September 2, 2016 - by
Two-Set Rally Helps No. 16 FSU Down No. 14 Texas A&M
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – The 16th-ranked Florida State volleyball team capitalized on 31 assisted blocks and rallied from a 0-2 deficit to earn an 18-25, 19-25, 25-20, 25-21, 15-8 victory over No. 14 Texas A&M in the opening match of the Puerto Rico Clasico on Thursday evening. The victory marked the 33rd win in Florida State history over an opponent ranked in the AVCA polls and the 25th in head coach Chris Poole’s nine-year tenure with the Seminoles.
Melanie Keil emerged with 12 assisted blocks, highlighting a Seminole front row that established the school’s five-set, rally scoring assisted block record. Joining Keil with solid defensive outings were Christina Ambrose (six assisted blocks), Katie Horton (four), Mara Green (three) and Natasha Calkins (three). Teammate Cecilie Woie anchored the back row with 14 digs and Hailey Luke contributed 14.
Ambrose and Milica Kubura led the Florida State offense with 13 kills, while Horton reached double figures with 11. Kubura finished off an errorless performance, attacking the Texas A&M defense 24 times, and posted a .542 attack percentage.
Trailing 2-0, Florida State began its rally in the third set trailing 11-10 following a kill by the Aggies’ Emily Hardesty. It was there that Horton slammed a pass from Brianne Burkert past the Texas A&M defense, igniting a 10-3 run by the Seminoles.
Horton accounted for three kills in the 10-point stretch and teamed with Woie, who forced the Aggies into committing a pair of attack errors, to provide Florida State momentum and a six-point edge. A timeout by Texas A&M was not enough to derail the Seminoles, who used two kills by Ambrose and a set-decisive strike by Green to post the five-point win.
The two teams traded the first 20 points of the fourth set, reaching a 10-10 tie, before an unforced error by the Seminoles coupled with a kill by Hardesty provided Texas A&M with the two-point advantage. The lead ballooned to three, 14-11, forcing Florida State to burn its first timeout of the frame.
An attack error by the Aggies’ Kaitlyn Blake opened the door for Woie in serve, who responded by scoring the next four straight points to draw the game even at 15-all. Three points later, trailing by one, Florida State used kills by Horton and Luke as they built a 20-17 lead. Kills down the stretch by Kubura and Ambrose, along with a service ace by Keil allowed the Seminoles to draw even with a four-point victory.
With the momentum of the match in Florida State’s advantage, the upstart Seminoles used kills by Kubura and Ambrose, along with a service ace by Horton, to establish a 5-1 lead early in the fifth set. Texas A&M made a brief rally, pulling within three points, 8-5, but kills by Horton and Kubura along with three unforced Aggie errors resulted in a 13-8 Seminole lead.
Horton used her strong service game to complete the come-from-behind win, forcing A&M into a series of attack errors as the Seminoles completed the 15-8 win.
“We knew this would be a tough weekend,” said Poole of the event. “Texas A&M played really well and put tremendous pressure on us the first two sets. They were taking us out of our rhythm and we couldn’t get into a flow. I felt that we got much better as the match progressed. This is the type of match where a team has to show a lot of character and I’m very proud of the way we kept fighting and never gave up.”
Texas A&M came out strong in the opening set, using seven kills by Kiara McGee to earn a seven-point win. McGee led the Aggie offense to a .419 attack percentage in the first frame.
The Aggies followed with a .300 attack percentage in the second set, again highlighted by McGee—who finished with six kills, as they battled through five ties in the first 10 points to assume the 17-14 lead.
Green countered with a pair of kills for the Seminoles drawing the contest even at 18-all. Blake took over in serve, following a kill by McGee, and forced Florida State into five consecutive errors as the Aggies took the second frame by six points.
Florida State returns to action on Friday afternoon to face Alabama at 5:30 p.m. It marks the first meeting between the two programs since they clashed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament Seattle Regional.
The matches for the Puerto Rico Clasico can be seen on www.flovolleyball.tv.
FSU will play its home opener next week on Sept. 8 when it squares off against Baylor as part of the Home2 Suites by Hilton-Tallahassee Seminole Tournament.
For more information visit Facebook (Florida State Seminoles Volleyball), Twitter (FSU_Volleyball) and Instagram (FSUvolleyball).
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