October 21, 2011 - by
Seminoles Hold off Maryland

Oct. 21, 2011

Box Score

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Although it took a little extra work, the 19th-ranked Florida State University indoor volleyball team managed to hold off Maryland for a 3-1 (25-15, 25-19, 24-26, 25-23) victory on the road and reach 10-0 in conference play for the first time since 1989.

The Seminoles (16-4, 10-0) were cruising through their first two sets before facing a stubborn Terrapins (9-13, 3-7) group that hung tough following the 10-minute intermission. FSU relied on the offense of outside hitters Jekaterina Stepanova and Visnja Djurdjevic, whom combined for 28 of FSU’s 62 kills.

Stepanova had one of her best outings of the season, registering a .421 hitting clip and 18 kills. The Riga, Latvia native’s kill total is her third-highest of the year, trailing her season-high of 21 against Dayton and 19 versus nationally-ranked Northern Iowa. Djurdjevic added 10 kills in three sets played on an identical .421 hitting percentage as both student-athletes recorded double-doubles.

“Kate (Stepanova) stepped up big in game four,” head coach Chris Poole said. “The team showed a lot of character to come back in game four down 21-18 and stepped up and made big plays at the end.”

Djurdjevic suffered a deep heel bruise in the second set and was limited for the rest of the match after getting off to a great start.

“The momentum of the match really changed (following Djurdjevic’s injury) and we struggled to get it back,” Poole added.

FSU was in danger of being pushed to a fifth set after trailing for a majority of the fourth frame. Late in the set, an important block by Maryland extended its lead to 20-17, then later had a 21-18 advantage on an FSU service error. Facing a 23-20 deficit on three consecutive Maryland points, FSU reeled off five consecutive points to close out the match, which included three clutch kills by Stepanova.

Junior setter Duygu Duzceler had a team-high 28 assists and 11 digs to pick up her second double-double of the year. Freshman Sarah Wickstrom added 25 assists and six digs as FSU recorded a .297 hitting percentage for the match.

The strength of the Seminoles played a role once again in tonight’s victory, as FSU totaled 11 team blocks while Maryland was also effective with nine. The Terrapins’ nine blocks were the second-most by an FSU opponent this season in a four-set match. Sophomore Ashley Neff, tied for the national lead in blocks per set, recorded five blocks and added seven kills on a .412 hitting percentage. Junior middle blocker Sareea Freeman contributed with seven kills and two blocks.

Senior right-side hitter Rachael Morgan was also important for FSU’s attack game, recording nine kills for the third-most on the team.

Aside from falling behind 1-0 on the first point of the match, FSU never trailed again in the first set and set the tone early with a 9-0 run. After being tied at 2-2, the Seminoles broke away to create an 11-2 advantage which included two kills and a block by Stepanova during the stretch. The Seminoles recorded nearly twice as many kills in the set, holding a 15-8 advantage, as Stepanova tallied five in the frame while Djurdjevic and Morgan added four apiece. Wickstrom aided the offense with seven assists.

Djurdjevic sparked FSU in a second set that was challenged better by Maryland. The Zitiste, Serbia, native recorded six kills in the frame, highlighted by her set point kill to give FSU a 2-0 overall lead. The Seminoles won four straight points midway through the set that helped swing the outcome, as two consecutive attack errors by Mary Cushman of Maryland followed by a service ace by Duzceler and a kill by Neff created a sizeable 15-8 lead. Later in the set, FSU won consecutive points on kills by Freeman and Djurdjevic to build a 23-16 lead and put the set out of reach.

Cushman led the Terrapins with 16 kills on a team-high 45 attacks, serving as the team’s primary offensive option.

The victory over Maryland is FSU’s seventh in the last eight meetings. Poole is now one win shy of 641 for his career, which would tie for 24th on the NCAA all-time wins list.

The Seminoles try to keep their unbeaten conference record alive as they face Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Sunday afternoon at Power Gym. First serve is set for noon.

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