Originally posted on The Net Set  |  Last updated 11/9/13
versus I'm covering the bejesus out of the ACC lately, but it's been good volleyball, so I'm keen to dive back in. This is an interesting little matchup between a team who are nearly certain to make the NCAA tournament (FSU) and a team who still need to make their case (VA Tech). I am of the belief that the Hokies are better than their 7-6 conference record (the loss column got inflated a bit on a bad road trip to Clemson and Georgia Tech), but that belief and five dollars will buy you a sandwich. They've got to build up their resume, they've got to make themselves anything but a hard call for the selection committee, and there's no better way to do that than knocking off a ranked team. That's something the Hokies have only done once in program history, back in 2010. Incidentally, the victims three years ago were these very same Florida State Seminoles. For Florida State, the stakes tonight and in the near future are the ACC crown itself. They're the reigning conference champions, but a resurgent Duke Blue Devils squad currently hold the top rank in the conference (on the basis of a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Seminoles). If the Seminoles want to keep that conference championship, which may well carry with it an opportunity to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, they'd best to get to work themselves. The Hokies took the first rally, getting some good swings through the tall FSU front line. Hokie libero Megan Beckwith rotated back to serve and tossed up a beauty. You don't see standing serves get scored for aces all that often, but FSU libero Katie Mosher had trouble passing her counterpart. Serving at 3-1, Kenedy McGrath scored another ace, bringing VA Tech to 4-1. It looked like Lindsey Owens scored the kill on the next rally, making it 5-1, but it was Florida State who took the serve, so the ball was evidently called out. I was just as fooled as the announce team. Ashley Neff peeled a point back for the Seminoles making it 4-3, but just as quickly the Hokies got the serve back and Owens scored another ace; already the third of the match for VA Tech. At 7-5, Victoria Hamsher scored the Hokies' fourth ace. 8-6 was then a very long rally, ending as a service point for the Seminoles as they got the kill from the right side off the block and out. Hokie coach Chris Riley argued that Seminole setter Hailey Luke should have been called for a double touch, but obviously to no avail. After a few sideouts, the Hokies then edged forward another point at 11-8, when Nicole Walch tried an odd shot, basically a roll shot/bic. It, uh....didn't work. Riley got on his feet to crow a little bit when Jordan Fish was called for a double touch to give Florida State a service point that drew them within 11-10. I don't generally enjoy giving officials the business, but it didn't look much different from the sets on the other side that were ruled legal. 13-11 was then the best rally of the set so far, ending with a right-side double block for the Hokies. They roared with delight, because earlier in the rally they had performed a minor miracle keeping a ball alive way off the playing area. To my surprise, when the Hokies reached 15 first at 15-12, there was no automatic timeout. Seminole coach Chris Poole called a charged timeout two sideouts later at 16-13. The Seminoles overpassed on the first play after the timeout, and LaTasha Samson-Akpan slammed it home to give the Hokies a four-point lead. Neff responded, siding the Seminoles out, but they could not cut into the deficit. It expanded to four points at 19-15 when Mosher was called four a double hit on an overhand set attempt. At 20-16, Florida State executed the quick to the middle beautifully, resulting in a kill for Sarah Burrington. That rotated Olivera Medic back to serve, and she immediately found the floor for an ace. Despite trailing the entire set, the Seminoles were suddenly right back in it at 20-18, and Virginia Tech called time. The Hokies got the big first-ball sideout after the timeout, with the kill for Kathryn Caine. FSU ran the quick again on 22-19, but this time Burrington's hit managed to sail long. Not something you often see off a quick. The Seminoles called their second timeout trailing 23-19. Owens' serve on the first play after the timeout was one of those you hate unless it happens for your team, as it drilled the tape on the top of the net and crawled over. Nothing the Seminoles could have done. They staved off their set point on reception at 24-20, and then Luke's serve on 24-21 yielded an overpass that led to a Seminole kill. But the Hokies finished it off there, with a kill from the left side making for a 25-21 final. Set 2 started just like set 1 -- ace in yo' face! Amanda McKinzie