Sept. 8, 2011
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The 24th-ranked Florida State University indoor volleyball team gets another tough test this weekend when it travels to the Buckeye State for the Dayton Marriott Flyer Classic hosted by 23rd-ranked Dayton. The Seminoles (5-2) will face three established opponents in No. 20 Michigan, the Flyers and Pepperdine.
FSU has not played since last Saturday when it defeated reigning Colonial Athletic Association champion Delaware and UC-Irvine in three sets each. FSU opened last weekend’s Delaware Invitational by racing out to a quick 2-0 lead over 14th-ranked Northern Iowa but fell in the final three sets.
The Seminoles and Wolverines (6-0) face off for the first time since 2004 when FSU traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., and lost 3-0 (25-30, 22-30, 21-30). Four of Michigan’s victories this season have come in three sets, while the other two were four-set contests. Alex Hunt leads UM with 66 kills and 3.30 kills per set, as it is out-hitting its opponents .304 to .168.
Later on Friday, FSU has a true road contest against nationally-ranked Dayton. Both schools will be playing each other for the first time, as UD is coming off a tough five-set loss to No. 7 Illinois on the road after taking the first two sets. Setter Samantha Selsky averages exactly 10 assists per set to lead the talented Flyers (4-2). Dayton also faced Tennessee last Saturday at a neutral site, this time battling back from a 2-0 before falling in the fifth set.
Pepperdine is coming off an enormous win at home over eighth-ranked UCLA, winning 3-2 (21-25, 26-24, 21-25, 25-20, 15-13) on Wednesday evening. Kim Hill recorded 24 kills in 57 attacks and added 10 digs for a double-double, while Samantha Cash poured in 11 kills and a .318 hitting percentage. The Waves (4-2) lost to FSU rival Miami last Saturday by a 3-1 score, and also fell in four sets to begin the season at fourth-ranked Texas. FSU is 0-4 all-time against Pepperdine, last facing the Waves in 2003 in San Marcos, Texas.
In for the Kill
Sophomore middle blocker Ashley Neff technically should be a redshirt freshman this season but was forced to play FSU’s final 15 matches last season because of an injury to former player Lauren Young.
Although its early in the season, Neff finds herself atop the Atlantic Coast Conference in hitting percentage with a .437 clip. Her offensive improvement has been noticeable after an offseason in which she was awarded the team’s strength and conditioning award.
In all seven of FSU’s matches, Neff has yet to come away with a hitting percentage lower than .333. She also is second in the conference with a 1.54 blocks per set average, trailing only Wake Forest’s Carlin Salmon.
Florida State currently holds the highest team hitting percentage of anyone in the ACC, boasting a .304 mark through its first seven matches.
Altogether, the Seminoles have out-killed the opposition, 338-300, and are holding opponents to a .184 clip. While Ashley Neff paces the Seminoles with her conference-best hitting percentage, sophomore outside hitter Elise Walch is registering a .320 attack percentage on 46 kills.
Jekaterina Stepanova has also gotten off to a strong start with 77 kills and a .297 hitting percentage.
Moving on to Mosher
The loss of senior Jenna Romanelli following the 2010 season put plenty of pressure on redshirt freshman libero Katie Mosher to develop and use her first year as a learning experience. So far in the young season, the Fort Myers, Fla., native hasn’t disappointed.
Mosher is averaging 4.08 digs per set, good enough for seventh-best in the conference. In last weekend’s five-setter against nationally-ranked Northern Iowa, she recorded a season-high 25 digs to mark the fourth-most by an ACC student-athlete this season.
Although onlookers may not directly associate her with FSU’s impressive hitting percentage, Mosher has made life easier for setters Duygu Duzceler and Sarah Wickstrom by allowing them to set up their attackers with pinpoint passing.
Sizing up Kate’s Performance
Although Jekaterina Stepanova’s season-high 19 kills were impressive especially against a Top 15 opponent in Northern Iowa, her performance in last weekend’s 3-0 win over UC-Irvine may have been even better.
In 20 attacks against the Anteaters last Saturday, Stepanova finished with a .600 hitting percentage to mark the third-highest single-match performance in the ACC so far. The Riga, Latvia, native recorded 14 kills and just two errors to cap a tremendous weekend.
FSU’s .481 hitting percentage in that contest is the second highest in the ACC this season.
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