GAINESVILLE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – One year after breaking its 21-match losing streak to Florida, the 17th-ranked Florida State indoor volleyball team was unable to capitalize this regular season as it fell to No. 4 Florida, 3-0 (20-25, 24-26, 23-25), on Tuesday night at the Stephen O’Connell Center.
Traditionally armed with high-percentage hitters, the Gators (9-1) used their middle attack to get a lot of points and were able to win several of the longer rallies. A close second set where the Seminoles (6-4) held set point at 24-23 was also given away, helping swing momentum into Florida’s favor for the rest of the match. It was the seventh loss in a set by FSU where the differential was the minimum of two points, followed by another two-point loss in the third frame.
Later in the third set, Florida State trailed 16-9 and was seemingly out of the match with the crowd behind the Gators. However, the Seminoles managed to rally and cut their match-point deficit to 24-23 on a block from Ashley Neff. Florida ended the match with a block of its own, but Florida State managed to go down in defeat valiantly with three close set losses.
“We hung in there with them, but unfortunately a loss is a loss,” head coach Chris Poole said. “We told the team that we’re playing well, but we’re losing by two or three points in some of these sets and we need to correct them and try to get better. We’re making just enough mistakes where we are shooting ourselves in the foot.”
The loss puts Florida State at a 16-match losing streak when facing the Gators on the road. Its last road win in Gainesville was on Oct. 9, 1990. The Seminoles are now 3-3 against Top 25 opponents this season, with victories over No. 7 Michigan, 17th-ranked Western Kentucky and then-17th-ranked Kentucky.
Senior outside hitter Olivera Medic was Florida State’s most consistent attacker, recording 10 kills in 21 attacks for a .333 hitting percentage. Sophomore Nicole Walch heated up her game in the second set and finished with 14 kills in 29 swings, mustering just six attack errors for a .276 hitting percentage. At times, both outside hitters threw Florida off-balanced and became go-to forces.
Florida State held Florida to just a .255 hitting percentage, highlighted by a stout defensive set in the third where the Gators finished with just a .083 hitting mark. Chloe Mann and outside hitter Ziva Recek led UF with 12 kills apiece.
Florida State was also hurt by seven service errors, although Florida recorded nine with its aggressive style of play. Redshirt junior libero Katie Mosher led all players with 17 digs, while junior setter Sarah Wickstrom recorded 21 assists and freshman Hailey Luke added 15.
Neff, the reigning ACC Player of the Week, finished with six kills, four blocks and a .308 hitting percentage for the Noles.
A tight first set was broke open by the Gators following a timeout called by the Seminoles where they were trailing 18-17. Florida won three consecutive points following the timeout, which included two big blocks to help it to a 21-17 advantage. Both teams began to trade points from there, and the set ended off consecutive kills from the Gators. Medic provided a consistent hitting effort in the first frame for the Seminoles, recording four kills in five attacks. Florida, however, put together a .375 hitting clip with 16 kills.
Florida State had a great opportunity to tie things in the second set, as Nicole Walch hammered a kill from the left side to put FSU ahead at 24-23. However, the Noles were called for a double-contact penalty to tie the set back up at 24-24, and Taylor Unroe’s serve proved difficult from there as the Gators brought home two straight kills to take the 2-0 advantage. When it seemed that Florida could pull away earlier in the frame, the Seminoles held on and kept it close with the Gators. Freshman Izzy Carmona came up with three well-timed blocks in the set as FSU held a 5-4 advantage in the bat-down department through two frames.
Florida came out ready in the third set as opposed to getting behind early. But after taking a 16-9 lead over Florida State, the Seminoles fought back key kills from Medic and Nicole Walch to trail just 18-15. An attack error by UF created a 22-18 deficit for FSU, and later in the frame a service error and attack error by the Gators cut match point to 24-23 before Mann and Gabby Mallette produced a match-ending block.
The Seminoles finish non-conference play in the regular season with a road match at Auburn on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 1 p.m.
Follow Florida State indoor volleyball on Seminoles.com as well as on the team’s official Twitter (@FSU_Volleyball) and Facebook pages (Facebook.com/FSUVolleyball).