No. 13 Florida State wins battle of first-place teams against NC State
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- No. 13 Florida State finished a crucial weekend perfect as it defeated conference foe NC State 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-16) in a battle of first-place ACC teams on Sunday afternoon in front of 762 fans at Tully Gym.
The Seminoles (14-2, 6-1) and Wolfpack (15-3, 5-2) entered Sunday's match tied atop the ACC standings with Miami sporting 5-1 conference records. Bolstered by a sound offensive attack that recording a .336 hitting percentage on the day, Florida State helped itself create separation from NC State and finish its weekend unscathed.
On Friday, Florida State faced an upper-echelon conference opponent in North Carolina and defeated the Tar Heels in three close sets. The result was nearly the same on Sunday, as the Seminoles squeaked past NC State in sets one and two before revving up their attack in the third set.
"The positives are we had two sweeps against two of the best-playing teams in the conference," head coach Chris Poole said. "It was a little disappointing that in five of the six sets this weekend we had control but allowed the opponents to get back into it. We need to focus on closing strong, and I think we did that in our last set [Sunday] against NC State. I think some of that is mental where we make some mistakes past the 20-point mark in certain sets. But at the same time, I was pleased with the efforts of a lot of our players [Sunday]."
The victory by the Seminoles on Sunday extends their win streak at Tully Gym to 20 matches, stretching their lead on the former program record of 18 previously held by the 1981 team. Florida State has also defeated NC State 25 consecutive times, a streak that has remained intact since Sept. 29, 2000. Florida State's win streak against the Wolfpack is its longest active stretch against any ACC team.
Florida State's offense was jumpstarted by good passing all afternoon. Its continued ball control led to big days by the same trio of players who performed well against North Carolina - junior Ashley Neff, senior Sareea Freeman and senior Fatma Yildirim.
Once again, Freeman led the Seminoles on the quick attack and recorded 11 kills in 17 swings with a .471 hitting percentage. She is now hitting .445 for the season, while Neff finished with nine kills and a .444 attack percentage. Neff is showing a .457 clip for the season.
Yildirim helped carry the Seminoles in various stretches, recording 11 kills and a .346 hitting percentage. She added six digs and a block to her respectable all-around performance. Junior outside hitter Olivera Medic also helped the left-side attack with eight kills and a .278 clip. Medic continues to play a big role in the passing game, adding eight digs.
It was another strong performance for Florida State's two setters in Duygu Duzceler and Sarah Wickstrom. Both helped run a rhythmic attack, as Duzceler posted 22 assists while Wickstrom added 18.
NC State finished with a .222 hitting percentage and was led by Nikki Glass' 13 kills. Dariyan Hopper had eight kills in 19 swings and Brie Merriwether finished with nine kills and a .300 hitting percentage. The Wolfpack's hitting percentage was the second-highest allowed by the Seminoles this season to a conference opponent.
Florida State did its best to take control in the first set, building small leads that were hard to sustain against a hard-charging NC State team. A kill by Neff put Florida State ahead 18-15, and later a service error by Glass gave the Seminoles a 21-18 advantage. NC State stayed relentless but fell in the first frame trailing 24-23 when Marija Milosavljevic recorded a kill to win the set.
The second frame was much of the same, as Florida State gave itself a little cushion at 17-14 on a service ace from libero Katie Mosher. A service error by NC State's Alexa Micek gave the Seminoles the set point at 24-20, but NC State responded by winning the next three rallies which included a pair of kills by Merriwether. Yildirim, who had five kills in frame two, finished the set with an important kill to put Florida State up 2-0 overall. Florida State would then cruise for most of the third set after holding sizeable leads.
The Seminoles are now 6-0 at Tully Gym this season. Their last two victories against North Carolina (19th in RPI) and NC State (28th in RPI) are expected to elevate their RPI from its original position of 30th.
With the conference season about one-third of the way through, Florida State and Miami are tied for first place in the conference after the Hurricanes defeated North Carolina 3-1 on Sunday afternoon. The Seminoles opened the conference season losing on the road to Miami, but have rebounded to win six in a row in the ACC.