Aug. 22, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – The preseason 12th-ranked Florida State University indoor volleyball team begins the 2012 season with this weekend’s Comcast Lady Vol Classic in Knoxville, Tenn. FSU faces No. 15 Tennessee on the road on Friday at 7 p.m., then battles No. 10 Iowa State and Cincinnati on Saturday at noon and 5:30 p.m., respectively.
With just over half of its 2011 NCAA national semifinal group returning, the Seminoles are looking to sustain their recent run of success with a host of new faces. FSU brings back eight returning letterwinners from a season ago and seven newcomers, highlighted by the third-ranked 2012 recruiting class in the nation according to prepvolleyball.com.
“This tournament is going to be a tremendous challenge for us. We knew that when we scheduled it,” head coach Chris Poole said. “We felt with our good core coming back and the top three recruiting class in the country, we could try to challenge them immediately and let them see what Division I is all about.”
FSU has three current student-athletes who have been a part of both the Elite Eight in 2009 and last season’s historical run. They include seniors Duygu Duzceler, Fatma Yildirim and Sareea Freeman. In FSU’s last match against Tennessee on Sept. 4, 2010, the aforementioned three players were the only members of the current roster who saw action in the contest.
“The preseason is critical to finding the identity of your team,” Poole said of a group filled with new players. “You’ve got to figure out what you have and come back week-to-week and improve, so as the season goes you’re implementing things to become a better team by the end of the year.”
The Seminoles’ matchup against the Lady Volunteers marks the first time since the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll came out in 1982 that FSU opens the year against a nationally-ranked squad. Since 1976, the Seminoles are 30-6 in season-opening matches and have not lost their first match of the season since 2002.
Tennessee is the defending Southeastern Conference champions, capturing a 28-4 overall record last season. The Lady Volunteers hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Championship but were upended by Ohio State in five sets. Tennessee returns several key pieces from last year’s team, including junior outside hitter and reigning SEC Player of the Year Kelsey Robinson. Senior middle blocker DeeDee Harrison, who joins Robinson on the 2012 Preseason All-SEC Team, is another substantial returnee.
Iowa State and Florida State waged a five-set thriller in last year’s NCAA Elite Eight won by the Seminoles in Minneapolis. The 10th-ranked Cyclones return nine student-athletes from last year, highlighted by Preseason All-Big 12 members Kristen Hahn, Alison Landwehr and Jamie Straube. The Cyclones are expected to have another big season, being picked to finish second in the conference behind perennial power Texas.
Cincinnati is one of three defending conference champions in the Comcast Lady Vol Classic. The Bearcats nearly defeated FSU in the NCAA Second Round last season in Tallahassee, falling in the fifth set by a 15-13 score. Senior middle blocker and right-side hitter Jordanne Scott returns for Cincinnati after posting a season-high 25 kills in last year’s match versus FSU.
All matches in the weekend invitational will be played at Tennessee’s home facility, Thompson-Boling Arena. Every Florida State match can be followed on CBS GameTracker off the Seminoles.com schedule page, and FSU’s Friday match at Tennessee will also be video streamed on UTsports.com All-Access.
Fans can follow this weekend’s action with in-match tweets on FSU volleyball’s official Twitter handle – @FSU_Volleyball.