GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Georgia Southern's string of success on the campus of the Florida Gators came to an end on Thursday at the NCAA volleyball tournament against the Florida State Seminoles.
FSU, the champion of the Atlantic Coast Conference, saw Nicole Welch rack up 15 kills as GSU was overpowered 3-0 at the UF O'Connell Center.
"That was a tough one," first-year GSU coach Dustin Wood said. "They did some things to us that we couldn't adjust to, simple things. We just didn't play well. That's the reality of it. But these are great kids, and I wouldn't trade them for the world."
The third and deciding game was a back and forth affair that saw GSU (28-6) take advantage of nine Florida State errors, but the momentum went back to the Seminoles as they closed with a 8-4 run and took the match with a 25-20 win
Georgia Southern was led by Kym Coley who had 10 kills and a pair of blocks.
"I feel like they played us similar to other teams in the SoCon, Coley said. "Because they set up on the outside and they were more worried about them, that opened some splits and they were open for me."
FSU took its largest lead of the first game, 17-11 on a kill by Elise Walch, forcing a Georgia Southern timeout.
"I'd say the hitters were a lot more powerful than we're used to. They're a lot bigger, and I just don't think we made adjustments when we needed to."
The Seminoles yielded three-straight GSU points, but responded with back-to-back kills by Nicole Walch. The Eagles battled back and cut the lead to 21-18, but FSU took the first game 25-19.
The Eagles came out swinging in the second game and opened with an 8-2 advantage, but chipped away, as GSU led 14-9 midway through. Florida State strung together a 6-0 run that started with a Sarah Burrington kill and ended with three-straight unforced errors by the Eagles.
Georgia Southern had 16 errors through two games to the Seminoles' 12, and had a 23-21 disadvantage after the match.
"I think the different between us and Florida State tonight was the level of play they see night in and night out," Wood said. "Our schedule is going to get tougher next year, a lot tougher, so that's going to help us."
Georgia Southern ends the season with 28 wins, which matches the most in program history.
Florida State advances to take on Florida — which defeated Jacksonville in its opening round match — tonight in Gainesville.
NOTES: The game was Georgia Southern's fourth in the NCAA tournament and first since 2010. The Seminoles beat GSU 3-1 in the 2010 tournament. ... The Eagles are now 0-4 all-time against thr Seminoles. ... Georgia Southern's athletic programs are now 3-3 in Gainesville in 2013. The Eagles got wins over Florida in baseball and football, and a softball no hitter against Hampton in the NCAA tournament.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.