Maffo takes fifth in weight throw as ACC indoors begin

In virtually any other year in the last quarter century, Florida State senior Nadia Maffo’s weight throw personal best mark would have secured a spot on the podium at the ACC Indoor Championships.

Maffo’s fifth-round mark of 20.62 meters (67-8) in Thursday’s opening action at Notre Dame’s Loftus Sports Center came against the deepest and most talented field in conference history. So while strengthening her spot as the No. 3 weight thrower in program history, the second-year transfer was left to settle for an historic consolation prize.

No sixth-place finisher in ACC Indoor Championships history has ever thrown further.

“It is really good for me, but I’m not going to lie, I’m a little bit disappointed because I know I have so much more in me,” Maffo said, after posting the first points of the meet for the Noles. “It’s bittersweet. I’m of course happy because I brought points to the team and I PR’d, but at the same time I know I have so much more in me.

“It’s OK, because I know I’m going to bring that hunger to outdoor.”

The facts don’t lie. From the 1998 meet to Thursday night’s competition, led by four certain NCAA Championship qualifiers, Maffo’s mark would have been good enough to finish in the top three 17 times. It eclipsed the title-winning mark 12 of those years.

“I’m really pleased to see Nadia come through in her final ACC Indoor competition,” Braman said. “She always comes through on the big stage.”

Maffo was able to do it again this time, after some coaching advice in the days leading up to the meet.

“That’s the lesson I’m going to carry outdoor, to stay in the moment instead of dreaming about this big throw,” Maffo said. “You have to stay in the moment for that big throw to happen. That was great advice that I’m going to keep for the rest of the season.”

There were few big moments on the opening day of action. The men’s distance medley relay was disqualified for an early race exchange zone violation, following a dropped baton, which wiped out a sixth-place finish. North Carolina and Pitt were also disqualified.

“Tough break for the men,” Braman said. “I was proud of how they overcame the dropped baton and moved up to sixth, but in the chaos of that first exchange we stepped out of the zone. Lesson learned.”

The FSU women’s distance medley fared only slightly better, placing eighth for a single point, two spots behind their seed.

Dante Newberg started the day off competing in the first four events of the heptathlon. Overcoming a sluggish start, he rallied with third-place finishes in the shot put and high jump and stands fourth in the field of 10 competitors with 2,897 points.

“Dante did a great job and has put himself in position to medal tomorrow,” Braman said.

Newberg will kick off a busy Friday with the 60-meter hurdles at 11 a.m. and finish up with the pole vault and 1,000-meter run.

Friday’s schedule is heavy on qualification rounds, but the Noles will also be pointing to big scoring performances in the finals of the long jump, where top-seeded Isaac Grimes leads is one of four FSU jumpers projected to score.

Among the other finals contested Friday are the women’s high jump and long jump, the men’s high jump – where Caleb Parker is the No. 3 seed – and the 5,000-meter run for men and women. Steven Cross and Silas Griffith lead the men, while Elizabeth Funderburk and Rebecca Clark are the highest seeded women in the longest race of the meet.

The most highly anticipated qualifying races are the women’s 60- and 200-meter dashes, led by Jayla Kirkland and two-time defending MVP Ka’Tia Seymour, as well as the men’s 60-meter dash, led by Taylor Banks and Jhevaughn Matherson.

Trey Cunningham begins his pursuit for a record third-consecutive 60-meter hurdles title alongside Parker, Braxton Canady and Tyricke Highman, who are seeded among the top seven.

ACC Network Extra will stream much of the action Friday and Saturday.

FSU swimming and diving

The No. 14 Florida State men’s swimming and diving team was powered by its sprinters on Thursday night at the ACC Championships at the Greensboro Aquatic Center, winning its second straight 200 free relay title after freshman Peter Varjasi won bronze in the 50 free.

The team of Varjasi, senior Griffin Alaniz along with sophomores Jakub Ksiazek and Max McCusker brought home FSU’s second straight ACC title in the 200 free relay, touching at 1:16.69.

The Seminoles were neck-and-neck with Louisville heading into the final leg where McCusker used his underwater kicks off the turn to propel him into the lead. The Glastonbury, UK, native surged to the finish with a split of 18.93, giving the Noles the gold, lowering their NCAA qualifying time.

“I knew from the individual that my wall was the strongest part of my race,” McCusker said. “So I threw a couple more kicks in and just held on.”

“We had some good 50’s,” FSU head coach Neal Studd said. “But we sat down and watched them all with the guys on the relay and found a few things to tweak. The guys went out and executed the plan perfectly, especially Max on the end where he extended his underwater kicks, which I think made all the difference in the end.”

Varjasi competed in his first individual ACC Championship final after qualifying tied for sixth at 19.52 in prelims.

In finals, Varjasi gained ground off the wall and charged to the finish, to move up and place third at 19.35. The German now owns the seventh fastest time in school history and is the third FSU medalist in the race since 2017.

Florida State had six total swimmers qualify for finals of the 50 free, which was the most at the meet.

In the consolation heat, the Seminoles finished 12th, 13th, and 14th, led by Alaniz (19.61), followed by Ksiazek (19.62) and freshman Ian Cooper (19.69).

Alaniz swam his personal best in prelims at 19.57 and Cooper continued to show improvement by clocking his best time at night after posting a 19.71 in prelims.

Senior Vladimir Stefanik lowered his best time in the C final, touching in 19th at 19.73 ahead of McCusker in 21st at 19.75.

