Sept. 14, 2011
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Playing behind a standing-room only crowd in an energetic atmosphere at Tully Gym, the Florida State University indoor volleyball team stormed past 20th-ranked Miami, 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-18), on Wednesday evening in front of a national audience on ESPNU.
With the fans packing in and creating an enormous buzz in the building, the Seminoles (7-4, 1-0) elevated their play as they took a crucial Atlantic Coast Conference opener that was broadcast as part of ESPNU’s Wednesday Night Volleyball package. FSU was guided by the marksmanship of sophomore outside hitter Elise Walch, who compiled a .706 hitting percentage on 12 kills in 17 attacks. The Stuart, Fla., native did not record one attack error.
“It was a really big win and a great atmosphere,” Walch said. “It was great to come out and show that we can play like we can. Home is a great atmosphere. The fans are great as well as the band, and it’s great that we can play so well together here.”
Walch’s enormous hitting percentage eclipses her previous career high as a collegiate athlete, when she hit .607 on a career-best 19 kills against Seton Hall while at Wisconsin. Her 12 put-downs are her second-most while at FSU, only behind her 16 kills against Northern Iowa two weekends ago.
When the score began to draw closer, it was Walch who turned out to be FSU’s go-to player. She made a significant impact in closing out the match for the Seminoles, recording five kills in the second set and another five in the third. Several of her points came in big moments that helped FSU break a tie or ease the sting of a Miami comeback.
Along with Walch, the Seminoles got a balanced effort from seniors Visnja Djurdjevic and Jekaterina Stepanova. Each racked up their fourth and sixth double-doubles, respectively, as Djurdjevic recorded 12 kills and 12 digs while Stepanova added 12 kills and 11 digs.
Middle blocker Sareea Freeman stepped up in a big way from the offensive end, hitting well throughout the match. Freeman finished with a season-best nine kills and a .571 attack percentage.
The victory for FSU is its third Top 25 win this season, and is also the highest. Its other nationally-ranked victories in 2011 include then-No. 23 Tulsa and then-No. 23 Dayton.
Since coming to FSU in 2008, Poole now has the upper hand on the Hurricanes (9-1, 0-1), who were dealt their first loss of the season tonight. Poole entered tonight’s contest with a 3-3 record against FSU’s in-state rival before adding a win. The 25-year coaching veteran has a winning record against every ACC opponent except Georgia Tech.
Poole has also guided the Seminoles to six Top-25 wins since arriving four seasons ago. In that time, the previously unbeaten Hurricanes are the fourth-highest behind only eighth-ranked Illinois in 2009, 13th-ranked Kentucky in the 2009 Sweet 16 and 16th-ranked Kentucky in 2010.
Feeding off the energy of its fan base, the FSU offense posted its best hitting percentage in its last four matches with a .310 clip. The 20th-ranked Hurricanes, who had already defeated nationally-ranked Oklahoma and Pepperdine, totaled a .205 percentage as some of their more productive hitters were forced into uncharacteristic performances.
“It was an absolute unbelievable crowd,” Poole said. “If we can have this crowd every time, we can have similar results. The building was full of energy and there’s no doubt they played a big part in our adrenalin flowing and getting us on a real high.
“We’ve been playing great competition for three weeks so it’s not as though this was any different,” Poole added. “We just happened to be home and we had a great crowd, and they helped us get over some of the humps that we had been giving up on the road. The girls are working hard right now; they understood how important this match was because Miami is very good. They knew that if we want to make a run at the ACC this year we had to get this one at home.”
The Seminoles get the weekend off from competition before returning to the courts on Sept. 23-24 at Virginia and Virginia Tech. FSU’s next home match comes against nationally-ranked and preseason ACC favorite Duke on Sept. 30.