Aug 30, 2013
LONG BEACH, Calif. (seminoles.com) – The 18th-ranked Florida State indoor volleyball team salvaged its first day of the season as it defeated No. 17 Kentucky, 3-0 (27-25, 25-23, 25-20), on Friday evening at the Long Beach State Mizuno Invitational at Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif.
The nationally-ranked victory for the Seminoles (1-1) was a positive way to end the first day after falling to perennial Big Ten power Illinois earlier in the day in three sets. Florida State’s win over the Wildcats (0-1) was its 23rd Top 25 win in program history, its fifth win against a Top 25 Kentucky squad and the 18th-highest ranked victory in school history.
“We’re still learning a lot about ourselves,” head coach Chris Poole said. “In the first match there was a lot of mistakes, and that can be typical when you replace four starting seniors with four or five kids who have not been on the court a whole lot. The second match we played better but not to our fullest potential. We’re happy to beat a very good Kentucky team, and we showed a lot more consistency and ball control in this second match.”
Florida State got after Kentucky by covering ground extremely well, as the Wildcats were held to just a .143 hitting percentage. While the Seminoles only produced a .212 attacking clip, they used 11 team blocks to their advantage as Ashley Neff (five blocks), Olivera Medic (four blocks) and Sarah Burrington (four blocks) were forces at the front of the net. Neff added nine kills and a .471 hitting percentage.
Sophomore outside hitter Nicole Walch and Medic paced Florida State’s hitting with 10 kills apiece. Senior Elise Walch added six kills with just one attack error, while Medic added 11 digs to notch the team’s first double-double of the season. Redshirt junior libero Katie Mosher led all players with 15 digs versus Kentucky.
Against the Wildcats, the Seminoles staved off two set points against them in the first set and came away with a 27-25 win in the opening frame. A kill by Kentucky’s Whitney Billings gave it a 24-23 set-point advantage, but Mara Green recorded a substantial kill to tie the set. Green then recorded a blocking error on another Billings kill to create the second set point, but Burrington broke through with a big kill.
Following a kill by Medic that made it 26-25, Burrington recorded a set-ending solo block off the attack of Kentucky’s Sara Schwarzwalder to give Florida State its first set win of the season.
The second set proved to be another nail-biter. The Seminole offense came to life as Nicole Walch produced six kills while Neff added three kills and three blocks. With the set tied at 17-17, the Seminoles won back-to-back points on kills by Medic and Elise Walch. Later, Nicole Walch came through with another big kill to make it 23-21, and four rallies later Medic put away the set with a nice cross-court kill.
Medic would finish off Kentucky in the third and final set to clinch the victory for Florida State.
The Seminoles were done in by the enormous hitting of Illinois outside hitter Jocelynn Birks in the earlier match, as she recorded 22 kills, a .333 hitting percentage and two service aces in just three sets of action. The Illini (1-0) were able to compile a .282 hitting percentage, a quality mark against one of the nation’s best blocking units over the last four seasons.
Illinois presented a tough challenge for Florida State right in the opening set, expanding an 18-17 lead to a 25-18 win in the first frame after winning seven of the final eight points. Junior outside hitter Liz McMahon finished with five kills, one block and a late service ace in the frame. Florida State received some quality serving from Medic, as she recorded consecutive service aces midway through the set to keep things close. The Illini’s offensive execution was superior in the first frame as it totaled 17 kills compared to Florida State’s six.
Both teams tussled hard in the second set, with Elise Walch sparking the Seminole offense with six kills in the frame. However, too much top-notch hitting from Birks foiled Florida State’s defensive plan as she recorded nine kills in the second set and 16 overall heading into the intermission.
Every time Illinois tried to break free in the second set, Florida State clawed back and tied it at 19-19 on a kill by Medic. Both teams went back and forth as Elise Walch kept the Seminoles in it with responding kills to tie the set at 21-21. A two-point run by the Illini off a kill from Birks and a setting error by Florida State gave it a 23-21 lead, and a kill by Maddie Mayers ended the frame to put the Seminoles in a 2-0 hole.
Another competitive set occurred in the third, but Illinois wound up with the sweep after Birks ended the match with a kill. Florida State had the chance to take control of the set after leading 14-9 on a ball-handling error from the Illini, but the opposition went on a 5-0 run punctuated by a kill from McMahon. Trailing 21-20 with both teams trading points, Burrington and Elise Walch combined on a block to create yet another tie in the set at 21-21.
As was the case in the previous sets, whichever team could go on a late run had the upper edge. Tied at 21 in the third, Illinois used a kill and a block by Maddie Mayers to create match point at 24-21. Nicole Walch then produced consecutive kills, but Birks’ match-ending kill highlighted a superb performance from the Illini.
Mosher finished the day with 27 digs, giving her 1,126 for her career to make her just the seventh student-athlete in school history with over 1,100 career digs.
Florida State finishes the Long Beach State Mizuno Invitational facing Long Beach State on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT inside the Walter Pyramid.
Follow Florida State indoor volleyball on Seminoles.com as well as on the team’s official Twitter (@FSU_Volleyball) and Facebook pages (Facebook.com/FSUVolleyball).