Tallahassee, FL - A relentless effort by the Florida State University volleyball team propelled it to a 3-2 (25-18, 25-20, 21-25, 18-25, 15-12) victory over second-place North Carolina on Friday evening at Tully Gym.
“I was very proud of the way we fought back in set five,” head coach Chris Poole said following his 619th career win. “Volleyball is a huge momentum sport. We played well in the first two games, lost the momentum in the third and fourth, and I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to pick it back up.”
Big plays by outside hitters Visnja Djurdjevic and Jekaterina Stepanova allowed the Seminoles (17-9, 9-7) to edge the Tar Heels (21-8, 12-4) in a nail-biting fifth set. A key turning point in the match came late when North Carolina’s Emily McGee recorded a kill to tie the set at 11-11. Stepanova, however, came right back and hit a missile that ricocheted off McGee for a kill, then followed with another giant kill to put FSU ahead at 13-11.
“Those two players played well in set No. 5,” Poole added. “They were a big difference. In the third and fourth sets we struggled passing and communicating. But this was certainly a big win for us considering UNC is No. 17 in the RPI and beat us earlier this year.”
UNC came right back in the fifth with a kill by Suzanne Haydel, but Cayla Shortley proceeded to foot fault on the next serve to give the Seminoles match point. Junior Patricia Figueiredo ended the suspense with a well-placed service ace to give FSU an important victory over the 17th-ranked RPI squad.
FSU now has six wins over the current Top 50 RPI teams, which includes a five-set win over No. 8 Duke.
Djurdjevic finished with 18 kills and 13 digs for her 13th double-double of the season. She also added three service aces, entering tonight’s contest tied for the fourth-most service aces per set in the ACC. She had five of her kills in the final frame.
Djurdjevic now has 317 kills this season, within striking distance of Mira Djuric’s 320 from last season and Lauren Richardson’s 321 from the 2009 season. Djurdjevic has also missed two of FSU’s 26 matches.
FSU relented an early 2-0 advantage, but stormed through the first two sets of the match because of its defense. On the evening, the Seminoles recorded 14.5 blocks and held the talented Tar Heels to a .200 attack percentage. UNC recorded a .000 percentage in the first set and just a .150 hitting percentage in the second frame.
FSU’s 14.5 blocks are its third-most this season.
Senior Lauren Young made her presence felt with a match-high nine blocks, six kills and a .455 hitting percentage. Setter Duygu Duzceler recorded 27 assists and 11 digs for her fifth double-double of the year, and managed to find some open space on the opposing court by mustering three kills.
Stepanova and Stephanie Neville added eight kills apiece, while Neville had five blocks and Stepanova posted nine digs. Senior Jenna Romanelli had 18 digs, moving her up two spots to sixth place on the school’s career list with 1,093. She is now 57 shy of tying Nancy Gaspadarek (1986-89) for fifth all-time.
Coupled with tonight’s ACC matchups, FSU sits in a five-way tie for third place in the conference with Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia Tech and Maryland. The Seminoles have both the Hurricane and Terrapins on their remaining home schedule to finish out the season.
FSU recorded six blocks in set No. 1, helping offset its low number of kills (8) in the first frame. Young recorded five blocks of her own in just the first set, as FSU jumped out to a 14-4 lead on a service ace by Figueiredo, her first of two. UNC fought back to reduce its deficit to 22-18, but FSU won the next three points courtesy of two attack errors by the Tar Heels.
The Seminole offense came alive in the second set, recording 14 kills and just five errors in 40 attacks. FSU trailed for much of the set until Djurdjevic’s kill made it 12-12. Both teams traded points, but a kill by Young gave FSU a two-point advantage at 17-15. UNC took back the lead at 20-19, but Neff’s kill followed by four consecutive attack errors from UNC contributed to a second-set win for FSU.
The Seminoles host the second match of their five-match homestand against N.C. State on Sunday, Nov. 14, at 1 p.m. at Tully Gym. Seniors Taylor Wilson, Neville, Romanelli and Young will be honored before the match as part of senior day.