Nov. 18, 2011
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CLEMSON, S.C. (seminoles.com) – Behind an excellent offensive performance from Jekaterina Stepanova, the 21st-ranked Florida State University indoor volleyball team fought off a boisterous atmosphere at Jervey Gym and defeated Clemson, 3-1 (22-25, 25-15, 25-20, 26-24), on Friday evening in what was an ESPN3.com broadcast.
The win allows FSU at least a share of the ACC championship. The team will be looking for an outright title tomorrow evening at Georgia Tech.
Stepanova’s kill total was one shy of tying her season high of 21 set at Dayton earlier this season on Sept. 9. The senior outside hitter from Riga, Latvia, had a .514 hitting percentage to mark her second-highest this season. Coming into the match against a Top 20 blocking unit in Clemson, Stepanova was able to hit through their block consistently in one of her best outings of her career.
“Kate had an outstanding game for us tonight,” head coach Chris Poole said following his 97th win at FSU. “She had one of her better offensive performances this season, especially to have the pressure we had on us tonight.”
It is the fourth time in her two-year career at FSU that Stepanova has reached the 20-kill plateau. As a junior she put forth 20-kill performances in victories over Kansas State and Duke. On Friday, she started off strong and kept the Seminoles (23-5, 17-1) in the first set with six kills, followed by four in the second frame and five apiece in the last two sets. She also added 12 digs to reach 13 double-doubles this year.
FSU heightened its offensive play in front of a crowd of 1,726, recording a .299 hitting percentage to mark its highest clip since hitting .371 versus Virginia on Oct. 30. The Seminoles ramped up their hitting following a 1-1 tie at the intermission, hitting .324 in the third set and .357 in the fourth.
Freshman setter Sarah Wickstrom aided the Seminoles’ attack with a career-high 29 assists, including nine in the fourth set. Duygu Duzceler added 24 assists and was important in the serving game, recording a critical ace in the fourth set that created match point at 25-24. It was Visnja Djurdjevic’s kill along the net that followed for the match-winning point, as she recorded 11 kills and 18 digs for her 11th double-double of the year.
In that fourth set, FSU held a 21-17 lead following a mishit by Clemson’s Sandra Adeleye, but the Tigers (18-11, 10-8) got their crowd back into the match with a 4-0 run that was capped by Karis Watson’s block. FSU even faced match point against them trailing 24-23, but staved off a fifth set on a key block from Sareea Freeman and Rachael Morgan.
“I told the girls after tonight’s match that we didn’t play perfect but we played with a lot of heart,” Poole added. Finding a way to win and not giving away that fourth set was encouraging. Clemson can be a difficult place to play and we’ve had some bad matches here, so tonight’s victory was certainly big for us.”
Freeman had another strong game for FSU, recording eight kills and six blocks. With FSU trailing for a majority of the third set, Freeman helped turn the match around by teaming with Elise Walch for a big block that tied the set at 18-18. From there, FSU never trailed again in the frame as Stepanova followed with a service ace and Freeman added another kill to make it 20-18. Five of the next seven points went to the Seminoles as Neff and Morgan recorded the set-ending block. Overall, FSU out-blocked Clemson, 12-9.
Morgan added five kills, a .308 hitting percentage, six digs and five blocks for FSU. Walch strung together 10 kills and two blocks. Libero Katie Mosher’s 14 digs moved her up four spots on the school’s season digs list with 472, which is fifth on the list.
Sophomore middle blocker Ashley Neff added six kills and five blocks in the match as she tries to keep pace with her nation-leading 1.64 blocks per set. Clemson’s Serenat Yaz finished with a match-high 23 kills, the most by an FSU opponent this season.
Despite the victory, the Seminoles did not clinch the conference title as Miami won at Georgia Tech in five sets. If FSU wins one of its next two matches at Georgia Tech or Miami, or if the Hurricanes fall on Saturday evening at Clemson, FSU would clinch its third ACC title and its second in the last three years.
FSU takes on the Yellow Jackets on Saturday at O’Keefe Gym at 6 p.m.