TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After taking the first two sets, the 13th-ranked Florida State University women’s volleyball team weathered a strong comeback by Virginia Tech to pull out a 3-2 (25-23, 25-13, 19-25, 19-25, 15-13) win on Sunday afternoon at Tully Gym.
The win gives the Seminoles (11-2, 3-0) their 19th straight Atlantic Coast Conference victory dating back to last season. FSU has also won nine consecutive home matches in conference play, with its last loss coming against Georgia Tech on Oct. 2, 2009.
Virginia Tech, which entered the match with quality wins over Missouri and Western Kentucky, nearly stole the match after swinging the momentum in the third set. The Hokies (10-3, 1-2) hitters improved their attacking percentage greatly in the third and four sets, culminating with a .417 hitting percentage in the fourth set.
“After playing as well as we did in the first two games, we tried some different things in game three and changed our players,” coach Chris Poole said. “When you have a lot of depth you try to play more of your players, and sometimes it throws your chemistry off a little bit. Virginia Tech took absolute full advantage of that.
“My intention was to continue to play at the same level, and I thought we played too comfortably (in the third and fourth sets). Virginia Tech didn’t roll over. We knew they were a good team. It was disappointing to see us take a step back, but I’m extremely proud of the way that we took the adversity and found a way to win. I challenged out team in the fifth set and they responded.”
Virginia Tech started off well in the final frame, taking a 2-0 lead on a kill by Felicia Willoughby and a service ace by Justine Record. The most crucial stretch of the match followed for FSU as it took the next seven points. In that span, blocks were recorded by Lauren Young, Stephanie Neville and Visnja Djurdjevic to ignite a defense that had performed so well in the first two sets.
Junior Rachael Morgan and sophomore Sareea Freeman then assisted on another block on an attack by Record to put the Seminoles ahead 11-6. Later, a kill by Jekaterina Stepanova and a service error by Record put FSU at match point leading 14-10.
Virginia Tech continued to show its resilience all afternoon, fighting back to take the next three points. However, a service error by Amy Wengrenovich ended the Hokies’ comeback bid.
Morgan posted a strong performance for FSU, finishing with 11 kills, a .588 hitting percentage and five blocks. Djurdjevic led the Seminoles with 13 kills, and added 11 digs for her sixth double-double of the season.
Freeman earned time in all five sets, recording five kills and five blocks. Young also added five blocks to aid FSU’s defense against the Hokies’ sound offense, helping FSU outblock Virginia Tech, 12-6. The Seminoles’ 12 blocks tie for their second-highest of the season.
Sophomore Duygu Duzceler picked up 25 assists, six digs and two service aces. Senior libero Jenna Romanelli added 10 digs.
Virginia Tech’s Cara Baarendse spear-headed the comeback with a match-high 19 kills, while Willoughby and Jennifer Wiker recorded 16 kills apiece.
FSU knew it had a tough opponent through the first set, with Virginia Tech hanging around until the very end. A key moment came when FSU called a timeout leading 15-14, and took the next three points to build a manageable lead. FSU later took a 24-21 lead on a kill by Djurdjevic, who then finished off the set with another kill.
The Seminoles took control in the second set, hitting at a .542 clip compared to Virginia Tech’s .032 attack percentage. Djurdjevic and Morgan combined for nine kills in the set, while Young added two blocks.
FSU’s offense took a dive in the third set, hitting just .086. Setter Erin Leaser posted 14 assists in the frame. The Hokies reeled off six consecutive points to take an early 8-5 lead, and went up 19-12 on a kill by Victoria Hamsher. Record’s service ace put the set away to jumpstart a comeback attempt.
The fourth set was Virginia Tech’s best offensively, recording a .417 hitting percentage. Leaser, who had 55 assists, recorded 15 of them as well as two kills in the set.
FSU has now won five straight matches against Virginia Tech, as both teams meet again on Oct. 29 in Blacksburg, Va.
The Seminoles continue ACC play with back-to-back road matches at North Carolina (Sept. 30) and North Carolina State (Oct. 1). Both contests begin at 7 p.m.