which included a 17-3 mark in Atlantic Coast Conference play, the 16th-ranked Florida State volleyball team heads to Gainesville this weekend to play Cincinnati in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.Under head coach Chris Poole the Seminoles reached the NCAA Tournament for the 19th time in program history and eighth time in as many seasons.
Poole, who piloted Florida State to at least 20 wins for the ninth consecutive season, will be making his 24th all-time appearance in the postseason tournament, including the National Invitational Volleyball Championship, after 11 at Arkansas and four at Arkansas State.
Florida State takes the court against the Bearcats (22-9, 17-3 AAC) on Friday at 4:30 p.m. in the Lemerand Athletic Center. It marks the second meeting between the two programs in the NCAA Tournament and first since Dec. 3, 2011. The Seminoles emerged victorious in that clash, posting a five-set win (25-23, 16-25, 25-20, 20-25, 15-13), as they reached the Final Four before a setback to eventual national champion UCLA.
Florida State owns a 17-2 all-time record against the Bearcats in the head-to-head series, winning their last 14 straight dating back to four-set victory on Oct. 1, 1983. Former rivals from the Metro Conference, the two schools clashed on five occasions in the league tournament between and 1982 and 1988 with the Seminoles winning four of those meetings.
“We are very excited to be back in the NCAA Tournament to represent both Florida State University and the Atlantic Coast Conference,” said Poole. “The postseason starts everything all over and every team is now 0-0. It’s time for us to step up and play consistent if we want to make a run into the tournament.”
The Seminoles enter this weekend’s match riding a six-match winning streak, their second-longest of the season, which began on Nov. 11 with a 3-1 victory at Boston College.
Leading the way statistically for Florida State lineup includes recent first team All-ACC honoree Milica Kubura, who recorded 345 kills (3.05 kills/set) and 78 total blocks (72 assisted blocks). Fellow first team All-ACC recipient Katie Horton recorded 319 kills (2.82 kills/set) and 364 digs (3.22 digs/set). The duo was instrumental in the Seminoles’ recording 1,478 kills (13.08 kills/set) this season.
Florida State’s offense also includes Mara Green, recently named second team All-ACC after capping off the regular season as the most efficient hitter in the ACC with a .374 attack percentage (222 kills on 431 swings). Teammates Brianne Burkert (703 assists) and Hailey Luke (508 assists), who have accounted for 87.1 percent of the Seminoles’ assists this season, are looking to guide FSU to the second round for the eighth time in as many seasons.
Melanie Keil, a second team All-ACC honoree, leads the way for the Florida State defense that ranks to eighth nationally in blocks per set (2.90). Keil, who ranks second nationally in blocks per set (1.63) and fifth in the NCAA in total blocks, played an integral part of limiting FSU’s opponents to a .177 hitting percentage.
Cecilie Woie, who enters the weekend leading the team with 446 digs, is also tops among Florida State defensive leaders. Woie eclipsed the 400-dig mark in a single season for the first time in her career, due in large part to seven 20-dig performances. The Alsvag, Norway native teamed with Horton to form one of the best back row combinations in program history as they became the fifth tandem in the rally scoring era to record at least 350 digs in a season.
Cincinnati also enters the NCAA Tournament on a six-match winning streak which began with a 3-2 victory at Temple on Nov. 11. The Bearcats are led by the combination of Jade Tingelhoff (1,122 assists), Jordan Thompson (552 kills), Abby Williams (379 digs) and Lise Alaiwan (87 total blocks). Cincinnati is making its first appearance in the postseason since 2011, earning the first ever at-large bid for the American Athletic Conference.
First round victories by both the Seminoles and host Florida, who plays Alabama State in the evening session on Friday, will pit the two in-state rivals against each other for the 69th all-time meeting on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. The two have met on four occasions in the NCAA Tournament since 1992 with Seminoles earning their lone postseason win over Florida on Dec. 6, 2013.
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