Sept. 18, 2010
CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Despite falling behind after the first set, the 15th-ranked Florida State University women's volleyball team proved resilient on the road as it defeated rival Miami, 3-1 (19-25, 27-25, 27-25, 25-18), in front of 904 fans at the James Knight Complex on Saturday evening.
The Seminoles (9-1, 1-0) earned a quality road victory to open conference play on the strength of senior outside hitter Stephanie Neville's performance. The Cambridge, Ontario, native recorded her second consecutive 16-kill showing, tying her career high that she set last weekend against Virginia Commonwealth. Neville was extremely efficient offensively, recording a .500 hitting percentage.
"Stephanie played excellent for us tonight," coach Chris Poole said after his 61st career win at FSU. "Our team needs to have that from her. Stephanie needs to bring that senior leadership and factor in for us offensively, and tonight she was a big reason why we got the win."
Junior outside hitter Visnja Djurdjevic had another solid outing, recording 16 kills and 12 digs for her team-leading fifth double-double of the season. Djurdjevic also finished with a .519 hitting percentage.
Senior middle blocker Lauren Young earned time in all four sets, finishing with seven kills and a team-best five blocks. The Ben Wheeler, Texas, native now has 34 kills in 61 total attacks with just six attack errors for the season.
With the victory, the Seminoles are tied for their second-best start through 10 matches since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1991. The 1997 squad began the year 10-0, and the 2000 and 2009 teams started the year at 9-1.
With the first set even at 7-7, the Hurricanes (10-2, 0-1), which entered the contest leading the ACC in overall wins, took the next eight points to build a 15-7 advantage. Miami finished off the set convincingly, as Katie Gallagher led the team with 11 assists and four blocks through the frame.
"We started off sluggish, but got stronger as the match went on," Poole added. "We really started slow. Miami had a good crowd and it was a great college match to be a part of. What our team needs to understand is that we have a target on our back, and every team that plays us at home will bring their best effort."
FSU raced out to a 7-1 lead in the second set, only to see Miami battle back to a 10-10 tie. Both teams would begin to trade points, until a kill by Rachael Morgan on an assist by Jenna Romanelli allowed the Seminoles to take an 18-16 lead. The set reached its climax at 25-25, but Marija Milosavljevic silenced the crowd with a kill and a subsequent service ace to finish the set.
Another competitive set was waged in the third frame. FSU reached a 14-9 lead on a kill by Neville, but the Hurricanes continued to battle and eventually held set point with a 24-22 lead on a ball-handling error by Duzceler. FSU showed its poise by winning the next two points on a kill by Djurdjevic and a service ace by Figueiredo, but Miami regained the lead at 25-24. FSU then swung the momentum of the match after a kill by Djurdjevic knotted the score, and consecutive attack errors by Lane Carico gave the Seminoles the decisive set.
The final set was highlighted by FSU's .567 hitting percentage. The Seminoles were thankful to finally break loose from Miami beginning in the middle of the set to reach a 22-15 lead. Jekaterina Stepanova's kill put FSU ahead at 23-17, which was followed by Young's kill and a match-ending kill by Neville to end a strong effort from FSU in front of a boisterous crowd.
"We were blocked off the court in the first set, but we got better with our sets, passed better and started rolling more," Poole said. "The match eventually became a dogfight, and we weren't able to shake them until the middle of the fourth set. It's games like this that are so crucial for the development of our team. As coaches, we don't like to be in the middle of them, but we're thankful for them afterwards."
The Seminoles now brace for another in-state showdown, this time against the third-ranked Florida Gators on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m. at Tully Gym in Tallahassee. The match holds the strong possibility of being the first time both teams have met while being ranked in the Top 15 of the American Volleyball Coaches Association Poll.