Oct. 2, 2011
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After cruising through its first four conference matches, the 22nd-ranked Florida State University indoor volleyball team was challenged well by Wake Forest but managed to squeak out a 3-2 (22-25, 25-21, 25-15, 22-25, 15-9) victory on Sunday afternoon at Tully Gym.
The Seminoles (11-4, 5-0) have now won their first five Atlantic Coast Conference matches for the first time since the 1993 season. The win also gives head coach Chris Poole his 635th career victory at the NCAA Division I level, tying FSU coaching legend Cecile Reynaud.
The victory, however, did not come without a bit of adversity. A hard-charging Demon Deacons (4-10, 1-4) squad played with noticeable energy and held one of the top hitting teams in the nation to a .188 attack percentage. FSU responded to the challenge by coming up with big points when it counted most, especially in the fifth and final set.
“You always have to take a win over a loss,” Poole said. “We wish we could have played better and we were a little flat this weekend overall. We made some mistakes that were a little uncharacteristic on Friday night, but we still were able to do a lot of good things also. Today, we came out again and made some mistakes early and just never got into a rhythm, but our right-sides played well.”
Arguably the match’s top performer was junior middle blocker Marija Milosavljevic, who played in four of the five sets yet compiled a career-high 12 blocks which is the most by a Seminole since former player Lauren Young recorded the same amount on Oct. 1, 2010 against N.C. State. Milosavljevic, a native of Bajina Basta, Serbia, had three of her blocks in the final frame.
In the fifth set, FSU was noticeably sharper in its passing game than the previous frame. Both teams traded points at 3-3, but a big kill by right-side hitter Elise Walch helped created a permanent lead for the Seminoles. Walch got in on the next play when she and Milosavljevic teamed up to block an attack by Jazmen Russell. Later, Milosavljevic got in front of the net to record a solo block against Wake Forest outside hitter Kadija Fornah and later recorded a block assist with Rachael Morgan to turn away a kill attempt by Mary Hoey, making it 10-5.
Three of the final four points went to FSU, starting with Ashley Neff’s well-placed kill to make it 13-8. Following an FSU attack error, Visnja Djurdjevic created match point with a kill and Walch delivered a match-ending kill to keep FSU’s home record intact at 6-0.
FSU, which began the weekend ranked 20th in the NCAA in blocks per set, is likely to climb the chart after amassing a season-high 18 team blocks this afternoon. The mark is the second-high since the 2006 season, trailing only its 19 blocks at North Carolina on Sept. 30, 2010.
Making a big difference in the match was redshirt freshman libero Katie Mosher, who established a career high with 29 digs. The Fort Myers, Fla., native repeatedly got under kill attempts by Wake Forest’s attackers as she enjoyed one of her finest performances this season.
More career highs were established in today’s match. Neff’s 12 kills marked her most as a Seminole, while junior setter Duygu Duzceler’s 37 assists were her most at FSU. Neff added six blocks.
Morgan was another huge presence for the Seminoles as she posted a strong all-around performance that included nine kills, four digs and seven blocks. Walch continued to finish offensively by recording 11 kills and a .409 hitting percentage, and added six blocks.
Leading FSU in kills was Djurdjevic, who had 17 to tie for her most this season. Although the Seminoles fell to Wake Forest in the fourth set, they mounted a strong comeback toward the end on the strength of several kills from Djurdjevic, who had eight in that set.
Wake Forest’s intention to stop FSU’s streak of strong play was on display in the first set when it broke the Seminoles’ 12-set win streak. FSU did not garner a single block in the opening frame while the Demon Deacons hit .324.
FSU came back in the second set despite a sturdy Wake Forest group staying within reach. FSU fell behind 12-11 on an attack error but won four consecutive points to help turn the match around. Djurdjevic ended the set on a kill to tie the match heading into intermission.
The best hitting came in the third set as FSU pulled away early. Wake Forest came back with a strong fourth set in which they weathered a furious comeback by the Seminoles late in the frame to force a deciding fifth set. It was FSU’s second five-match set of the season and its first win under the same circumstances.
“This is great for us,” Poole said. “We need to be humbled and we need to work hard for every match. Give credit to Wake Forest, they kept staying in the game and working hard and making good serves and moving the ball all around offensively.”
The Seminoles put their undefeated conference record on the line with a road trip next weekend to North Carolina. FSU and UNC face off on Friday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. in Chapel Hill. The Seminoles follow with their second televised match of the season as they head to Raleigh, N.C., for a 1 p.m. contest at N.C. State that will air on Fox Sports Florida.