Auburn, AL - The 17th-ranked Florida State indoor volleyball team got some key individual performances as it went on the road to defeat Auburn, 3-2 (25-22, 28-30, 25-16, 22-25, 15-11), on Saturday afternoon at Auburn Arena.
Behind sophomore outside hitter Nicole Walch’s career-high 23 kills, the Seminoles (7-4) earned a quality road victory as they now turn their focus to conference play. Walch fittingly delivered a kill on the final point of the match to help FSU improve to 8-8 against Southeastern Conference competition under head coach Chris Poole.
Senior Elise Walch combined with her sister to have another strong outing, posting 18 kills, a .343 hitting percentage, four digs and four blocks in the victory. Senior Ashley Neff was hot offensively throughout the match, recording 12 kills and a .529 hitting percentage. The Kennesaw, Ga. native added four blocks to push her career total to 496, trying to become just the seventh Seminole to record 500 or more blocks in her career.
“For the first time we mixed our players up a bit and put some younger players with some of our older players,” Poole said. “I think it made a big difference today. Ashley (Neff) played very well and Hailey (Luke) did a good job of giving her a big target. Our consistency was the key. When we weren’t consistent we struggled. We just have to go back to work now because a whole new season begins with conference play coming up.”
Florida State once again got strong play from their setters Sarah Wickstrom and Hailey Luke. Wickstrom delivered her third double-double of the season with 37 assists and 11 digs, and also provided some great serving that the Tigers found difficult to handle. Wickstrom’s 37 assists tie her career high set just one week ago in a five-set win over Michigan.
Luke, a freshman from Altamonte Springs, Fla., had good rapport with Neff and finished with 25 assists and three digs. Senior Olivera Medic added her team-leading fourth double-double of the season with 10 kills and 15 digs, and redshirt freshman middle blocker Sarah Burrington was disruptive to the Tigers (9-3) with seven kills and seven blocks.
FSU libero Katie Mosher was stable in the back row again, finishing with 17 digs and adding three assists.
The Seminoles managed to stay in control for most of the fifth set, never trailing and building an 8-4 lead midway through on a kill by Nicole Walch. Following the brief intermission to switch sides, FSU won three of the next five points to take an 11-6 lead. A kill by Elise Walch set up the Noles with match point at 14-9, and Nicole Walch’s kill from the left side pushed Florida State’s all-time record against Auburn to 9-1.
Florida State was able to hold off a late run by the Tigers in the first set, as Elise Walch’s kill from the right side gave the Seminoles the 25-22 win. Nicole Walch paced Florida State in the opening frame with five kills, one block and one ace, while Luke added six assists and a service ace in the set. The Seminoles came back from an early 7-1 deficit and used a nice run midway through to take a 17-13 advantage. Following an Auburn timeout, the Seminoles won three of the next five points which included a service ace by Luke to make it 20-15. A kill by Neff then set FSU up for set point.
The second set featured a lot of momentum swings, as Florida State came back from a late 21-17 hole to having two set points it could not capitalize on. With some superb serving from Wickstrom, Florida State was able to take a 22-21 lead on a kill by Elise Walch. Nicole Walch’s put-down gave FSU its first set point chance at 25-24, but Auburn’s Katherine Culwell responded with a kill. Burrington then delivered a nice kill off the middle attack to put FSU ahead 26-25, but Auburn came back again with another kill.
After Florida State fought off two set points with a kill from Neff and an Auburn service error, Auburn was able to execute on its third opportunity as it got a set-ending block from Kathia Rud and Kia Bright.
Neff and Elise Walch’s four kills apiece helped Florida State to a command third-set win over the Tigers. Nicole Walch put down her 13th kill to end the set, as FSU broke an 8-8 tie early on by winning 17 of the next 25 points. Through three sets, the Noles produced a .277 hitting percentage while Auburn was held to a .231 clip.
FSU fought back from a 22-15 deficit in the fourth set to ring off seven consecutive points and tie the frame at 22-22, with Elise Walch capping the rally on a nice kill. However, Auburn regained momentum and delivered three consecutive points on three straight kills to bring the match to a five-setter.
The Seminoles begin ACC play next weekend as they embark on a long East-coast road trip to Syracuse and Boston College. Florida State faces Syracuse in a match that will be played at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, Sept. 28 at noon. The match will be televised on Time Warner Cable.
FSU then faces Boston College on Sunday, Sept. 29 at noon in Chestnut Hill, Mass.