Oct. 7, 2011
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Playing through its strength of batting down balls at the net, the 24th-ranked Florida State University indoor volleyball team earned an impressive 3-1 (20-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-18) victory at North Carolina in what was a battle of conference unbeatens on Friday night at Carmichael Arena.
The victory for FSU marks its best conference start ever in the ACC as it holds a 6-0 conference record. It is also its best start in conference play since the 1989 squad also started 6-0 and finished 10-0 in the Metro Conference.
Propelled by the strong play of sophomore middle blocker Ashley Neff, FSU looked past its inauspicious beginning and rolled through the last three sets as UNC’s attackers found no luck in getting balls through the Seminoles’ (12-4, 6-0) front line. More importantly, an important block was made whenever FSU got ahead and needed to stop a Tar Heel run.
FSU finished with a season-high 20 team blocks, as Neff led the way with a career-high 12 blocks. It is the second straight time FSU has visited Carmichael Arena and had one player record 12 blocks in a contest, as Sareea Freeman also recorded the same amount last season.
“Our blocking was tremendous tonight,” head coach Chris Poole said following his 636th career victory. “We tried to work on putting up a really solid block this week. We did a really good job of that tonight and as the match progressed you saw us getting better and better.”
Senior outside hitter Visnja Djurdjevic finished with 13 kills on .282 hitting, coming through mightily with 18 digs for another double-double this season. Jekaterina Stepanova added 10 kills, while Katie Mosher registered 21 digs for the Seminoles. Duygu Duzceler and Sarah Wickstrom combined for 41 assists.
A slow start accompanied the Seminoles in the opening frame, as they struggled to find any consistency on offense until the end of the set when it was virtually out of hand. FSU was held to 10 kills on 34 attacks, which included seven errors for a .088 hitting percentage. Neff finished the frame with three blocks, but UNC’s Emily McGee and Kayla Berringer combined for 11 of UNC’s 17 kills to pace its attack.
“In the first set we weren’t able to get into any sort of rhythm,” Poole added. “The second set we started doing some things right and thank goodness instead of letting them come back we were able to finish the match.”
The Seminoles flipped fortunes in set two as they got off to a quick start courtesy of some strong blocking and timely hitting. FSU hit at a .294 clip in the second frame which included 14 kills, including four from Neff in the middle. Stepanova added three put-downs as she began to find her rhythm as the match progressed. FSU was careful not to relinquish its large advantage when UNC managed to get within 18-16 on a service ace, calling a timeout and returning from the break by winning on seven of the next 11 points. Through two frames, FSU produced 10 team blocks as it improved in the second frame on its defensive play at the net.
Momentum carried into the third set as the team blocks continued to mount for the Seminoles. FSU produced six blocks in the third frame as FSU quelled another UNC run after holding a rather sizeable advantage. Fittingly, the set ended on a combined block by Rachael Morgan and Neff, as Neff already reached her career high of 11 bat-downs through three sets played. Morgan finished the night with eight blocks, followed by Freeman’s seven.
It was again a good beginning for FSU in the fourth set until UNC began to chip away at its deficit. After the Tar Heels (13-4, 5-1) earned a kill to make it a 20-16 deficit against the Seminoles, a timeout by FSU was followed by a UNC attack error and a key kill by Marija Milosavljevic to make it 22-16. Freeman finished the match with a kill to keep FSU’s undefeated conference record intact.
FSU finishes its road weekend as it takes on North Carolina State at the Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday afternoon in a match that can be seen regionally on television networks that include FOX Sports Florida and FOX Sports South. First serve is set for 1:05 p.m.