Dec. 1, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – A new season begins for the Florida State University volleyball team as it enters the one-and-done format of the NCAA Championship. FSU begins with a first-round matchup against Georgia Southern on Friday, Dec. 3, at 5 p.m. at the Stephen C. O’ Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla.
The winner of Friday’s contest will face No. 1 seed Florida or South Carolina State on Saturday at 7:30 at the same venue.
The Seminoles are making their 13th NCAA championship appearance, including their fourth in Gainesville. FSU finished the regular season fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which tied a league record with five postseason teams.
Historically, FSU is 2-0 against Georgia Southern. The Seminoles defeated the Eagles (27-8, 14-2) of the Southern Conference in three-set fashion on Sept. 16, 1990, and Sept. 10, 1997, as part of early-season nonconference tournaments. FSU is 11-0 against past and present Southern Conference affiliated members, with its last contest coming against the Eagles 13 years ago.
The 2010 edition has already given FSU its first consecutive postseason appearance since the 1997 and 1998 seasons. Head Coach Chris Poole is also focused on getting his team to become the first Seminole squad to post NCAA Tournament wins in back-to-back years.
“We have high expectations for the program, and certainly it starts with being in the NCAA Tournament every year,” Poole said. “Teams will have their rebuilding and reloading years – that is simply part of collegiate athletics. However, we want to build a program that works hard and put ourselves in a position to be competitive at a high level, no matter the circumstances.”
FSU has fought its battles this season, most notably with injuries that have sent its lineup out of order. Led by junior outside hitter Visnja Djurdjevic, the Seminoles appear to be at their healthiest since the beginning of the season and are ready to mesh their talent together once again in hopes of another remarkable run.
“We’ve fought through adversity and now it is time to put things behind us and play the game,” Poole stated. “It’s a new season where it is one and done if you don’t win. We know that we have the ability and potential to be very good and showed that our first 10 matches when we were moving up the AVCA Poll and RPI ranking.”
Djurdjevic has been one of FSU’s stabilizing forces this season, showing 380 kills, 3.42 kills per set and 445 points. The Zitiste, Serbia native proved she is one of the top players in the ACC this season, sitting in the Top 5 in the conference in per-set categories for service aces, kills and points.
Senior outside hitter Stephanie Neville has enjoyed her best season as a member of the Garnet and Gold. Neville recorded a career-high 289 kills in the regular season, and recorded a .300 hitting percentage or better in seven of FSU’s last 12 matches. The Cambridge, Ontario, native leads all outside hitters on the team with a .273 hitting percentage, and joined Djurdjevic in garnering All-ACC Team honors last week.
Outside of its difficult conference slate, FSU is 9-2 in nonconference action. The victories include home wins over New Mexico State, FIU and USF, road wins at Houston, then-No. 16 Kentucky and Florida A&M, as well as neutral-site victories against Oklahoma, Kansas State and Virginia Commonwealth.
Georgia Southern received an automatic bid after winning its conference championship over College of Charleston, 3-0 (25-18, 31-29, 25-20). The Eagles went 0-3 against Duke, Miami and N.C. State this season, but challenged the highly-ranked Blue Devils to five sets earlier this year.
Junior outside hitter Bethany Stanford leads GSU with 446 kills and 3.48 kills per set. Parker Small, a junior middle hitter, leads the team with 117 blocks and was twice named the SoCon Offensive Player of the Week this season. Small joins sophomore setter Kate Van Dyke on the All-SoCon Team.
“Our team is excited to be back in the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row,” Poole added. “They understand that it will be a tough challenge and Georgia Southern has a very good team that is very well coached. We expect it to be a great match and we will need to step up and play well.
Fans can follow the match on CBS GameTracker via the Seminoles.com volleyball page. Single session tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens and $4 for children 12 and under. The match will also be streamed online at NCAA.com All-Access, which requires a subscription.