Nov. 14, 2008
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The biggest win of the season for the Florida State volleyball team came Friday night inside Tully Gym when the Seminoles came back from a two-set deficit to defeat Clemson 3-2 (22-25, 18-25, 25-16, 25-23, 15-12). The win advances the Noles to 18-8 overall and 10-6 in the ACC which puts them in a three-way tie for third with Virginia Tech and Sunday’s opponent, Georgia Tech. With the loss, the Tigers are knocked out of the top spot in the ACC and slip to 19-8 and 11-5 to tie for second with Miami who they face on Sunday in Coral Gables.
This is the first victory over Clemson since November 5, 2005 when Florida State won a 3-1 decision on the road in South Carolina. Prior to this evening, the Noles had been swept 3-0 in the last five meetings with the Tigers.
“I’m really proud of the way they hung in there,” Florida State head coach Chris Poole said. “We’ve been so close so many times with these good teams and we just haven’t been able to close it out. This was even better. To be down 2-0 against a team that’s at the top of the conference and was picked to win the conference and then come back in three really shows a lot of character on our girls’ part and I’m really proud of the way they fought to do that.”
Set one started on a four-point run for Clemson with FSU catching up and taking the lead at 13-12 thanks to a kill from freshman Rachael Morgan. The remainder of the set would see the score eight times before the Tigers pulled away with the 25-22 win.
Florida State would score first in set two on a team error by the Tigers, but too many Seminole attacking errors would plague the home team. Sophomore Lauren Richardson was able to get five kills down, but Clemson out-blocked and out-served FSU, notching five service aces to come out with a larger margin of victory, 25-18.
Whatever the Florida State coaching staff said to its team at the break worked because a fully revived Seminole squad returned to the court for set three. Determined to prevent another sweep by Clemson this season, the Noles took control early and dominated Lucy McDaniel Court.
Richardson along with junior Jordana Price led FSU with four kills each while sophomore Stephanie Neville recorded three. The Seminoles led in blocks (3.5-0), kills (11-10), service aces (3-1) and points (17.5-11) with Price leading the way with two assisted blocks in the third set.
The closest set of the night came in No. 4. Florida State got off to a slow start as three consecutive attack errors gave the Tigers a 3-0 advantage which they would hold onto until the score tied up at 20-20. A service ace by junior setter Nikki Baker gave the home team a 21-20 edge that was followed-up with back-to-back kills from freshman Abby Niekamp and Richardson to push FSU ahead by three. Clemson’s Lia Proctor and Danielle Hepburn would get a kill apiece past the Noles, but a pair of kills from Niekamp and Richardson would seal the deal for the Garnet and Gold and send the match into set five.
In the most intense set of the night, Florida State scored first and would creep out to a slight lead before Clemson tied it up at 8-8, forcing Coach Poole to call for a timeout. Returning to the court, a Niekamp attack error and a Clemson kill would push the visitors ahead by two. The score again tied at 11-11 and then at 12-12 off a kill by FSU junior Lauren Young before the Seminoles’ heavy-hitter, Richardson, would pound two kills into Clemson territory followed by one from Neville to secure the victory for the Garnet and Gold.
“We really challenged Clemson between sets two and three and we showed everyone that we’re a better team than we were at the beginning of the season,” Poole said.
Richardson had a stellar evening, breaking her career record with four service aces on top of recording double-double No. 11 this season with a match-high 22 kills and 13 digs. The outside hitter also led the team with a .347 attack percentage and 26.5 points.
“Clemson’s a great team and if we can take them, I’m so excited about the rest of the season,” Richardson said. “We can finish winning out, we’re ready to go.
“Everybody made it a team effort tonight and that makes it easy to get one-on-ones. They all did such a great job and we opened so many doors for each other.”
Every Nole on the court played a part in the big win. Price and Neville each recorded 10 digs apiece, while Morgan put down six and junior Brianna Barry got in two.
The two “loners” on the team, sole setter Baker and solo senior Ashlee Moon, each had a great night individually. Baker’s 50 assists and 10 digs marked her ninth double-double this year and Moon’s 30 digs on her Senior Night were just five shy of her all-time career record of 35 which she set earlier this season.
Florida State’s confidence got a boost tonight but the team must remain focused as it hosts another tough competitor on Sunday, Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets travel to Tallahassee for a 1:00 p.m. match on November 16, after dropping 3-2 at Miami on Friday. The Seminoles were swept by the Yellow Jackets on the road last month and are 6-9 against the Atlanta, Ga., team when playing in Tallahassee.