September 2, 2016 - by
No. 16 Seminoles Battle Past Alabama in Five Sets

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – For the second time in as many days the 16th-ranked Florida State volleyball team posted a five-set victory at the Puerto Rico Clasico, this time downing Alabama by scores of 22-25, 25-21, 20-25, 25-19 and 15-12. The Seminoles, who improved to 3-0, were led by the performances of Katie Horton, who drove home a career-high 20 kills, and Milica Kubura, who finished with 19 kills. Horton, who committed only four errors in 44 attacks on the Crimson Tide defense, finished with a .364 attack percentage.

Kubura was also clicking on all cylinders as she posted a .517 attack percentage, having only four miscues.
Christina Ambrose was also a solid contributor to the Florida State offense, finishing with 11 kills (.348 attack pct.). Hailey Luke quarterbacked the Seminoles’ offense to a .352 attack percentage with her team-high 38 assists.
Defensively, Melanie Keil made her presence felt for Florida State with six assisted blocks (one solo), anchoring a front row that tallied 12 total blocks (18 assisted). Mara Green was also active defensively with three assisted blocks.
Down a set entering the fourth, the Seminoles capitalized on a series of strikes by Ambrose, Kubura and Green to establish a 9-5 advantage, forcing a Crimson Tide timeout. The four-point lead eventually grew to six after a kill by Horton and Cecilie Woie’s service game forcing Alabama’s Krystal Rivers to commit and attack error.
Alabama came out of its second timeout by scoring three of the next four points, trimming the Florida State lead to four, but three kills down the stretch by Kubura and one from Green sent the match to the decisive fifth set.
Luke and the rejuvenated Florida State lineup quickly opened the fifth set with an ace as they eventually assumed a 9-5 advantage due to three consecutive errors by Alabama. The Crimson Tide briefly rallied, behind a kill by Hayley McSparin and a service ace from Natalie Murison, narrowing the margin to 9-8.
But Florida State regained its composure and used a Horton kill along with two errors by the Crimson Tide to forge ahead 13-10. The Seminoles would surrender just two more points as they closed out the victory on an assisted block by Ambrose and Green.
“I am pleased with the victory and thought that Alabama played hard,” said head coach Chris Poole. “We need to do a better job with our focus when these matches start. It is early in the season and I expect us to grow as the season progresses. Our offense is hot and cold right now and we want to be more disciplined on defense.
“Minnesota (Saturday’s opponent for Florida State) was in the Final Four last year and we are expecting another big challenge with them,” added Poole.
Alabama used two kills each by Rivers and strong service games to establish a 7-2 advantage in the early stages of the first set. Florida State rallied, behind kills from Ambrose, Green and Horton, to pull within four, 10-6, before the Crimson Tide scored four of the next five points.
Facing an eight point deficit, 20-12, Florida State regained its rhythm behind a series of kills by Horton as it pulled within five. The Noles defense forced a series of errors by Alabama, closing to within two on a pair of occasions, but the Tide completed the open set victory by virtue of a service error.
The Seminoles responded to the challenge in the second set, using a trio of kills by Ambrose along with contributions from Kubura and Green to establish an 8-6 advantage. After a series of Crimson Tide points knotted the frame at eight-all, Florida State converted kills by Horton and Kubura to eventually move back in front by four.
Alabama once again drew even, 16-16, this time behind a series of kills from Rivers and Brittany Thomas. The Seminoles once again battled through the adversity and behind three kills from Kubura, two off the hand of Horton and three unforced errors by the Tide to draw the match even at one each.
Alabama established itself early in the third set, breaking a four-all tie by recording a pair of service aces to move in front 8-4. That four point advantage was extended to seven, 14-7, with Natalie Murison in serve as the Tide rolled off three straight to force an FSU timeout.
Florida State quickly rebounded with a four-point run of its own, highlighted by kills from Horton and Luke, as it narrowed the gap to three. The Seminoles would eventually trim that margin to two, 20-18, after a pair of unforced errors by Rivers and Shannon Mikesky. However, Alabama allowed just two points over the final seven to assume the 2-1 lead.
The three-day event draws to a close on Saturday evening when Florida State faces sixth-ranked Minnesota at 8 p.m. (EST). The Golden Gophers own a three-match advantage (9-6) in the all-time series and have won three straight since Sept. 17, 1994. The Seminoles last faced Minnesota in the Elite Eight of the 2009 NCAA Tournament, with the Golden Gophers winning in four sets.
The matches for the Puerto Rico Clasico can be seen on www.flovolleyball.tv.
FSU will play its home opener next week on Sept. 8 when it squares off against Baylor as part of the Home2 Suites by Hilton-Tallahassee Seminole Tournament.
For more information visit Facebook (Florida State Seminoles Volleyball), Twitter (FSU_Volleyball) and Instagram (FSUvolleyball).
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