got her side on the board right away, and then got the Seminoles on the board on her next serve, as it hit the net. 2-all was an awkward rally, with both sides restricted to off-balance, tentative bump sets as their passing failed them. Burrington eventually terminated to give the Seminoles their first lead of the night. They got a 'true' lead of two points at 5-3, which was erased as the Hokies made it back to 5-all, but then re-established at 7-5. At 7-6, Luke played her nifty back-row setter dump shot. It didn't get the kill, but it did kind of disrupt Virginia Tech's defence such that they were out of system trying to respond to the next hit, made by Izzy Carmona. The teams swapped point for a while, as the Seminoles retained a slim advantage. It looked like the Seminoles had the first service point in forever on 14-12, as the Hokie hit from the left side was well long and wide. The flagger didn't call a touch, but the up referee overruled him (and in fairness, the play was right in front of the up ref). Sarah Wickstrom served at 15-13 and finally got the first point on serve since 7-5 by acing Owens. The Hokies got the point back with an aggressive serve from McKinzie leading to an off-balance offensive execution from the Noles, and a long hit. Elise Walch got the sideout at 17-15. The Hokies had to send over a freeball on 18-16, and Nicole Walch made them pay for it. Then a VA Tech hitting miscue made it a four-point set at 20-16, and finally the first charged timeout of the set occurred. The run continued for the Noles after the timeout, with a service ace for Burrington making it a five-point set. The Hokies peeled back a point on serve at 22-18, as Owens' kill brought them to within three. Knowing you can't take 'em with you, Poole called time there. It didn't faze Owens, who uncorked a nice serve leading to a meek freeball from the Seminoles and a kill back on the Hokie side. That, quickly, prompted Poole's second timeout. This one may have iced Owens, as she served into the net to give FSU a crucial three-point lead late. At 23-20, the Hokies' offence broke down a little, as players were falling all over the floor to keep the ball alive, but they could not return the ball. Facing set point at 24-20, Virginia Tech called their second timeout. 24-20 was a good long rally, but it ended the same way as the previous rally, with sprawling Hokie defence unable to turn into even an attempt at offence. The teams went to the locker rooms knotted at a set apiece, after Florida State's 25-20 win in set 2. The Hokies started set 3 with a first-ball sideout for Owens. Hamsher and Caine tossed up a tough double block against Nicole Walch to put the Hokies ahead two in the early going. Sister Elise then got the Seminoles on the board on the next rally. Owens tried for a cut shot on 3-2, but put waaaaay too much on it, landing out by a good 10 feet. On 4-all, the Hokies essentially scored by overpassing. Setter Jordan Fish was alert on the front line, and played it over and off Seminole fingertips as the ball went on its way. Fish then caught the 'Noles by surprise on the next rally, taking a full-on swing on 2 for the kill to give Virginia Tech a 6-4 lead. At 8-6, McKinzie scored a kill that reminded once of those awful let-serve aces, as it drilled the net at first but still rolled over. It's tough to be in position to block something like that, and the Seminoles indeed didn't. 10-7 was a good rally, as the Hokies kept hitting straight into Seminole block touches, but kept the ball alive each time. Eventually they got one over, and Florida State went to Elise Walch on the outside in response, but she hit long. A service ace for Beckwith on the next ball made it a five-point lead at 12-7, and the Seminoles called time. Another Seminole hitting error on the next rally made it a six-point set. The 13-7 rally looked like it should have terminated in favour of the Seminoles a few different times, but some fine Hokie defence kept the ball alive. Finally, Florida State claimed the point with a left-side double block. Hamsher emphatically got it back on the next rally, spiking down an over-dig from Mosher with such authority that it got the home fans up and shouting. At 15-10, Fish tried to send the ball over on 2 on a traditional setter dump, but Neff was having none of it. She was all over the ball, sending it straight back to sender for the Seminole point. At 16-11, Hamsher served up one that Florida State again overpassed, leading to a dainty little touch on the other side for Samson-Akpan. But that's all that was needed. She got the kill, extending the Hokie lead to 17-11, and Chris Poole called his last timeout. Florida State got the first-ball sideout after the timeout, with a hit that rode the net for a moment before it fell on the VA Tech