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GREENSBORO, N.C. – For the first time in history, an Atlantic Coast Conference volleyball team is playing on the final weekend of the season. No. 12 Florida State’s five-set win over No. 4 Iowa State last Saturday clinched the first berth in the national semifinals for an ACC squad.
The Seminoles will play ninth-ranked UCLA on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m., at San Antonio, Texas., for the right to play in Saturday’s national championship game against the winner of No. 3 Illinois and No. 7 USC. All three matches will take place in the Alamodome and will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.
Florida State reached the semifinals after beating Albany (3-0), Cincinnati (3-2), No. 5 Purdue (3-1), and No. 4 Iowa State (3-2). UCLA beat Maryland Eastern Shore (3-0), San Diego (3-1), No. 8 Penn State (3-0), and No. 1 Texas (3-1) to earn a trip to San Antonio. The two teams have faced five times previously, with the most recent match taking place in 1996. The Bruins have won all five meetings, four of which were on a neutral court.
The Seminoles also reached the regional final in 2009 in Minneapolis, but they lost to Minnesota in four sets to fall just short of the national semifinals. This year, they didn’t let history repeat itself in the same city as two years ago.
"I think we panicked a little two years ago. It was our first experience,” said head coach Chris Poole. “We went from being in an NCAA Tournament one time in 10 years to suddenly finding ourselves in the Elite Eight. It happened so fast that I think they panicked when they got there. We were fighting everything. I think the returning players learned from that. They learned not to panic."
Florida State is now 9-13 all-time in NCAA Tournament play. The Seminoles have five wins over nationally ranked opponents and are 13-6 against 15 teams that made the NCAA Tournament this season.
"There is no way to put it into words,” said senior outside hitter Jekaterina Stepanova. “For me it's very important, because this is my last season. I'm leaving volleyball, so this is the season when I'm ending my volleyball career. So every game is so important. It's incredible."