Nov. 25, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The No. 21-ranked Florida State University indoor volleyball team plays its final match of the regular-season when it battles rival Miami on the road on Saturday, Nov. 26, at 5 p.m. at the James L. Knight Sports Complex.
FSU has already clinched its third ACC championship, wrapping up any suspense for Saturday’s showdown against the top two teams in the conference. The Seminoles were sparked by senior Jekaterina Stepanova’s efficient play last weekend as they won four-set matches on the road against Clemson then Georgia Tech to seal their second conference crown in the last three seasons.
Stepanova leads FSU with 342 kills and averages 3.29 kills per set. She joined fellow senior outside hitter Visnja Djurdjevic and sophomore middle blocker Ashley Neff as members of the All-ACC Team, while freshman setter Sarah Wickstrom was placed on the All-ACC Freshman Team. Head coach Chris Poole rounded out the honors for FSU by being named the ACC Coach of the Year, his ninth conference coach of the year award.
Miami has enjoyed a tremendous year, being paced by ACC Player of the Year Lane Carico. She averages a team-best 3.56 kills per set and also shows 407 digs. In FSU’s first match versus the Hurricanes this season in Tallahassee, FSU was able to hold Carico to nine kills and a .185 hitting percentage.
FSU will be shooting for a 19-1 record in the ACC, which would tie the 2009 squad for the best ACC record in school history. Following Saturday’s match, FSU will tune into Sunday’s NCAA Volleyball Selection Show on ESPNU at 6 p.m. to find out whether it will be seeded nationally and host the first two rounds.
While the Hurricanes hoped Saturday’s match versus FSU could mean a possible share of the conference title, those hopes were dashed last weekend when FSU won at Clemson and Georgia Tech to clinch its third ACC championship in school history.
FSU, which has won the ACC in two of the last three seasons, was guided by its superb hitting in defeating two quality opponents in rowdy environments. The Seminoles produced a .299 hitting percentage versus the Tigers, and followed with a .298 average at Georgia Tech.
The automatic qualifying bid secures FSU of its 14th NCAA Tournament appearance, with the postseason bracket being unveiled on Sunday, Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.
Steppin-Ova’ the Competition
It was a sensational two-match performance on Nov. 18-19 for senior outside hitter Jekaterina Stepanova, who earned ACC Co-Player of the Week honors.
The Riga, Latvia, native earns her first conference player of the week honor after leading the Seminoles to their third ACC championship in school history, including their second in the last three seasons. Stepanova combined to hit .461 in two matches last weekend with 38 kills and just three attack errors in 76 attacks.
Stepanova led FSU to a 3-1 victory at Clemson last Friday in front of an ESPN3.com audience. She amassed 20 kills and 12 digs to highlight her 13th double-double of the season. Stepanova also recorded a .514 hitting percentage against the Tigers, and totaled at least 20 kills for the fourth time in her two-year Seminole career.
What Will Walch Do?
The Seminoles defeated rival Miami earlier in the season in front of 1,307 fans on Sept. 14, winning 3-0 on ESPNU. Not only was the victory big for FSU because it was the conference opener, but it was also a showcase for newcomer Elise Walch.
The sophomore right-side hitter from Stuart, Fla., was dynamic against the Hurricanes, registering 12 kills on 17 attacks for a .706 hitting percentage. Her performance was a season high in hitting percentage for any FSU student-athlete this season.
With FSU carrying a much taller front line, Walch will look for more opportunities to exploit the Hurricanes in what she hopes is a sequel to her first match against Miami.