Dec. 5, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With a spot in the Sweet Sixteen on the line, Alabama fell short of a victory in the NCAA Tournament Second Round, as the winningest season in Crimson Tide history ended in a 3-0 loss to No. 6 Florida State on Friday night.
“We played an extremely talented Florida State team that is extremely well balanced offensively,” said Head Coach Ed Allen. “They did a great job defending and were a big presence at the net. That really forced our attackers to have to think about some things and alter some shots that led to some unforced hitting errors. They may be as solid of a team that we have played all year long.”
Alabama (26-8) set many milestones during the 2014 season, including the most wins in school history, the first NCAA Tournament victory and two home attendance records. Individually, junior setter Sierra Wilson finished the season with 1,529 assists after earning 30 in Friday’s match, setting a new single-season school record as the only player in school history with over 1,500 assists in a single season. Krystal Rivers knocked in a team-leading 12 kills on Friday to bring her season total to 557, which ranks eighth all-time in single-season school history. Kat Hutson concludes her impressive freshman campaign with 475 kills, which is 12th in school history.
“First of all, it’s great to set the school record for wins, especially with this team,” said Rivers. “I think one thing to be proud of is that we have talked a lot about how young this team has been. We’ve had some difficult moments that we could have laid down, being such a young team, but we bounced back and we were able to grow. We grew a lot this season and that is one thing that I am proud of.”
“This year we improved on our blocking,” said Brittany Thomas when asked about this team’s progression through the season. “I would say that would be number one and I think we got a lot of touches in the back row as well so we improved on defense as a whole. Next year I think we can also improve on that even more because that’s a skill that can always get better and definitely cleaning up the smaller things and not letting that slip when we are in tough situations or even in easier situations.”
Florida State (30-2) was led offensively by Nicole Walch with 13 kills and a .522 hitting percentage, while Sarah Burrington was also in double-digits with 11 kills. The Seminoles hit .427 as a team and stuffed five team blocks, led by Burrington with three.
“When you look at the runs that we generated, they had more to do with what we did at the service line and our ability to pressure at the service line,” said Allen. “What made it difficult is the fact that Florida State has great size and athleticism across the net that forced some of our hitters to think about some of the shots. Again, as we look at the stats sheet, we had 11 kills and five errors in the first set and you take the third set and we’ve got 12 kills and six errors. There are just too many errors for the number of kills that we’re generating. Again, a great deal of that had to do with how talented of a team Florida State is.”
The contest was close early on, as Alabama saw its initial lead erased, falling behind 7-6, before coming back to retake the lead shortly thereafter at 11-10. The Seminoles quickly pulled back ahead, scoring five unanswered points to make the score 15-11 as the Tide took a timeout. Florida State continued to widen the gap, scoring a service ace to make the score 20-14 as Alabama took its final timeout. The Seminoles would reach set point, 24-17, and the Tide would score a point but Florida State would go on to win the set, 25-18.
The Seminoles jumped ahead 6-3 early in the second set, but a kill by Thomas and an ace by Rivers cut the lead to just one point as Florida State took a timeout leading 6-5. Alabama would continue to fight, tying the set at 10-10 off a big kill by Rivers and taking an 11-10 lead off a block. The score was tied nine different times after that until Florida State scored back-to-back points to take a 22-20 lead, forcing Alabama to take a timeout. A kill and ace by Rivers would tie it at 22-22, but the Seminoles would respond with two points of their own to reach set point, 24-22, and force the Tide to take its final timeout. A block ended the set as Florida State won, 25-22, to take a 2-0 match lead into intermission.
Trailing 6-3 in the third set, Alabama used a 3-1 run to draw within one point, forcing an early Florida State timeout with the score 7-6. The Tide would fight back to take the lead, 9-8, but the Seminoles soon bounced back to retake a 13-12 lead. An 8-5 run by Florida State would help them widen the gap as Alabama too its final timeout trailing 21-17. Florida State would reach match point, 24-18, and Alabama would score one point but the Seminoles would come away with the 25-19 victory to complete the sweep.
Florida State will advance to play the winner of tonight’s Arizona (24-9) vs. BYU (26-4) match on Friday, Dec. 12 in Seattle, Wash.