Aug. 27, 2011
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – The Florida State University indoor volleyball team wasted no time in picking up quality wins as it sealed its tournament championship with a 3-1 (25-17, 21-25, 25-16, 25-19) victory over 23rd-ranked Tulsa on Saturday evening at Tully Gym.
The Seminoles (3-0) also played Albany in a morning matchup, defeating the Great Danes (0-3) in three sets (25-16, 25-20, 25-20). FSU started its season strong by posting two good offensive performances, hitting .337 against Albany and .304 versus the nationally-ranked Golden Hurricane (1-2).
“I think for it to be the first weekend says a lot,” head coach Chris Poole said. “There’s a lot of character out there, the girls are working hard and doing the best they can, and I think it’s going to help us as we progress in the season and go through some battles like this. We showed the ability to not lose our minds and learn how to finish a game.”
Through the first seven sets played, FSU was unbeaten at this weekend’s invitational that brought forth a strong home-court showing from the Seminole faithful. However, FSU faced a small bit of adversity when it surrendered an early 12-7 lead and lost its first set of the season to tie the match at 1-1 going into the intermission against Tulsa.
But throughout FSU’s first bout with a nationally-ranked opponent, the Seminoles rode the play of hot-hitting Jekaterina Stepanova. The senior from Riga, Latvia, recorded 15 kills and 15 digs for her first double-double of the year, and committed just one error in 30 attacks while registering a .467 hitting clip. The high-flying outside hitter has shown an even greater improvement in her passing game, as she helped keep her offense in sync all weekend with good set-ups from the back line.
In the third set against Tulsa, Stepanova recorded four kills, one ace, one block and an assist while Duygu Duzceler kept the team on track with seven assists in the set and 25 in the match. Duzceler ended with a double-double after digging 10 balls. Freshman setter Sarah Wickstrom recorded her first career double-double as a Seminole with 16 assists and 12 digs.
“We knew Tulsa was going to be a difficult team,” Poole added. “(Tyler) Henderson is a great player – one of the top outside hitters in the country. We knew that this team upset LSU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year.”
Elise Walch showed her capabilities on offense against the Golden Hurricane, recording nine kills for a .333 hitting percentage. Ashley Neff added eight kills in 16 attacks and picked up five blocks, while senior Rachael Morgan also recorded five blocks.
Also making her presence felt was junior Sareea Freeman, who recorded seven blocks.
Tulsa held on early in the fourth set, but some costly errors and efficient hitting from FSU helped put the match out of reach. Back-to-back points that included a kill by Neff and a block by Freeman and Stepanova extended FSU’s lead to 19-11. Tulsa came back with three consecutive points, but FSU responded with three straight points of its own that included a block from Freeman and Djurdjevic.
The match ended on a service error by Tulsa’s Kelsey Hancock to secure the invitational championship.
Earlier in the day, FSU used a double-double by Djurdjevic and six blocks by Neff to get past Albany. In the last set, FSU recorded 13 kills in 24 attacks with just two hitting errors, equaling a .458 team percentage.
Wickstrom added 19 assists for the Seminoles, while Duzceler chipped in with 15 versus the Great Danes.
The All-Tournament team was announced following the match and included Stepanova as tournament MVP while Djurdjevic and Ashley Neff represented the Seminoles on the squad. Kentucky’s Becky Pavan and Gretchen Giesler were also selected, while Tulsa’s Tyler Henderson and Albany’s Brooke Stanley made the team as well.
FSU has a quick turnaround as it travels to Gainesville, Fla., to face the ninth-ranked Gators on Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m. Fans can follow the match by accessing CBS GameTracker off Seminoles.com