TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) - In front of a raucous Tully Gym crowd, the 12th-ranked Florida State indoor volleyball team earned an emotional 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 25-21) victory in front of over 1,600 fans to snap a 21-match losing streak over 11th-ranked Florida on Wednesday night.
Indeed, some of the current Seminoles (19-2) were barely walking the last time Florida State defeated Florida - Oct. 31, 1994. It had been a streak full of repeated heartbreak until Wednesday evening when the current crop of Seminoles put together a milestone win for the program.
In the process, Florida State extended its school-record win streak at Tully Gym to 21 matches. The Seminoles recorded their 13th consecutive victory on Wednesday and snapped Florida's stretch of 14 consecutive matches won.
"It means so much to this program," head coach Chris Poole said. "It's been the one thing we haven't been able to accomplish yet and we played them so well over the last few years. I knew it was getting closer. They're a great program, a great coaching staff, they've got tradition. But we're building tradition and we're trying to build the right program and I feel like the girls worked really hard tonight."
The victory proved that the Seminoles have put themselves on the same level as the Gators, going farther than their rival in two of the last three NCAA postseasons while signing one of the top recruiting classes in the country last year. All that needed to be done was actually defeating Florida, and it was done tonight with strong defense that held one of the nation's top hitting units to a .228 attack percentage.
Florida State accumulated 56 digs in the three-set match, led by redshirt sophomore libero Katie Mosher's 16 digs. The Fort Myers, Fla., native defended several hard attacks successfully and kept the ball moving on Florida State's side of the court.
Senior Fatma Yildirim got herself a rewarding victory, finishing with her fourth double-double of the year. The Istanbul, Turkey native tallied 10 kills and 13 digs for the Seminoles and finished with a .286 hitting percentage against a vaunted Florida defense.
"I can't even explain how happy I am right now," Yildirim said after the match. "I can't thank the crowd enough who showed up and I couldn't even hear myself think. It was great to win this game. I think we did great as a team and didn't let them take over after the second set. We just shut it down and played so well."
Senior Sareea Freeman proved her worth against the Gators as well with her middle attack. The Fresno, Calif. native put down nine kills and added three blocks. In the third set when the Seminoles were starting to let Florida creep back into the match, Freeman came through and helped elevated the Seminoles to a fantastic finish.
"It means everything," Freeman said of the win. "The last point I rushed the court and was so happy to the point that tears were coming from my eyes. I'm so happy. We're still undefeated at home and taking care of Tully and taking care of our business at home. I'm so proud of my team. This needed to happen and I'm so glad it happened my last year here."
Overall, Florida State hit .222 in the match. It was out-blocked by Florida 9-6, but had only two service errors compared to Florida's nine. The two-setter combination of Duygu Duzceler and Sarah Wickstrom finished with 33 assists, setting the ball with consistency. Junior outside hitter Olivera Medic also found some lanes to hit through as she recorded seven kills, while junior middle blocker Ashley Neff added seven kills and two blocks.
The victory over Florida gives Florida State its first Top 10 RPI win of the season as the Gators came in ranked 10th. The Seminoles are now 8-2 against the current Top 50 RPI teams. Florida State also picked up its 12th AVCA Top 25 win under Poole, including its fourth this season. The school record for most AVCA Top 25 wins in a season is five held by last season's NCAA National Semifinal team.
The first set was close and saw eight lead changes as both teams exchanged several points and forced many long rallies. Neff led the charge in the first frame with three kills and one block. A service error by Florida's Taylor Unroe tied the set at 20-20 and both teams exchanged the next six points capped by a kill from Freeman. Back-to-back attack errors by Gabby Mallette sealed the first set for the Seminoles.
Florida State started off well in set two, taking a 10-5 lead on an attack error from Chloe Mann, who had 10 kills on the evening. A service ace by Duzceler brought the Florida State lead to 20-13, and while Florida tried to inch back, a momentum-stealing kill by Yildirim made it 23-19 for the Seminoles. Yildirim followed with another kill and Mara Green's kill gave Florida State the second set.
The Seminoles held on in the third frame. A Medic kill made it 15-7 for the Seminoles, but Florida came back by winning nine of the next 13 points to cut its deficit to 19-16. An enormous block by Freeman and Green gave the Seminoles a 22-19 lead, and Neff's match-ending kill sent the crowd into a frenzy as the agonizing winning streak against the Gators ended.
Florida State returns with a home match on Friday at 7 p.m. against Virginia. The first 400 fans to attend the match get a free tank, while all fans can earn double the Seminole Spear-It Rewards points.
Sunday's match versus Virginia Tech at 1 p.m. is the annual "Paint it Pink" match, with breast cancer awareness T-shirts available for a $10 donation. After the match there will also be a "Paint it Pink" clinic.