Nov. 1, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) - No. 11 Florida State indoor volleyball has an opportunity to create more separation in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a road trip this weekend at NC State on Friday at 7 p.m., followed by a Saturday match at North Carolina at 5 p.m. Both matches are streamed on ESPN3.com.
The Seminoles (21-2, 12-1) finished the month of October with an unblemished 9-0 record for the second straight year and look to keep their momentum going in the final month of the regular season. With an eye on hosting in the NCAA first and second rounds for the third time in four years, Florida State knows that road wins against quality opponents always bode well for favorable tournament seeding.
"Both these teams are very good and we know that from the first time we played them," head coach Chris Poole said. "They are having outstanding years. NC State is having possibly its best season they've ever had. Both they and North Carolina still have a chance mathematically to win the ACC being the third and fourth-place teams in the conference. They're going to be coming after us hard."
Florida State defeated both the Wolfpack (19-5, 9-4) and the Tar Heels (19-4, 10-3) earlier this season at Tully Gym in three sets apiece. However, five of the six sets played against the two schools were decided by the minimum of two points apiece.
The Seminoles enter the weekend tied with rival Miami for first place with identical 12-1 conference records. Being travel partners with the Hurricanes, the weekend will feature the top four teams in the conference all playing each other on Friday and Saturday.
Florida State has been playing its best volleyball of the season, enjoying a 15-match win streak that ranks as the fifth-longest in program history. It is coming off a week in which it snapped a 21-match losing streak to rival Florida and defeated Virginia and Virginia Tech, all at home.
Florida State has also won 15 consecutive sets, which is tied for the ninth longest streak in school history but is tied for the longest since the rally scoring era began in 2001. Its elevated play as of late has boosted its RPI to ninth in the country, while North Carolina shows a No. 24 ranking and NC State is 40th.
Senior middle blocker Sareea Freeman has had an award-winning week, being named ACC Co-Player of the Week for the second time this season as well as one of the NCAA Players of the Week. The Fresno, Calif. native is second in the nation with a .455 hitting percentage, as she became just the third Seminole to win ACC Player of the Week honors three times in her career.
Freeman's numbers have been largely influenced by the play of sophomore setter Sarah Wickstrom, who splits time with senior Duygu Duzceler and has developed strong chemistry with Freeman. Wickstrom, a reigning All-ACC Freshman, has 457 assists this season and is averaging 5.57 per set.
Florida State is now 8-2 against the top 50 RPI this season, defeating 48th-ranked Virginia Tech for the second time last Sunday. The Seminoles rank in the top 20 in four team statistics, including winning percentage (second at .913), hitting percentage (10th at .288), blocks per set (19th at 2.77) and kills per set (20th at 14.33).
NC State is looking to rebound after falling in two five-set matches last weekend at Wake Forest and Duke. Sophomore Alesha Wilson is in the Top 10 in the conference in both hitting percentage at .334 and blocks per set at 1.05. Senior setter Megan Cyr is one of five players averaging double-figures in assists per set in the ACC at 10.15.
Florida State has defeated NC State 25 consecutive times dating back to Sept. 29, 2000.
The Tar Heels are on a six-match win streak and battle Miami on Friday night before taking on Florida State Saturday. Middle blockers Paige Neuenfeldt and Chaniel Nelson have given North Carolina a strong presence at the net, with each averaging over one block per set. Senior Tia Gaffen rounds out the trio with 1.03 blocks per set.
Fans can also follow this weekend's action on Florida State volleyball's official Twitter handle - @FSU_Volleyball. Be sure to like the team's official Facebook page at facebook.com/FSUVolleyball.