GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Something that has eluded Florida State for 23 years has been put to rest as the Seminoles (26-7) defeated Florida in five sets (25-15, 20-25, 22-25, 25-22, 15-9) on Friday night in order to advance to the Champaign, Illinois Regional next weekend.
The win snapped a 23-year losing streak at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center against the Gators, as the last victory was back on Oct. 9, 1990. By taking down the Gators, who were ranked sixth at the end of the year, the Seminoles topped their highest win against a ranked opponent in program history.
"I think anyone who watched it saw a great match," head coach Chris Poole said. "Looking at the stats, both team did a lot of good things. It seems to be the mark of the team this year -- being able to come back. They never gave up."
In addition, the Seminoles will make their third trip to a regional championship in school history.
Leading the attack was sophomore outside hitter Nicole Walch with her second consecutive double-double behind 22 kills and 15 digs.
Senior Ashley Neff was vital on the attack, tallying 14 kills while hitting .650 percent. Neff also had four blocks on the night, including one solo.
Freshman middle blocker Sarah Burrington had 10 kills and hit .556 percent, while adding four blocks. Senior right side hitter Elise Walch tallied 10 kills and a pair of blocks.
Junior setter Sarah Wickstom passed a season-high 34 assists and added seven digs.
Senior outside hitter Olivera Medic led the Seminole defense with 19 digs, and contributed nine kills. Redshirt junior libero Katie Mosher was under 16 digs.
The Seminoles came out strong in the first set, getting out to an 8-4 lead. Medic was behind the serve for seven consecutive points in order to go up 17-7. Florida could not climb out of the hole as FSU took the 1-0 advantage 25-15.
Proving to be the opposite of the first, Florida took the early lead before stringing together a 9-3 run. Despite a 4-0 run to close the gap at the end of the set, the Seminoles could not find their way back in it as Florida tied it up 25-19.
In the third, Florida jumped out to an 8-2 start, however the Noles rallied to a 6-1 run of their own in order to get back into the set down 12-8 before pulling to within one. Florida responded with a 5-2 scamper, but FSU had a 4-0 answer of its own in order to tie the score 20-20. The Seminoles could not find the points when the needed them down the stretch as the Gators took the 2-1 lead 25-22.
Facing a do-or-die scenario, Florida State recharged in the fourth, sparking a 5-0 run with Nicole Walch on serve, who during that stretch dished three service aces in a row putting FSU up 16-10. Florida chipped away at the lead, pulling to within a point at 21-20, however the Seminoles put together three quick strikes setting up to force a fifth set after winning 25-22.
With the score tied 4-4, the Seminoles broke the stalemate in the fifth with three quick points before taking the 8-6 lead at the net change. Primed for a run, the Noles put together three more quick points before looking at match point at 14-8 and again at 14-9. Burrington delivered the clinching kill, taking the 3-2 win 15-9.
"I have so much respect for Mary Wise and what she's done with the program at Florida," Poole said. "As a side note when I got the job here at Florida State, Mary was the first one to congratulate me and wrote me a statement, `Florida State is a sleeping giant and you're there to wake it up'."