Volleyball preview: Flush with newcomers, FSU opens vs. top-5 teams

The Florida State volleyball team features 11 newcomers on a 17-player roster.

And the Seminoles will quickly get a gauge on how well they have been able to blend the veterans, freshmen and transfers when they open the season against a pair of top-5 opponents.

FSU will play No. 5 Wisconsin on Friday at 3:30 p.m. and No. 3 Minnesota on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Chapel Hill, N.C.

“From the very beginning of the season it allows us to be able to go on the court and play against the best,” FSU coach Chris Poole said. “And if you play against teams that are among the highest (ranked) in the country, you learn a lot about your team. You learn a lot about what your strengths and weaknesses are.”

A strength for FSU is the talent and experience of veterans like senior outside hitter Payton Caffrey, the ACC’s player of the year in 2018, as well as senior libero Madison Sullivan and junior middle blocker Taryn Knuth.

The presence of the veterans will help anchor a roster that now includes eight freshmen and three transfers.

“It is huge for us upperclassmen to step up because we set the standards for everything,” Caffrey said. “Whatever we set, they are going to follow.”

But FSU also had a jump start on building chemistry over the summer. The Seminoles traveled to Italy, Slovenia and Austria from June 22-July 2, playing five exhibition matches against club and federation teams. Those matches, as well as sightseeing excursions, were part of a two-week bonding that could be invaluable.

“It definitely helped with chemistry,” Caffrey said. “I feel like they have been here since December. We formed that bond with each other. We’re like sisters.”

Caffrey joked that she doesn’t envy her coach’s job, that of trying to figure out lineups and rotations. Poole said he is excited to see how the pieces fit and how the newcomers perform in matches against some of the nation’s best.

One newcomer to watch is Jasmyn Martin, a 6-3 middle hitter who played two seasons at Minnesota.

“She is that X-factor,” Poole said. “We’re still trying to figure out exactly where to use her and how to user her because she is so dynamic and she has so much potential to be an enforcer for us.”

Both of FSU’s matches in North Carolina will stream live on ACC Network Extra, which is available only if your provider has made an agreement to carry the ACC Network. 

FSU will play its first five matches on the road before returning home to face Stony Brook on Sept. 13. The Seminoles will play crosstown rival Florida A&M the next day and then travel to Florida on Sept. 17.

Among the biggest home matches will be a showdown with defending ACC champion Pittsburgh on Oct. 6 and a rivalry matchup with Miami on Oct. 30.

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