Dec. 12, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) - Florida State indoor volleyball junior middle blocker Ashley Neff wrapped up another fulfilling season by being selected as an American Volleyball Coaches Association Third-Team All-American, announced today by the Lexington, Ky. - based organization.
Joining Neff as All-Americans are senior middle blocker Sareea Freeman and senior outside hitter Fatma Yildirim, whom both earned AVCA Honorable Mention All-America honors. Florida State's three selections tie for the second-most in program history, only bested by the 2009 squad's four All-America selections.
"I am very proud of the three young ladies that were recognized on the All-America list this season," head coach Chris Poole said. "We had so many great performances by all our players this year and everyone that played during the season had a defining moment during a match. I am proud of the chemistry and hard work all the team members had this season."
Neff, who hails from Kennesaw, Ga., becomes just the third non-honorable mention All-American at Florida State. She joins second-team All-America choices Brianna Barry (2009) and Jekaterina Stepanova (2011) on the historic list, and is only the second two-time All-American at Florida State after making the honorable mention list last season.
Neff shares the honor of being a two-time All-American with former player Visnja Djurdjevic, who technically was a three-time All-American including twice at Florida State and once at Tulane.
After bursting on the scene by leading the nation in total blocks as a sophomore, Neff found a way to improve even more in a remarkable junior season. She finished the year bettering her blocks per set average to 1.61, currently the sixth-best in the nation. Neff's 184 total blocks rank 10th on Florida State's single-season list, as she now holds two Top 10 marks after amassing 197 blocks last year. Her prolific season included ACC Player of the Year honors, AVCA All-East Region, ACC Player of the Week honors and the Most Valuable Player Award at the season-opening Comcast Lady Vol Classic.
While Neff continued to show her defensive prowess, her offensive attack separated her from many middle blockers this season. She finished with a .380 hitting percentage that ranks 21st in the country, compiling 248 kills and 2.18 kills per set. Many times in the 2012 season, Neff spent time as the only student-athlete in the country who ranked in the Top 10 in both hitting percentage and blocks per set. Her multi-dimensional statistics put her in the running to be just the 12th middle blocker since rally scoring started in 2001 to place in the Top 10 in both categories by season's end.
"Ashley had very strong stats against nationally ranked teams this season and it allowed her to be ranked very high in both hitting percentage and blocks throughout the season," Poole said. "I believe the fact that Ashley was so strong in both categories during the season helped put her on other coaches' radar, both in conference and nationally. Ashley has a great balance of patrolling the net as a blocker, but also being a weapon offensively. We were fortunate to have great passing and setting this season and it allowed Ashley the opportunity to make a difference for our program."
Freeman's All-America award is her first time making the list, ending her senior season on a positive note. The Fresno, Calif. native had a remarkable offensive campaign, sitting second nationally with a .438 hitting percentage. Freeman's hitting mark is the second-highest in school history as she became one of the nation's most feared attackers.
Freeman developed a clutch reputation in her final season, putting down kills when the Seminoles needed them the most. One of her biggest plays was made on Nov. 23 when her kill down the attack line clinched Florida State's fourth ACC title over league rival Miami. She finished the 2012 year as an All-ACC selection, an AVCA All-East Region performer and a three-time ACC Player of the Week recipient. Freeman ends her career winning conference player of the week honors four times, the most in school history.
"Another player that benefited from our passing and setting was Sareea," Poole added. "Sareea became a dominant player during the 2011 NCAA Tournament and that play followed her into the 2012 season. Sareea was a big go-to player for us offensively all season. She was used in the same role as FSU Alumna Brianna Barry in 2009 and gave us a weapon that we depended on throughout the season. Sareea and Ashley playing opposite of each other gave us a strong middle attack on the court full time and I believe made them among the best duos in the country."
Yildirim's honorable mention award is also the first of her career. Her play in the attacking game was vital for the Seminoles, finishing with a team-best 324 kills and 2.89 kills per set. Yildirim was an all-around contributor, adding 308 digs and 2.75 digs per set.
Yildirim was named ACC Player of the Week following her performance at the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup in September when Florida State defeated Ohio State and Houston. In three matches, she delivered 45 kills, 4.5 kills per set and a .400 hitting percentage. The senior co-captain was named to two all-tournament teams, the All-ACC Team and the AVCA East Region Team.
"Fatma came into the season in the best shape of her life," Poole expressed. "Her dedication in the spring and summer was among the best I have had as a coach. The results were obvious and her commitment earned her a captain role on the team this year and the respect of our staff. Fatma was instrumental as a full rotation player and took on a lot of responsibility on and off the court. Her speed and jump was a difference maker for her this season and it allowed her to make an impact for us."
Florida State volleyball now boasts 12 All-Americans, including nine under Poole since the 2009 season.
Fourteen ACC players were recognized on the AVCA All-America Teams, including three who were named Third-Team All-Americans. In addition to Neff, Miami middle blocker Emani Sims and Georgia Tech right-side hitter Monique Mead made the prestigious list.
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