College Station, TX - The 16th-ranked Florida State indoor volleyball team added another milestone on Saturday afternoon, defeating No. 7 Michigan, 3-2 (21-25, 23-25, 25-17, 25-19, 15-13), to earn the highest-ranked victory in school history at the Texas A&M Tournament in College Station, Texas.
Led by the ferocious hitting of Nicole and Elise Walch, the Seminoles (6-3) recorded their first two-set comeback win since fighting back from an 0-2 hole at Georgia Tech last season on Oct. 19, 2012. Elise Walch and Nicole Walch led a high-powered offense with 22 kills each, the most put together by a Seminole since former player Visnja Djurdjevic posted 25 kills against Miami on Nov. 26, 2010.
“This is a great win for this young team,” head coach Chris Poole said. “The difference in the match was that we made big points at the end and never gave up. The schedule so far has prepared us to play against this level of competition. We should get better as season progresses.”
Nicole Walch recorded a .429 hitting percentage, while Elise added a .333 hitting percentage and led the comeback charge following the 10-minute intermission. Nicole Walch also added a team-high 22 digs, her first career double-double as a member of the Garnet and Gold.
Junior setter Sarah Wickstrom also had a double-double, totaling career highs of 37 assists and 14 digs en route to one of her best collegiate performances ever. Senior Olivera Medic added to the double-double mix, getting 12 kills and 15 digs.
Senior middle blocker Ashley Neff helped Florida State to 13 team blocks, recording 10 of her own while adding nine kills and a .333 attack percentage. Altogether, Florida State posted a .282 hitting percentage and held the Wolverines (7-1), whom are coming off an NCAA National Semifinal run, to a .211 clip.
Entering the match, Florida State’s highest-ranked win in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Poll was defeating a No. 8 squad on four occasions. In the Seminoles’ 2011 NCAA National Semifinal run, they defeated eighth-ranked Purdue in four sets. In 2009, Florida State topped No. 8 Illinois in three sets, and won matches against Florida in 1993 and 1994 when the Gators were also ranked eighth.
The fifth and final set was won on a service ace by freshman Hailey Luke. Florida State fell behind early 3-0, but won the next three rallies off kills from the Walch sisters. Both teams repeatedly traded points to create an 8-8 tie, but consecutive kills by Medic and Elise Walch gave Florida State a 10-8 lead and prompted a Michigan timeout.
Following the break, Michigan eventually tied the match at 13-13 on a kill from Abby Cole, winning five of the next eight points after the timeout. Neff responded with a kill off an assist from Wickstrom, followed by Luke’s service ace to end the match.
Florida State kept it close and competitive in the first set against the Wolverines, but fell 25-21. The Seminoles matched Michigan with 14 kills in the frame, but the Wolverines out-blocked Florida State by a 5-2 margin. Neff led the Seminoles with four kills and a block in the first frame. Florida State jumped out to a 10-6 advantage on a service error by Michigan’s Lexi Dannemiller, but could not close things as Michigan went on 2-for-1 spurts and ended the set with a kill by Cole.
For the sixth time this season, Florida State lost a set by the minimum two points as it fell to Michigan, 25-23, in set two. Neff was dominant in the second frame, totaling six blocks while Nicole Walch put together five kills, one service ace and two blocks. Michigan’s Cole recorded a kill to knot the match at 20-20, and both teams exchanged points as a kill by Elise Walch and block by Neff tied the set again at 23-23. However, Michigan put together kills by Lexi Erwin and Jennifer Cross to win the second set.
The Walch sisters took over in third set, recording seven kills apiece as Florida State won 25-17. The Seminoles recorded a .406 hitting percentage as they found their offensive grove, recording 16 kills in 32 attacks and siding out at a 77 percent rate. The Seminoles led virtually the entire set, sending a strong statement following the second-break intermission.
The fourth set featured more strong hitting from Florida State, hitting 16 kills and totaling a .300 hitting percentage. Four of the last six rallies were won by the Seminoles, turning a 21-17 lead into a 25-19 fourth-set win.
Under Poole, Florida State is now 43-8 in preseason non-conference tournaments.
Florida State begins preparation for a quick turnaround match at fifth-ranked Florida on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 6 p.m.