GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Nicole Walch posted her fifth career double-double in the NCAA Tournament (16 kills, 14 digs) and Sarah Burrington added eight assisted blocks as 19th-ranked Florida State earned a sweep of Arizona State (25-13, 25-17, 25-21) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Walch, who had at least 16 kills for the fourth time in an NCAA Tournament match, completed her solid effort by posting a .400 attack percentage after committing just two errors in 35 total attacks. Meanwhile, Burrington anchored a front line that posted 22 assisted blocks, tying for second most by a Seminole squad in the rally scoring era, as she tied Sareea Freeman’s single-match rally scoring assisted blocks record by an individual.
Florida State (25-7) also enjoyed all around performances by Mercedes Vaughn (six kills, six assisted blocks), Hailey Luke (17 assists, nine digs), Brianne Burkert (15 assists) and Cecilie Woie (eight digs).
Arizona State closed out the campaign and 19-13 led by the efforts of Lexi MacLean (eight kills) and BreElle Bailey (seven) on offense. The Sun Devils struggled to find rhythm, committing 23 errors, as they hit just .044 on the contest—the second lowest percentage by a Seminole opponent since 2002 (.024; Alabama A&M, Dec. 5, 2009).
“I am very pleased with how we played most of the match,” said head coach Chris Poole. “Our blocking has been a point of emphasis the last couple of weeks and I thought we did well tonight. Glad to see our defense step up and pleased with our balanced offense. We need to play very consistent tomorrow if we want to be successful.”
Florida State came out firing in the opening frame as it established an 11-5 advantage, capitalizing on seven unforced Arizona State errors and kills from Burrington, Melanie Keil and Walch, forcing an early Sun Devil timeout. The Seminoles added to their lead, behind the service game of Luke, scoring seven of the next eight points to move in front 18-6.
Three kills by Mercedes Vaughn helped maintain the double-digit lead as the Noles moved in front 23-13. Walch and Kubura drove home the final two points of the opening frame as Florida State completed the 12-point victory.
The Seminoles repeated their solid start in the second set, jumping out to a 7-0 lead behind six points in serve and one kill from Katie Horton. Kills by Bailey and Cassidy Pickrell put points on the board for Arizona State, but it was three kills off the hand of Walch that provided Florida State with 12-5 lead.
Walch added a service ace and kill, stretching the lead to nine, and following a series of strikes by Keil, Burrington and Vaughn the Seminole lead reached 19-10, forcing the final Arizona State timeout.
Arizona State made a slight rally, using three kills by Lexi MacLean and two Seminole errors to draw within eight points on two occasions, but it was a kill by Burrington that provided Florida State with a two set advantage heading into the intermission.
After battling to a four-all tie early in the third set, keyed by three kills from Walch, Arizona State rattled off a 4-1 run to assume the three-point advantage. The Sun Devils maintained that advantage until back-to-back kills by Luke and Walch brought the match to a 14-14 deadlock.
The combination of Vaughn, Keil and Horton penetrated the Arizona State defense as the two teams reached a 19-all tie following a service ace by Kylie Pickrell. With Luke in serve, and a kill from Burrington, Florida State forged ahead 22-19. A kill by Mercedes Binns was not enough to spark the Sun Devils rally as they surrendered three points on unforced errors to help the Noles improve to 14-6 all-time under Poole in the NCAA Tournament.
Florida State will play host Florida in the second round on Friday night. First serve is set for 7:00.