Defense Shines in Volleyball’s Comeback Win Over Irish

Defense Shines in Volleyball’s Comeback Win Over Irish
Defense Shines in Volleyball’s Comeback Win Over Irish
Posted at 11:00 PM, Nov 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-11 23:00:00-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida State volleyball team (17-8, 13-2 ACC) proved its place at the top of the conference on Sunday afternoon, taking down Notre Dame (15-11, 9-7 ACC) in a five-set comeback win in Tully Gym.

While FSU’s seemingly unstoppable offense has been the center of attention this season, the Seminoles proved to be a suppressing force on defense on Sunday, holding a tough Notre Dame front line to just over .100 hitting through five sets.

Sunday’s win sets up an important matchup for Florida State’s final home match on Friday, Nov. 16, as the Seminoles host a top-10 Pitt team. The Panthers have only one loss this season overall, when No. 5 Pitt lost to Duke in four sets on the road last month. A win over the Panthers will give FSU a chance to take a share of the ACC title this season, while a loss could set up Pitt for the outright ACC Championship title.

Florida State’s defense shined in the match, picking up a season-high 95 digs in the match and the team’s 19th double-digit blocking effort of the season. When the Seminoles defense stepped up in the fourth and fifth sets, Notre Dame was unable to hit above .100 and couldn’t use the offensive effort the team has dominated their opponents with this season.

Senior libero Kelsey Wicinski saw a career-high 34 digs in the match, while freshman Taylor Roberts began making her case to take over as libero next season, picking up 20 digs and adding on three assists in the match. Sophomore Taryn Knuth held onto her spot as the ACC’s blocking leader, picking up eight total blocks in the match. She now has 160 total blocks this season, good for 1.68 per set, both of which lead the ACC.

Junior outside hitter Payton Caffrey continues to embrace her role as the leader of FSU’s offense, as she put down 20 kills and added on 11 digs for her fifth double-double of the season. Her outside counterpart, redshirt senior Christina Ambrose, set a career high with 53 total attacks, putting down 16 of them for a .208 hitting percentage and tacking on three blocks and three digs.

Both of FSU’s setters saw impressive all-around performances, as senior leader Brianne Burkert picked up 25 assists, hit .444 with four kills on nine attacks, earned two aces, and added on six digs and a block. Redshirt freshman Adrian Ell saw 22 assists with four total blocks (three of which came in the fourth set alone), seven digs and five kills.

The Seminoles will look to carry this momentum into Friday’s match against Pitt. Florida State will recognize its four seniors prior to the 6:30 pm match in a Senior Day celebration.

Set 1 – ND 25, FSU 20

The Fighting Irish held the advantage in the set from the beginning, outhitting the Seminoles and using a stronger defensive effort to hold the lead. Notre Dame’s errors began to add up, keeping Florida State close until the Irish pulled away in the end.

The Seminoles kept up with the Irish defensively and were able to run 34 plays on offense, but Notre Dame’s strong defensive effort prevented FSU from putting the ball down. Both teams battled back and forth, but the Seminoles were unable to catch up before the Irish closed out the first set.

Set 2 – ND 25, FSU 20

A more consistent back row defense on FSU’s side kept the ball alive and kept Notre Dame’s hitting percentage down. A dump over the net from Adrian Ell tied up the score at 18-all, and a kill from Ambrose gave FSU its first lead at 19-18, and a block from Knuth and Brim gave Florida State a 20-18 lead.

From there, Notre Dame let FSU make its own errors and used a stronger offensive presence to regain the lead. The Fighting Irish went 7-0 to close out the set, giving them a 2-0 lead in the match heading into intermission.

Set 3 – FSU 25, ND 23

Notre Dame started off the set with a tough offensive presence that kept Florida State down, and the Fighting Irish was able to stay ahead on FSU’s errors. A tougher offensive effort from FSU’s pin hitters helped the Seminoles take the lead and hold it after three straight kills from Caffrey put FSU up 16-14.

The Fighting Irish began to close FSU’s lead by running more efficient plays, but Florida State’s defense stayed strong behind nine digs from Wicinski in the set. Florida State’s last few defensive plays at the net helped them close out the set to hold off a win from Notre Dame.

Set 4 – FSU 25, ND 12

The first few points in the set went back and forth, until Florida State saw a 5-0 scoring run to jump into the lead. That run saw two blocks from Murray/Ell, an ace from Burkert and a pair of kills from Murray and Caffrey. Despite giving Notre Dame a few points, FSU was able to come back and go on an 8-0 scoring run, holding the Irish to .000 hitting through the first 21 total points in the set.

The Seminoles continued to dominate throughout the set, hitting .351 and using 23 digs and six total blocks to hold the Irish to just .050 hitting. Florida State kept rolling, and finished out the set with a block from Knuth and Brim and a final kill from Knuth.

Set 5 – FSU 15, ND 9

The Seminoles saw an even more consistent back row defensive effort in the final set, holding the Irish to .000 hitting through the first half of the set. Notre Dame kept pushing on offense and swung at the ball 30 times, but 21 digs and two total blocks (with a solo block from Murray) on Florida State’s side held the Irish to negative hitting in the set.

The Seminoles held Notre Dame to just nine points in the set, which is the fewest the Irish have seen in any set this season.

Match Notes

  • Taryn Knuth has earned five or more blocks in eight consecutive matches, starting with FSU’s five-set win at Syracuse on Oct. 14. It is the 16th match this season she has seen five or more blocks.
    • She has led the Seminoles in total blocks 22 times this season.
    • Her 8 blocks on Sunday brings her to 160 total blocks this season, which is just two blocks away from what she finished her freshman campaign with. It is the 9th-most blocks earned in a single season in FSU’s rally scoring history.
  • Kelsey Wicinski set a new career high with 34 digs in Sunday’s match. Her previous was 28 (2x, last at Boston College, 10/21).
    • It is tied for the eighth-most an FSU player has seen in any match in program history, tied for the fifth-most earned in an ACC match, and is tied for the fourth-most earned in an ACC match in FSU’s rally scoring history.
    • She has seen 20 or more digs in eight matches this season. She has had 20 or more in three of FSU’s last five matches, and seven of the last 10 matches.
    • She has led the Seminoles in digs in 23 matches this season.
  • Payton Caffrey has led the Seminoles in kills 19 times this season, and has done so in FSU’s last five matches.
    • Caffrey’s 20 kills in the match gives her 413 kills this season, which ranks 11th in FSU’s rally scoring history.
    • She saw her 31st career double-double and fifth of the season with 20 kills and 11 digs on Sunday.
  • Christina Ambrose has seen double-digit kills in 16 matches this year.
    • She set a new career high record with 53 total attacks in Sunday’s match.
  • Taylor Roberts saw a season-high 20 digs in Sunday’s match. Her previous was 13 at Notre Dame just last week.
  • This marked the first time this season that two players saw more than 20 digs each in the match. The last time this happened was in 2017, when Logan Holanchock (20) and Cecilie Woie (40) led FSU to a five-set win over Illinois State (8/25).
  • This was FSU’s second comeback win of the season, after the Seminoles were able to beat Syracuse on the road after losing the first two sets.
  • The Seminoles are now 2-2 with Notre Dame in five set matches. The last time FSU dropped the first two sets against the Fighting Irish was in 2000, when Notre Dame won in four sets.