Sept. 21, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In one of the biggest matches of the regular season, the 13th-ranked Florida State University women’s volleyball team hosts third-ranked Florida at Tully Gym on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m.
The match is deemed “Residential Hall Challenge Night,” as the first 250 students get a free 2010 volleyball koozie, and the hall with the most attendants will win $200 in free Pizza Hut coupons for a dorm event.
Fans are encouraged to pack Tully Gym for a matchup that features both schools competing as Top 15 members of the American Volleyball Coaches Association Poll for the first time in series history. The Gators (8-1, 2-0) have won 18 consecutive matches against the Seminoles (9-1, 1-0) dating back to 1995, giving fans an opportunity to watch FSU break its winless streak against an in-state rival.
“There have never been two Top 15 teams playing in Tully Gym,” coach Chris Poole said. “The magnitude of this match is really huge for the state of Florida, and for FSU. I hope fans will take advantage of it, because this is a sporting event that they should come to, and you can’t beat going to an event like this when it’s free admission.”
The Seminoles’ last match in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener at Miami gave them an early glimpse of what type of atmosphere they could be playing in Wednesday night. FSU showed its poise in defeating its conference rival, 3-1, in front of a near-capacity crowd in Coral Gables.
Senior outside hitter Stephanie Neville has had consecutive standout performances for the Seminoles. On Sept. 11, she recorded 16 kills, three blocks and a season-best .571 hitting percentage against Virginia Commonwealth. In the match versus the Hurricanes, Neville posted 16 kills yet again and recorded a .500 hitting percentage.
FSU is off to its second consecutive 9-1 start under head coach Chris Poole, who is 61-13 at FSU in his third season. Poole’s overall record is 611-243 in over 23 years as a head coach.
The Seminoles have reached a peak in their program history, beginning with last year’s run to the Elite Eight. Counting this season’s preseason poll, FSU has spent 19 consecutive weeks as a nationally-ranked squad, more than double its previous best streak of nine in the 1993 season. Throughout its history, FSU has spent 32 weeks in the national polls, with 19 of them occurring in the last two seasons.
Florida’s streak of success against FSU nearly came to an end last season in Gainesville. The Gators prevailed in five sets (19-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-22, 15-17) despite facing match point by FSU trailing 14-13.
“The key for us is to go in and be consistent with our serves and passing,” Poole added. “Sometimes we are up and down with that, and we can’t be that way when playing Florida.”
Florida leads the series at 32-21. The Gators are led by one of the nation’s best players in right-side hitter/setter Kelly Murphy, a left-handed player who leads the team with 112 kills, a .376 hitting percentage and 192 assists. Murphy is also the reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Week.
Outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel is second on the squad with 82 kills, and has 67 digs through nine matches. Jaeckel kept UF’s victory hopes against FSU alive last season when she recorded a kill assisted by Murphy to tie the match at 14-14 in the fifth set.
Florida has defeated six of seven ranked foes this season, including Iowa State, Nebraska, Colorado State, Texas, Kentucky and Tennessee. It only fell to defending national champion Penn State, 3-1.
While UF is No. 1 in the unofficial Ratings Percentage Index rankings, FSU holds the No. 10 spot. According to the RKPI (Rich Kern Percentage Index), FSU is 2-1 against the Top 25 and 1-0 versus teams ranked 26-50 in the RKPI.
The Seminoles enter Wednesday’s contest carrying an offensive reputation. FSU is ranked 10th in the nation with 14.42 kills per set, and 22nd with a .277 hitting percentage.
For those not attending Wednesday’s match, the annual in-state clash can be followed on CBS GameTracker off the Seminoles.com volleyball page.