Dec. 6, 2011
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – Florida State volleyball’s momentous 2011 season has come with its share of accolades, and Tuesday’s announcement of the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Region Teams adds even more accomplishment to the Seminoles’ outstanding year.
FSU head coach Chris Poole joins student-athletes Visnja Djurdjevic, Jekaterina Stepanova and Ashley Neff in being honored by the Kentucky-based volleyball organization. Poole, in just his fourth season as head coach of the Seminoles, earns his second AVCA East Region Coach of the Year award after leading FSU to its second NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in a season that is not complete. FSU, a No. 12 national seed, faces fifth-seeded Purdue on Friday at 5 p.m. CT in Minneapolis, Minn.
Poole also was named East Region coach of the year in 2009 when he led the Seminoles to a startling 31-3 record and the school’s first-ever Elite Eight appearance in just his second season at FSU.
“It’s always a great honor for a coach to have his players selected for something like this. Certainly that’s a reflection of the hard work they’ve put in,” Poole said. “It’s very deserving for them; we’ve had a lot of players recognized on this team. It’s a reflection of our assistants, our staff and the players who put in so much time. The coach of the year award is an honor that everyone is a part of.”
Making her third appearance on an AVCA Division I All-Region Team is Djurdjevic, a senior outside hitter. The Zitiste, Serbia, native’s versatility has been valuable for FSU in her second year in Tallahassee. While she shows 322 kills and 2.88 kills per set this season, she is also averaging 3.21 digs per set, 0.29 service aces per set and 0.54 blocks per set.
Djurdjevic is the third student-athlete since 2000 to make the AVCA All-Region Team as a member of the Garnet and Gold, joining Norisha Campbell (2000, ’01) and Jordana Price (2008, ’09). She looks to become the first student-athlete to become a multiple AVCA All-American while at FSU.
Improving immensely in her senior season at FSU is senior outside hitter Jekaterina Stepanova. She leads the Seminoles with 379 kills and averages 3.27 kills per set, amassing a team-leading 15 double-doubles and 22 double-digit kill performances. The Riga, Latvia, native has recorded double-figure kills in FSU’s last 11 matches, and reached her career high of 21 kills in the Seminoles’ 3-1 victory at nationally-ranked Dayton on Sept. 9.
Stepanova, who has also averaged 2.75 digs per set, has shouldered the offensive load in FSU’s last five critical matches. In that time span, she has recorded 75 kills, 3.75 kills per set, a .309 hitting percentage and 3.05 digs per set.
Breaking through in just her second year, Neff has emerged as one of the nation’s best middle blockers. The Kennesaw, Ga., native averages 1.61 blocks per set for the fourth-highest average in the nation, although she led the country for the majority of the season. Neff’s 185 total blocks are currently the most in the NCAA, and are the most at FSU since former standout Gabrielle Reece totaled 189 in 1990. The hard-working sophomore has also improved her offense this season, tallying 189 kills and a .292 hitting percentage.
Neff has five double-figure blocking performances, most recently with 10 to help FSU get past Cincinnati in the NCAA second round.
Fans can watch FSU’s all-region honorees in action on ESPN3.com this Friday in the NCAA Sweet 16 versus Purdue. The winner will face the winner of fourth-seeded Iowa State and 13th-seeded Minnesota on Saturday at 8:30 CT on ESPNU.