TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – No. 12 Florida State Indoor volleyball’s recent reign on the Atlantic Coast Conference was on display Friday afternoon as it captured its third conference title since 2009 and fourth overall with a 3-1 (25-20, 22-25, 25-14, 29-27) victory over No. 23 Miami in a winner-takes-all match at Tully Gym.
The enormous crowd of 1,563 witnessed a thrilling affair highlighted by several long rallies and well-played volleyball in a match where everything was up for grabs. Just like they have done over the last two seasons, the Seminoles (27-3, 18-2) found a way to win even in times when the odds were against them. Florida State staved off five set points in the fourth set to pull out the win.
“I think we’ve had a team all year long that fights to the end,” head coach Chris Poole said. “We never gave up, we’ve always worked hard, and we lost three matches this year but the three matches we lost they just beat us at the end. We just didn’t give up – there’s been so many times where this team could have lay down and they didn’t. They kept finding a way to win and that showed today.”
Helping pull them through was the senior leadership of Duygu Duzceler, Sareea Freeman, Marija Milosavljevic and Fatma Yildirim, who were all given a huge ovation during their pre-match presentation and followed suit with fine individual performances. The senior class has now won three ACC championships.
“Every time in the huddle I said ‘Guys we’re not losing this set. We have to fight,’ Freeman said. “Our team has so much heart and I knew once I rotated and got to go back in we were going to push through this game. I wanted to get on the court so bad and I’m glad I was able to finish it.”
In the fourth set, things looked bleak for Florida State as it trailed Miami 19-14. A five-point run was punctuated by two kills from Freeman and a couple attack errors by Miami, and the tying point came on a vital block from Freeman and freshman Nicole Walch to make it 19-19. Over the next four rallies, both teams traded points as another kill by Freeman and a subsequent kill by Milosavljevic tied it at 21-21.
The Hurricanes (25-5, 17-3) stormed through with three consecutive points to set up its first set point. Florida State would not be denied, going on another 4-0 run with its back against the wall as Yildirim contributed with a kill and a block to give the Seminoles their first match point at 25-24. Yildirim then staved off two set points by Miami with a pair of kills.
Junior outside hitter Olivera Medic produced a key kill to create match point at 28-27. The championship-winning point fittingly came off the middle attack of Freeman, who put down a ball that trickled off a Miami student-athlete and went out of bounds to set off an on-court celebration.
Yildirim turned out to be Florida State’s go-to performer on Friday, totaling 16 kills and a .275 attack percentage. The Istanbul, Turkey native produced her sixth double-double of the season by adding 18 digs as she was true defensive force against an athletic Hurricane squad.
Freeman, who joined Yildirim on the All-ACC Team, finished with 11 kills, a .381 hitting percentage and five blocks. The three-time conference player of the week totaled her 11th double-digit kill match of the season and took over the 10th spot in school history with 389 career blocks.
Milosavljevic put together eight kills, four digs and three blocks, highlighted by a strong third and fourth set. The Bajina Basta, Serbia native helped control Miami’s offense to a .193 hitting percentage.
Duzceler was stellar once again, tallying 28 assists, six digs, one kill and one service ace. The Istanbul native recorded her 130th service ace of her career to put her in sole possession of ninth place, and played in her 132nd career match.
The Seminoles now own a 26-match win streak at Tully Gym dating back to the start of the 2011 season. They entered Friday’s match having won 23 consecutive sets at home and extended it to 24 until Miami used a .429 hitting percentage to snap the streak and tie the match at 1-1 following the second set.
The victory for Florida State was its fifth nationally-ranked win of the year and the 22nd in program history. The Seminoles have defeated Top 25 foes Iowa State, Florida, Tennessee, Miami and Ohio State this season. The five nationally-ranked victories tie the 2011 team for the most in one season.
Medic contributed with 10 kills and 18 digs, her team-leading seventh double-double of the season. Florida State recorded 72 team digs, a season high in four sets. Redshirt sophomore libero Katie Mosher led all players with 20 digs. She now has 1,067 career digs to hold the ninth spot in school history.
The Seminoles now lead the all-time series 21-17-1 and avenged their early-season loss to the Hurricanes on the road. Miami outside hitter Savanah Leaf recorded 18 kills and 11 digs, while Emani Sims led the team with a .348 hitting percentage and 12 kills.
Florida State will find out its NCAA Tournament seeding this Sunday at 4 p.m. when the NCAA Selection Show airs live on ESPNU. Should Florida State be selected to host the first and second rounds of the tournament, the matches would likely occur next Friday (Nov. 30) and Saturday (Dec. 1) at Tully Gym.