FSU softball

The Seminoles will finally be back in action on Friday as Arkansas hosts the 2020 Wooo Pig Classic on February 28-March 1. The 12-day break between games is the longest in the regular season for the FSU softball program since a 17-day break in the 1999 season from April 17 to May 4.

No. 8 Florida State (7-4) will play a pair of games against No. 19 Baylor (14-2) during the tournament, as well as one game each against Kent State (7-3), No. 21 Arkansas (12-2) and Villanova. The Noles and Bears will play at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, followed with a game against the Golden Flashes at 1:15 p.m. Saturday features another game with Baylor at 11:00 a.m. and an evening constest against the Razorbacks at 5:45 p.m. The Seminoles will wrap the weekend on Sunday against the Wildcats at 11:00 a.m.

“Really looking forward to playing this weekend, as we’ve been off for a little bit,” said FSU head coach Lonni Alameda. “It will be nice to get out there, and during this break we were able to work on a lot of fundamentals in practice. We’ll have another challenging weekend on the road against some ranked teams like we had in Clearwater, and I know the team is excited about the opportunity as well.”

Baylor holds a 2-5 record against FSU in the all-time series, including winning each of the last three matchups, dating back to 1987. The Noles and Bears last played each other in the loser’s bracket at the 2014 Women’s College World Series, with Baylor advancing with a 7-2 victory.

Florida State is 6-1 all-time against Kent State, with the Noles and Golden Flashes last meeting in 2010 as FSU earned a 6-0 win at the NFCA Leadoff Classic. The lone win for Kent State came on March 10, 2006 in a 4-2 victory in Tallahassee.

FSU and Arkansas have only played twice previously, with the Noles posting a 4-0 win in 1997 in Tampa, Fla., and a 9-1 victory in Tallahassee in 2013. Saturday’s game against the Razorbacks marks the first time that the Seminoles have played in Fayetteville, and becomes the 11th SEC team that Florida State has played on the road overall and seventh since 2011, joining Georgia (2011), LSU (2012), Tennessee (2015), Auburn (2016), South Carolina (2017), Alabama (2018) and Florida (2019). Kentucky and Ole Miss are the only two SEC schools that FSU has not yet played on the road.

Florida State and Villanova have only played once, as the Wildcats earned a 3-2 win on February 27, 2000 in a tournament hosted by Florida Atlantic University. The Seminoles are a combined 9-5 all-time against current Big East schools and will also face Creighton later this season.

FSU men’s tennis

The No. 15 Florida State men’s tennis team (9-2, 0-0) heads back to Lake Nona, Fla., this time to take on No. 42 Oklahoma (7-3, 0-0) at 6 p.m. on Friday.  The Seminoles will then travel back to Tallahassee to host No. 46 Georgia Tech (6-4, 0-1) on Sunday at 1 p.m. for the ACC home opener at the Scott Speicher Memorial Tennis Center.

The Garnet and Gold trail 6-2 in the all-time series against Oklahoma.  The last time the two teams met was a season ago in Norman, Okla. when the Sooners won 4-1.  Oklahoma is coached by longtime Florida State assistant Nick Crowell who is now in his fourth season with the Sooners.

Oklahoma is led by their two ranked singles players in Mason Beiler No. 100 and Jake Van Emburgh who is ranked No. 107.

The Seminoles will travel home to host No. 46 Georgia Tech for their ACC home opener on Sunday.  Florida State comes into the match with a 7-0 record at home this season.  The Noles are 36-31 all-time against the Yellow Jackets.  The Noles last took on Georgia Tech a season ago in Atlanta when they fell 4-3 for their first loss of the 2019 ACC play.

The Yellow Jackets are led by their lone ranked player, freshman Andres Martin who is No. 65 in the latest Oracle/ITA rankings. 

FSU women’s tennis

No. 2 Florida State (11-2, 1-1) is back on the road this weekend to take on Florida Gulf Coast (4-4, 0-0) Friday at 10 a.m. and Ohio State (6-3, 0-0) as part of USTA’s College MatchDay Series on Sunday, March 1st 4 p.m.

The Garnet and Gold begin the weekend in Fort Myers, Fla., where they will take on Florida Gulf Coast. Florida State leads the all-time series against the Eagles 3-0. The Noles defeated FGCU 4-0 a season ago at the Scott Speicher Memorial Tennis Center.

The Seminoles will then travel to Lake Nona, Fla. to take part in USTA’s College MatchDay series at the USTA’s National Campus against No. 5 Ohio State (6-3, 0-0). Florida State is 6-1 all-time against the Buckeyes. The two teams last met during the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in 2017 resulting in the Noles first loss against OSU, 4-0.

Tickets are free, but you can reserve them online (https://www.ticketmaster.com/usta-national-campus-tickets-orlando/venue/279662).  First serve of the top-5 matchup is slated for 4 p.m. and will be televised live on the Tennis Channel.

Florida State is coming into this weekend’s match-ups with five top-20 victories in their first 13 matches. The Florida State women’s tennis team remained strong in the rankings this week at No. 2 in the latest Oracle/ITA rankings, which is the highest ranking in program history. The Noles have one singles player in the rankings, senior Nandini Das at No. 83.

In doubles, the Garnet and Gold have three ranked pairs with junior Emmanuelle Salas and freshman Victoria Allen check in at No. 21. Junior Petra Hule also teams up with Allen to form the No. 30th ranked doubles pair. Rounding out the rankings for the Seminoles is the senior duo of Das and Andrea Garcia at No. 58.

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