The results from Tuesday’s match have no bearing on regular-season records or statistics. Despite the insignificance in the Seminoles’ (6-0) season-long standing, the match served as an excellent barometer against a fundamentally-sound Slovenian team that competed well at the recent European Championships and managed to fight back from two sets down.
Tuesday’s exhibition was also a great opportunity for several Seminole freshmen to earn time on the court. Leading the way in the attacking game was outside hitter Nicole Walch, who recorded 11 kills on 22 attacks for a .318 hitting percentage. The Stuart, Fla., native delivered four service aces and finished with a team-leading 15 points.
“This match really had two great purposes,” head coach Chris Poole said. “It allowed us to play several of our players and gave them an opportunity to get some playing time, which is one of the reasons we scheduled this match. Secondly, it showed us that even though we lost momentum and got out of sync, we were capable of pulling back together and raising our level back up. It was important for us to see how the team would respond.”
Florida State was dominant in the first two sets, as the Walch sisters in Elise and Nicole combined for 15 kills in 19 swings going into the intermission. The Seminoles entered the break hitting .553 and used their noticeable height advantage to their favor with several points won at the net. Aside from Nicole Walch’s strong first two sets, Elise had eight kills in nine attacks with two blocks as FSU went up 2-0.
The next two sets were a different story, with Slovenia heavily utilizing one of its attackers who was given a majority of the swings. In the third and fourth sets, Slovenia took sizeable leads with good serving that kept FSU off-balanced and precise passing that set up easy attacks offensively. Slovenia produced a .444 hitting percentage in set three, and used a few large runs to break away convincingly in set four.
In the final set, the Seminoles got a boost from senior middle blocker Sareea Freeman. The senior from Fresno, Calif., contributed with four substantial kills in a span of seven rallies midway through the fifth frame that swung the momentum back in FSU’s favor. A few of Freeman’s points came on overkills from free balls by Slovenia.
Freeman, who finished with 10 kills, a .667 hitting percentage and six blocks, ignited a 5-0 run that put FSU ahead at 13-7. Following Marija Milosavljevic’s kill that made it 14-8, an attack error by Slovenia ended the match.
The Seminoles now focus on a crucial conference-opening match at Miami on Friday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. The match will air live on ESPNU.