TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (seminoles.com) – The 17th-ranked Florida State indoor volleyball team prepares for the annual Sunshine Showdown when it faces No. 4 Florida on the road on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 6 p.m. at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla.
The Seminoles (6-3) are coming off a thrilling 3-2 victory over No. 7 Michigan last Saturday at the Texas A&M Invitational. It was the highest-ranked victory in school history based on the AVCA Poll, eclipsing the previous top mark of four victories over three No. 8 teams (No. 8 Florida in 1993 & 1994, No. 8 Illinois in 2009 and No. 8 Purdue in 2011).
“Beating Michigan certainly was a lift for our team and it’s something we’re going to try and continue to build on,” head coach Chris Poole said. “Florida’s got a little more experienced team this year than we do, and last year we had a more experienced team. It kind of cycles back and forth. We know we’re capable of playing very well against Florida since we’ve played some great teams already. In a rivalry match like that, we know every player is going to leave it on the line and go hard, and it’s going to be a lot of fun for the state of volleyball and the state of Florida.”
Florida State now has a chance to break its own mark when it faces the fourth-ranked Gators (8-1). The Seminoles will try to create their first two-match win streak over the Gators since the 1990 season. Last year, Florida State defeated Florida, 3-0, at Tully Gym in Tallahassee to snap a 21-match losing streak. Prior to last year’s win, FSU had not defeated Florida since Oct. 31, 1994.
Florida State has lost its last 15 matches in Gainesville, having not won since Oct. 9, 1990. In two of its last three matches at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, Florida State has held match point against the Gators.
Tuesday’s match marks the fourth consecutive year both rivals square off as nationally-ranked opponents based on the AVCA Poll. Florida State was ranked 13th when playing Florida in the regular season in 2010, 25th in 2011 and 12th in 2012.
The statewide battle also begins a two-match road swing against SEC competition, as FSU heads to Auburn for a Saturday start time of 1 p.m. ET. Since Poole took over in 2008, FSU is 7-7 against SEC competition including 4-0 against Kentucky.
Florida State senior middle blocker Ashley Neff earned her second career ACC Player of the Week honor, announced Monday by the conference. The Kennesaw, Ga. native was instrumental in the Seminoles’ win over No. 7 Michigan, finishing the five-setter with nine kills, a .333 hitting percentage and 10 blocks. It was her eighth double-digit blocking performance of her career.
Neff, who is a Senior CLASS Award candidate, is currently ranked 14th in the nation with 1.52 blocks per set. As a team, the Seminoles are 32nd nationally and fourth in the ACC with 2.70 blocks per set.
Coming off dominant offensive performances were sisters Elise and Nicole Walch. Both student-athletes recorded 22 kills apiece in the 3-2 win over the Wolverines, marking the first time a pair of Seminoles have recorded 20 or more kills in the same match since Makini Thompson and Mira Djuric each posted 24 kills against Duke on Nov. 3, 2007. The 2007 season was also the final year of the 30-point scoring system.
Against a challenging non-conference schedule that already includes three Top 25 wins, Florida State’s defense continues to be a strength by holding the opposition to a .205 hitting percentage. In contrast, Florida is high atop the rankings in several offensive categories, including hitting percentage (third), kills per set (sixth) and assists per set (12th).
Florida senior middle blocker Chloe Mann, who is a Gainesville native, is second in the nation with a superb .511 hitting percentage. Talented freshman right-side hitter Alex Holston is 49th with a .400 hitting clip.
Although the match will not be televised, fans can follow the contest via live stats by accessing CBS GameTracker. Follow Florida State indoor volleyball on Seminoles.com as well as on the team’s official Twitter (@FSU_Volleyball) and Facebook pages (Facebook.com/FSUVolleyball).