Oct. 28, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – On a night where several Florida State volleyball players stepped up, senior outside hitter Jekaterina Stepanova shined the brightest as her 15-kill performance guided the Seminoles (18-4, 12-0) past Virginia Tech, 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-12), in front of 1,231 fans on Friday evening at Tully Gym.
Playing before another packed gym, Stepanova had one of her most effective outputs of the season as she hit .500 to help get through a difficult Virginia Tech front line that recorded 14.5 blocks. Time and time again, the Riga, Latvia, native showed her explosiveness at the net as she found holes in the Hokies’ (13-10, 6-6) defense.
With FSU facing its first repeat opponent of the season, Virginia Tech proved relentless at times and challenged the Seminoles in the first and second sets. FSU previously beat the Hokies earlier in the season on Sept. 24 in Blacksburg, Va., winning 3-0.
“We played well tonight,” head coach Chris Poole said. “We didn’t play as well as we wanted to. Visnja (Djurdjevic) and Rachael (Morgan) were limited a little bit in practice this week and started off slow but then gained steam. Kate (Stepanova) and Sareea (Freeman) played outstanding and really stepped it up for us today. The thing about this team is we have so many weapons that anyone can step up at any time.”
Stepanova added nine digs in a near double-double effort. The Seminoles often looked to sophomore right-side hitter Elise Walch for some offense as well, as she recorded 10 kills and a .316 hitting percentage while being tested by Virginia Tech’s front line on several attacks.
Junior middle blocker Sareea Freeman kept up her stellar season with eight kills on 10 attacks for an .800 hitting percentage. The Fresno, Calif., native tied Ashley Neff for the team lead with five blocks on the evening. Freeman, who has become a reliable offensive option, was responsible for arguably the biggest point of the match when she took a well-placed set from Sarah Wickstrom in the middle scored a kill along the right side to give FSU the second set by a close 25-23 margin.
In that second set, FSU held a somewhat comfortable 23-19 advantage following an attack error by Virginia Tech’s Jennifer Wiker. But the Hokies stormed back with three consecutive points which was capped by a service ace from Cara Baarendse. Following a timeout, Stepanova earned a big point with a kill, but a subsequent kill by Victoria Hamsher made it a one-score set at 24-23 until Freeman’s attack gave FSU a two-set lead.
Virginia Tech was also done in by three late service errors in the second set. FSU helped itself by giving away just one point tonight in its service game.
Senior outside hitter Visnja Djurdjevic was important with her passing in the match, recording a team-high 18 digs. The total ties her season high, which she has accomplished in two other matches this season. Redshirt freshman libero Katie Mosher boosted her digs-per-set average with 17.
Virginia Tech’s 14.5 blocks were the most recorded against the Seminoles this season. The Hokies recorded six in the first set but were hurt by a 9-0 run by the Seminoles that turned an FSU deficit of 7-4 into a 13-4 lead. Mosher sparked the run with good serving, while Djurdjevic, Stepanova and Freeman led the Seminoles throughout the set with four kills apiece.
Since joining the ACC in 1991, FSU has recorded a win streak of 12 or more matches on four occasions. Most recently was a winning stretch of 19 matches during its Elite Eight season in 2009, while 12-match win streaks highlighted the 1997 and 1992 seasons.
FSU now improves to 9-0 at home this season.
FSU will host its annual “Paint it Pink” match on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Tully Gym versus Virginia. The promotion helps raise breast cancer awareness and features another post-match clinic for children the age of five thru eighth grade. A registration form can be found by logging onto Seminoles.com and accessing the volleyball page.
“Paint it Pink” shirts will also be for sale with a $10 donation going to the Sharon Ewing Walker Breast Health Center at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. The FSU student-athletes will don pink jerseys as part of the promotional activities.