TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- In front of a standing-room only, electric crowd at Tully Gym, eighth-ranked Florida State (3-0) came back to defeat No. 11 Florida (3-1) 3-2 on Thursday night in the Sunshine Showdown.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” FSU head coach Chris Poole said. “We have a lot of new players in new positions to where we’re still trying to get in sync. So to be 3-0 right now, I wouldn’t have imagined that. It builds well for them and their character.”
It was the first time the rivals went to five sets in the rally scoring era in Tallahassee. A decisive set has also not been play between the squads in Tully since Sept. 7 1993, when FSU won 3-2.
Junior outside hitter Nicole Walch led the Seminole attack for the third-straight match with 15 kills and 10 digs, while hitting .257 percent.
“That game was so awesome,” Walch said. “We didn’t start out strong but we came together and won the match.”
Playing in her first game at home in the Garnet and Gold, freshman right side hitter Milica Kubura was on fire accounting for 14 kills on 25 attempts, hitting .400 percent. A Belgrade, Serbia native, she also registered one solo and two block assists.
Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Sarah Burrington was the third Seminole to score in double figures, hitting 11 kills on 17 attempts for .529 percent. Burrington was big at the net with seven block assists, contributing to a team total of 12.
As a team, the Seminoles out-blocked the Gators 12-6, with redshirt junior Mercedes Vaughn and junior Kiara Wright each contributing to the total. Vaughn put up two solo blocks on top of two assists and eight kills, while Wright had one solo and one assist. She accounted for nine kills as well.
Senior setter Sarah Wickstrom dished 33 assists and sophomore setter Hailey Luke tallied 24. Redshirt senior libero Katie Mosher was under nine digs and six assists.
“We got so much from the audience tonight,” Kubura said. “When we are on the court we are out there on our own but to see all the joy on their faces when we got a point was amazing and kept us going.”
The first set saw 15 ties and four lead changes, however both teams were plagued by service errors that combined for total of 16.
Florida State looked to close out the first set with a pair of set points, however Florida came back to tie 24-24 after the Seminoles committed a service error and the Gators got a kill.
After trading off service errors, the Gators produced a kill from Simone Antwi for their first set point, however Wright put down kill to tie 27-27. After the 28-28 tie, the Seminoles committed a service error before Antwi dished an ace to put Florida up 1-0.
In the second, the Seminoles recharged and got in front early. Holding the 8-7 edge, Wickstrom sparked a 6-0 run while on serve, putting the Noles up 14-7.
Florida hung around and made a late 5-0 run to cut the Seminole lead to 21-19, but FSU closed out the set with a 4-1 scamper to finish, 25-20 to tie the match 1-1.
After FSU jumped out to a 15-10 lead at the media timeout in the third, Florida put together a 7-2 run to tie it 17-17. The score was knotted twice more before FSU fell behind by three, 20-23.
The Noles were in need of a huge play when Vaughn pulled up for a major block at the net, however a service error gave the Gators set point at 21-24.
Following by a timeout after the Gators were guilty of a service error, Vaughn leaped for another big block, fending off another set point but the Gators closed it out 25-23 after Antwi swung for a kill and the 2-1 lead.
The set stayed even in the fourth as the lead never passed two points for each team until Luke dished an ace to give FSU set point at 24-21. A UF kill and an FSU attacking error looked like it could fuel another Gator run, however Walch put an end to the set with a kill to force a decisive fifth (25-23).
After trailing 3-1 early, Kubura got the side out with a kill, putting Luke on serve. Luke ignited 5-0 run, giving the Seminoles the 6-4 advantage. After trading points, FSU finished the decisive set on a 5-2 rally, getting help from junior defensive specialist Laura Dadowski’s serve that set up two kills and two Florida errors down the stretch.
“This team showed so much character,” Mosher said. “We could have folded after losing that third set, but we had the heart to push through and we kept believing and trusting in each other.”
Florida State won the fifth 15-9.
“I don’t think people realize what a big factor the crowd is for a volleyball match,” FSU head coach Chris Poole said. “It’s such a momentum sport and you can play up and down, but if you add the energy of the crowd – a couple of those sets were one or two points and the crowd did make a difference.”