Oct. 20, 2012
ATLANTA, Ga. (seminoles.com) - Faced in an unfamiliar position in front of a boisterous crowd on the road, the 12th-rated Florida State indoor volleyball team completed a great comeback by defeating Georgia Tech, 3-2 (33-35, 23-25, 25-13, 25-17, 15-10), on Friday evening at a sold-out O'Keefe Gymnasium.
Both the Yellow Jackets (15-6, 6-4) and their faithful fans did their best to rattle the defending conference champions, as Georgia Tech came out with an aggressive style of play that it has become known for. Following an incredible first set that saw eight set points missed by the Seminoles (17-2, 9-1), as well as a second set where they surrendered a late lead, Florida State made the necessary adjustments following the intermission to take Georgia Tech out of its game.
"These kind of games build a lot of character on the team, particularly on the road in front of a big crowd in a hostile situation," head coach Chris Poole said. "They are games that are hard on the coaches, but they are character-building games for our players."
In the third through fifth sets, Florida State was noticeably better in its passing and digging and clogged the hitting lanes for the Yellow Jackets, making it difficult for Georgia Tech to hit around the Seminole block. Helping cap the comeback in a big way was Kennesaw, Ga., native Ashley Neff, who had her first double-double of the season and the third of her career with 16 kills and 11 blocks. Neff also posted a .667 hitting percentage, highlighting an outstanding evening for the junior All-American candidate.
Providing an enormous spark for the Seminoles was freshman outside hitter Nicole Walch, who entered the match in the third set and immediately delivered one kill after another. Walch finished with seven kills and three blocks and highlighted Florida State's renewed play in the third to fifth sets.
Senior Sareea Freeman had some substantial points for the Seminoles, finishing with 10 kills and five blocks. Freshman Mara Green, who hails from McDonough, Ga., delivered a fine performance in front of several family and friends with six kills, four blocks and four digs.
"I felt like both freshmen did a really good job. Mara came in and did a good job and Nicole came in and immediately did a good job on the left side," Poole added. "I think the key was for us to be able to bring in our bench and be able to contribute. That's what they are working hard in practice for - to have an opportunity to go into that kind of game and make a big impact. Our digging picked up, our offense picked up and part of that was Nicole going in and being big on the left side. Our middle attack also got better and we really limited our mistakes in those last three games."
Florida State finished the match with 16.5 team blocks compared to Georgia Tech's 13. The total was the second highest this season for the Seminoles, who recorded 17 in a win over Georgia earlier this season. Georgia Tech was held to a .170 hitting percentage, and recorded attack percentages of .067, .094 and .000 in sets 3-5, respectively. While the Yellow Jackets picked up seven service aces, they also recorded 16 service errors compared to just two by the Seminoles. Florida State also had seven service aces.
In the fifth set, Neff gave Florida State a boost with three kills while Freeman put down two attacks. A key 3-0 run in the 15-point set included a kill by Freeman, a block by Freeman and Green and a service ace by libero Katie Mosher, who had 18 digs. An attack error by Georgia Tech's Bailey Hunter was followed by a kill from Neff to make it 14-10 Florida State. The match ended on a block by Neff and Fatma Yildirim.
Other notable performances were made by junior Olivera Medic, who contributed with 15 digs. Setter Duygu Duzceler, who played in her team-leading 121st career match, had 27 assists while Sarah Wickstrom added 21 assists.
The most entertaining set of the year took place in the opening frame despite the Seminoles falling 35-33. With Florida State trailing 22-19 late in the set, freshman Laura Dadowski helped bring the Seminoles back with some good serves, including a couple aces to help Florida State get on top at 23-22. Georgia Tech would fight back and eventually held the first set point at 24-23, but Freeman staved it off with a quick kill.
Following the 24-24 tie, both teams would exchange points back and forth in a tremendously entertaining series of rallies. Tied at 33-33, Georgia Tech finally got its break with a pair of service aces by Anne Czarnecki and Bailey Hunter that gave the Yellow Jackets a big momentum boost. Georgia Tech out-blocked Florida State in the set, 5-3, and held a .288-.154 edge in hitting percentage. For Florida State, it was its longest set played in terms of point total since the current 25-point scoring format began in 2008.
Another close set went in the Yellow Jackets' favor in frame No. 2. The Seminoles led virtually the entire way, but after taking a 23-21 lead on a kill by Neff, Georgia Tech ran off four consecutive points to win the frame. A kill by Monique Mead started the rally, followed by an FSU attack error. Courtney Felinski then produced a kill off an overpass from the Seminoles, and the set ended on a nicely-placed ace by Mead. She delivered eight kills and a .636 hitting percentage in the second set, while Florida State was held to a .091 attack percentage.
The Seminoles took care of their lead in the third set, winning the final six points in the frame to cap a thorough performance. Florida State hit .591 in the set and held Georgia Tech to a .067 clip, and freshman Nicole Walch ignited the team with four kills in four attacks. Both Nicole and Elise Walch were involved in five of the last six points to give the Seminoles the third set and trim their overall deficit to 2-1.
Florida State got back into the match with strong digging in the fourth set, which carried over following the intermission. Neff had four kills and four blocks in the set as the Seminoles held Georgia Tech to a .094 hitting percentage.
The comeback by Florida State was its first two-set comeback since defeating Duke in five sets on Oct. 24, 2010, in Tallahassee.
The Seminoles finish their weekend road trip with a match at Clemson on Sunday at noon. The match will be streamed on ESPN3.com.