Sept. 30, 2011
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The 22nd-ranked Florida State University indoor volleyball team's fast start in Atlantic Coast Conference play continued on Friday evening as it used a consistent, collective effort in its attacking game to defeat Duke, 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 25-19), in front of 1,116 fans at Tully Gym.
FSU's impressive victory holds plenty of significance. The Seminoles (10-4, 4-0) have now won four consecutive matches in straight sets, a feat they haven't accomplished since the beginning of the 2006 season. All four wins have come against conference opponents, marking the first time it has swept four consecutive ACC foes since doing it five times in a row between Oct. 10-30 in the 1998 season.
"The girls are working really hard," head coach Chris Poole said. "I feel like our pre-season was very good for us. We didn't always do as well as we wanted to but it pushed us to the limit and I think it allowed them to find what they were capable of doing. I think right now they are trying to beat the expectations we have for them this year.
"Every part of our game is improving right now and I think that's a real key," added Poole, who will look to tie FSU coaching legend Cecile Reynaud on the NCAA career wins list with 635 on Sunday. "We want to improve every week and there are certain things we work on each week and we saw those things come out tonight."
The Seminoles overpowered the Blue Devils (8-5, 2-2) to the tune of a .318 team hitting percentage. In 107 total attacks, FSU's talented group of hitters managed just 13 errors as it posted an above .300 mark on offense for the eighth time this season. FSU's 47 team kills are its third-most in a three-set match this year.
Duke, which was chosen as the conference champion in the preseason ACC coaches' poll, hit just .126 and fell victim to nine team blocks from the tall, lengthy, Seminoles. Throughout the match, the Blue Devils would fall behind early in each set and could never sustain any sort of rally in each frame.
Once again, sophomore right-side hitter Elise Walch put on a show for the loyal crowd. Courtesy of some tremendous sets by freshman Sarah Wickstrom and junior Duygu Duzceler, Walch put down a match-high 12 kills in 18 attacks for a remarkable .611 hitting percentage. The sophomore standout has produced attack percentages of .583 (at Virginia Tech), .611 and .706 (vs. Miami) already in conference play.
Seniors Visnja Djurdjevic and Jekaterina Stepanova recorded double-doubles in the three-set affair. Stepanova's team-leading seventh double-double came on 10 kills and 11 digs as the Riga, Latvia, native hit .320 for the night. Djurdjevic, who surpassed 1,300 kills for her entire college career which includes Tulane and FSU, added 10 kills and 10 digs.
Sophomore middle blocker Ashley Neff ignited FSU with several kills in the first set, but continued to make her biggest mark at the net with seven blocks. Neff's seven bat-downs tie for her third-most this season, as she is now averaging a conference-best 1.57 blocks per set.
FSU has now defeated the Blue Devils in four straight matches dating back to the 2009 season.
The Seminoles started off well as they raced to a 6-1 lead on three of Neff's kills. She also added three blocks in the frame, while Stepanova recorded four kills of her own as FSU hit .382 in the opening set.
The second set was closer until FSU managed to pull away toward the end. Duke trimmed its deficit to 16-13 on an attack error by the Seminoles, but FSU won eight of the next 11 points before a service error by Amanda Robertson gave the Seminoles a 2-0 overall advantage.
FSU never lost focus following the intermission while Duke produced its worst offensive showing in the last frame. The Blue Devils hit .057 as FSU broke a 5-5 score by winning 14 of the next 18 points, which was capped by a Djurdjevic kill to make it 19-9. The match ended on an attack error by Sophia Dunworth.
The Seminoles look for their first 5-0 start in ACC play since the 1993 season as they end their weekend with a home matchup against Wake Forest. First serve is set for Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Tully Gym.