Dec. 2, 2011
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – Another entertaining performance by Florida State volleyball player Jekaterina Stepanova highlighted FSU’s 3-0 (25-15, 25-11, 25-23) victory over Albany in the first round of the NCAA women’s volleyball championship on Friday evening at Tully Gym.
Stepanova’s 16 kills and nine digs highlighted FSU’s hitting percentage of .333 as it won its sixth NCAA Tournament match in school history. The Seminoles (25-6) have won three first-round matchups in the last three seasons as they continue to emerge as one of the nation’s fastest-rising volleyball programs.
“Certainly we’re very excited for the win,” head coach Chris Poole said. “We knew that this was a team that was dangerous and wouldn’t quit and didn’t have anything to lose. They’d keep working and they’re a well-coached team who has a good record – that certainly tells you they’re going to keep coming at you each time. We didn’t play as well as we wanted to coming out of the break there (in the third set), but at the same time the girls picked it up at the end and came out with a win.”
The victory for FSU means it will face Cincinnati on Saturday evening at 6 p.m. at Tully Gym in the second round. The Bearcats (27-9) won their opening round match versus Samford in five sets. The victor of Saturday’s match will earn a spot in the NCAA Sweet 16 in Minneapolis, Minn.
The Seminoles have now won 10 of their 13 matches in Tully Gym by 3-0 sweeps this season. FSU now advances to the second round for just the fourth time in school history.
Whenever needed, Stepanova rose to the occasion on Friday evening with acrobatic kills that ignited the crowd. The Latvia native finished with a .467 hitting percentage, and was set up nicely by setters Sarah Wickstrom (21 assists) and Duygu Duzceler (16 assists). Stepanova continues to play a vital role in FSU’s receiving game, managing nine digs.
Redshirt freshman Katie Mosher made history in FSU’s first-round match when she broke the school’s single-season digs record. Mosher produced 17 digs to reach 515 for the season, passing previous leader’s Summer Weissing’s total of 513 in 2005.
Senior outside hitter Visnja Djurdjevic was the other Seminole to reach double-digit kills, recording 11 put-downs as well as 11 digs. Djurdjevic’s 13 double-doubles trail only Stepanova’s 14 this season.
Four-year senior Rachael Morgan also was efficient against the Great Danes (21-9), tallying five kills and a .364 hitting percentage in what was her seventh postseason match as a Seminole.
FSU has now defeated Albany twice in 2011 after winning by a 3-0 count in the season-opening FSU Invitational in late August.
The Seminoles hit .387 in the first set as Stepanova made good on five of her 10 attacks. FSU burst to a 6-0 lead and reached a double-digit advantage at 16-6 on an Albany service error. Duzceler ended the set when she dumped the ball from a setter position to give FSU an early 1-0 overall lead.
FSU won by double digits again in frame two, getting five more kills from Stepanova while Albany amassed more errors than kills. FSU started with a 5-0 lead and never looked back, winning 25-11 in the set after Albany’s Casey Wright forced an attack error.
The Great Danes kept it close in the third set, holding a 7-4 lead as FSU was forced to call a timeout. Following the break, the Seminoles won five consecutive points and never trailed again in the set as Stepanova ended the match on another sharp kill.
Fans who are interested in purchasing single-game tickets to Saturday’s second-round action can do so by logging onto Seminoles.com and accessing the Online Ticket Office. Tickets for adults are $6, while students and seniors can get in at a $5 rate and children 12 and under $4.