Sept. 1, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) - For the first time since 2000, the eighth-ranked Florida State indoor volleyball team begins the season 6-0 after winning the Florida State Invitational with victories over Georgia and Florida A&M on Saturday.
FSU overcame a slow start to defeat Georgia in four sets (26-28, 25-11, 25-21, 25-16) on Saturday morning at Tully Gym. It then defeated Florida A&M on the road at the Al Lawson Center 3-0 (25-13, 25-18, 25-18).
Junior middle blocker Ashley Neff and senior outside hitter Fatma Yildirim put forth career performances against UGA in helping the Seminoles (6-0) forget about their opening-set loss to the Bulldogs (5-1). Neff recorded a career-high tying 14 blocks, equaling her performance last season in a 3-2 win over N.C. State on the road.
For the third time in her career, Yildirim recorded 15 kills in what tied her career high. The Istanbul, Turkey, native already has two 15-kill matches this season after producing the same amount in FSU's 3-2 win over Iowa State last weekend. Yildirim added seven digs to her all-around performance.
Junior outside hitter Olivera Medic was solid yet again for FSU, delivering 11 kills, a .296 hitting percentage, seven digs and five blocks. Senior middle blocker Sareea Freeman's superb showing was highlighted by nine kills, a .643 hitting percentage and three blocks. Duygu Duzceler had a double-double with 22 assists and 10 digs.
Overall, FSU got better offensively as the match progressed. After recording just 11 kills on 47 attacks and five errors in the opening frame, FSU recorded hitting percentages of .370, .378 and .400 in sets 2-4 to shut out any thoughts of a Georgia upset. Overall, the Seminoles hit .294 in the match and were guided by a season-high 17 blocks.
In five of their six matches this year, including FAMU, FSU has reached double-digit block totals despite four of their wins being three-set matches.
Also aiding the Seminoles against Georgia was junior right-side hitter Elise Walch, who had nine kills and five blocks. Freshman Mara Green saw more floor time and finished with two kills and three blocks in a short time span.
"We did come out sluggish to start, and you never know what a team is thinking when they come into a match," head coach Chris Poole said. "We feel like we're capable of beating any team in the country. We probably came out a little too relaxed in that first game, then they started coming on a little bit. I'm proud of the way they came out in the second game."
In the first set, FSU had two set points at 24-22 and 25-24, but couldn't close the door on a gritty Georgia team. Tied at 26-26, a kill by Tirah Le'au and a strong attack by Briana Bahr ended the set emphatically for the Bulldogs.
While the first set featured 13 ties and six lead changes, FSU came out swinging in the second game. A block by Elise Walch and Neff put the Seminoles ahead at 12-1, as six kills from Yildirim in the frame propelled the Seminoles to a sizeable win.
"We've still got three new players out there who weren't out there last season, so they have to learn what it's like to be in adverse situations," Poole said. "When you do get hit and when you do get knocked down, it says a lot about your character in what you do the next set. So when we won 25-11 in the second set; that was a statement that they were going to rise up."
Set three was extremely tight, and the Bulldogs had an opportunity to pull away as a block by Le'au gave them a 15-13 lead. FSU fought back with three consecutive points, but later an attack error by FSU gave Georgia the lead again at 19-18. Three rallies later, a key service ace by Laura Dadowski put the Seminoles ahead at 21-19, and another good serve from the freshman gave Neff an easy kill off an errant pass from the Bulldogs. A kill by Yildirim ended a competitive third set.
FSU led the entire way in the fourth set, despite Georgia keeping it close midway through. An important 5-0 run that included a service ace by Medic ultimately decided the match as Georgia was unable to pull within a reasonable margin again.
Against Florida A&M, Nicole Walch led the Seminoles with nine kills and eight digs. Neff added five kills and six blocks.
Yildirim, Medic and Freeman were named to the all-tournament team for FSU.
"All three played well in each match," Poole added. "We had others with big performances in some of the matches, but we really want to work on everyone being more consistent from match to match. I am really proud of the newcomers right now as they are exceeding expectations and contributing a lot to the program. The returning core are also providing excellent leadership and have the experience we need to fall back on under pressure."
FSU's next match will be an exhibition early next week against the Slovenia Junior National Team at Tully Gym on Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m.