side. A hitting error from Samson-Akpan brought the Seminoles back within four on 18-14, and there was kind of a nervous moment in the arena. Caine got the Hokies a much-needed sideout on the next ball, and Chris Riley held on to a timeout he likely may have called had the point gone the other way (big difference between 19-14 and 18-15). The Hokies reached 20 first at 20-15, on another big kill by Caine. Their lead held at five to 21-16, when the Seminoles got two quick ones on blocks to close within three. Sure enough, Riley called time there. VA Tech got their first-ball sideout after the timeout. Burrington ran off the playing court to try to track the ball down and very nearly biff'd it on a courtside table (not the scorer's table; it was the opposite side. Just your basic table, really). A dodgy pass by the Hokie back row counted as an ace for the Seminoles to make it a two-point set at 22-20. Hamsher got her side a huge point with a soft little tip making it 23-20 (even bigger difference between 23-20 and 22-21). At 23-20, the Hokies made the kind of sub you see a lot more in the men's game -- they subbed out their setter for a pure blocker. The play didn't really result like that, but it did end in a Hokie point, making it set point on 24-20. Nicole Walch staved off the first set point, but Sam Gostling's block-out kill on 24-21 ended the set in favour of the homestanding Hokies. The first point of set 4 was contentious, with Gostling hitting out, but also with the up referee ruling that it hit hands on its way out. The Seminoles protested a moment, an exercise in futility to be sure. A cut shot from the Florida State left side rode the net a moment and landed out of bounds, giving the Hokies the first true lead on 3-1. It was quickly erased, as the Seminoles equalised at 3-all, but then it was re-established at 5-3 following a service ace from Beckwith. A tough serve from Owens led to a difficult hit on the Florida State side that arched high and landed out back on the Virginia Tech side. Seconds later, Gostling slammed home an overpass, and the Hokies led 9-5 at Florida State's timeout. The run continued unabated, as another great serve from Owens completely disrupted the Seminoles, leading to a bad hit and a block on the Hokie side. The Seminole back row passed Owens better on 10-5, leading to a long rally, but the point still went Virginia Tech's way. It was eventually Hamsher who terminated. Finally, a service error ended Owens' service run. At 11-6, a rare blocking error from Burrington had the Hokies doubled up on the Seminoles. An unforced error on the next rally made it 13-6 VA Tech. A middle block for Samson-Akpan, and the house was rockin'. Florida State called their second and final timeout staring up at a very large deficit. The run kept going. Samson-Akpan smacked a big kill to bring the Hokie lead up to nine. Finally, a little 'campfire defence' was what it took for the Seminoles to get their sideout, ending an 8-1 run for Virginia Tech. At 16-7, it looked like Florida State got a point back, with Samson-Akpan's hit landing obviously wide, but a net touch was called against Neff. The teams mostly traded points the rest of the way, leading to a gawdy fourth-set final. Virginia Tech d. #21 Florida State (25-21, 20-25, 25-21, 25-15) Well that got ugly at the end. For three sets it was very much the match I was expecting. Then it got clownshoes. (That's totally a word, by the way) I'm not sure what exactly happened there in set four other than a lot of Florida State miscues piling up. They were hitting .411 at intermission, but finished at .240. Which is still not bad -- you can win hitting at that clip, certainly -- but it's a huge dropoff from where they were. Somehow, the Hokies were only credited with 7 total service aces. It felt like there were twice that, in the course of watching the match. I suppose some were un-returned balls scored some other way than ace (a hitting error or a ball handling error, perhaps). Owens led all scorers with 19 kills. I should have used Gostling's name far more than I did, as she was next-best at 16. She got most of boring sideouts I tend to gloss over. Nicole Walch led for the Seminoles with 12; sister Elise had 11. It's interesting looking at the game trends on the stat sheet -- set 2, which Florida State won, was the only one in which they ever held a lead. Next up is a four-match road swing for the Hokies, to North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, and Virginia. If they can win three of those, I think they're in. If they lose three or more, I think they're out. 2-2 and it's still a very tough call. The Seminoles take the short trip to Miami next week and then finish their season with five in a row at home.
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