Tallahassee, FL - With postseason implications riding heavily on this weekend’s matches, the Florida State University volleyball team hosts second-place North Carolina and N.C. State on Friday and Sunday, respectively, at Tully Gym.
The Seminoles (16-9, 8-7) host the Tar Heels (21-7, 12-3) at 7 p.m., looking to gain another Top-50 RPI win as UNC comes to Tallahassee with the 17th-best RPI in the nation. It was the Tar Heels who snapped FSU’s unprecedented 19-match conference winning streak earlier in the season on Sept. 30, winning in five sets that culminated with a 16-14 finish. FSU nearly kept its streak intact after serving for the match at 14-13.
UNC sits one game behind Duke for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings. The Seminoles are trapped in a five-way tie with Miami, Virginia Tech, Maryland and Wake Forest for fourth-place, and trail third-place Georgia Tech by just one game.
“It’s going to be nice to be back home and have the next few weeks to prepare better,” head coach Chris Poole said. “We won’t have to worry about the travel, and we’ll be able to get in and get some work done to finish off the season.”
Last weekend, FSU boosted its NCAA Tournament resume with a quality win at Georgia Tech, defeating the Yellow Jackets in three sets. The Seminoles carry five victories against teams in the current Top-50 RPI, highlighted by a 3-2 win against conference leader Duke, which has the eighth-best RPI in the country.
FSU enters the weekend with the 29th-best RPI. A victory over UNC would certainly inch the Seminoles closer toward their postseason aspirations.
“North Carolina is a great team. They’re very well coached, and we actually had match point on them and played very well in games one and three at their place, and we just didn’t put the match away, Poole said. “We’re trying to emphasize finishing the tough matches. Let’s finish a tough match like that and be able to play well.”
An important player for FSU has been sophomore Sareea Freeman, who is playing at the right-side hitter position following junior Rachael Morgan’s foot injury that is keeping her out indefinitely. As a middle blocker, Freeman had a career-best 12 blocks in FSU’s last match against the Tar Heels. Senior Lauren Young followed with 12 blocks of her own in the following match at N.C. State, giving each player the best single-game blocking performance since former standout Jordana Price amassed 12 blocks against Georgia Tech on Oct. 2, 2009.
The Seminoles are 52nd nationally with 2.39 blocks per set, while Young is 67th in the country with 1.15 blocks per set.
Junior outside hitter Visnja Djurdjevic is one kill away from 300 for the season. The Zitiste, Serbia, native is on pace for the most amount of single-season kills at FSU since Mira Djuric had 438 in 2007. Last season, Djuric led FSU with 320 kills, and former player Lauren Richardson was the Seminoles’ leader the season before with 321. Djurdjevic, who has played in 23 of the team’s 25 matches, is fourth in the ACC with 3.32 kills per set, tied for fourth in service aces per set and sixth with 3.91 points per set.
Senior Stephanie Neville has shouldered the offense over the last eight matches. During that span, she is hitting at a .312 clip with 91 kills and 2.68 kills per set. She has 11 matches this season with double-digit kills, including a five-match stretch between Oct. 17-31 where she recorded double-digit kills consecutively.
Senior Jenna Romanelli looks to pass a couple more players this weekend in the school’s career digs list. With 1,075 career digs, she needs six more to pass Jennifer Werrick (1997-00) for seventh-place, and enters Friday’s match just nine shy of surpassing Deanne Kaleta (1985-88) for sixth-place. Conceivably, she could also pass former players Nancy Gaspadarek (1,150 digs) and Maggie Philgence (1,185 digs) for fourth-place this season depending on FSU’s postseason status.
UNC’s Courtney Johnston finished with 22 kills against FSU in their last meeting, and is ninth in the ACC with 3.20 kills per set. Junior libero Kaylie Gibson leads the conference with 537 digs, while UNC is atop the ACC in assists, kills and digs.
Sunday’s match is senior day for Romanelli, Young, Neville and libero Taylor Wilson. All four will be honored prior to their match against the Wolfpack (13-14, 3-12), which begins at 1 p.m.
FSU holds a 21-match winning streak against N.C. State dating back to Sept. 29, 2000. The Seminoles hold the series lead at 36-5.
N.C. State’s Margaret Salata and Becah Fogle are ninth and 10th, respectively, in points per set in the ACC. Salata is averaging 1.08 blocks per set and shows a .341 hitting percentage, while Fogle leads the team with 3.23 kills per set.
Fans who come to Friday’s match against UNC will receive a free color-changing cup.