The UCF volleyball team battled back from a two-set deficit to defeat UNC Greensboro in thrilling fashion, 3-2 (10-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-19, 15-12), before knocking off South Carolina State, 3-0 (25-13, 25-17, 25-18), to take home the UNC Wilmington/Courtyard by Marriott Tournament title Saturday afternoon and improve its record to 6-0 on the year.
“It is important for us to win tournaments,” head coach Todd Dagenais said. “To be a champion you have to win like a champion and win championships, and we did that this weekend.”
The Knights open the season with six-straight wins for the first time since 1983 and for the first time since playing in the Division I ranks.
Junior Kristin Fisher (Clearwater, Fla.) was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after posting 31 kills, an average of 3.88 per set, 22 digs and 33.0 points during the event. Sophomores Evija Vilde (Riga, Latvia) and Meredith Murphy (Austin, Texas) joined Fisher on the all-tournament team for the second-straight weekend.
“(UNC) Greensboro did a good job of putting Kristin in the position that she had to be perfect to be successful, and it is not fair to ask any player to be perfect,” Dagenais said. “But she found ways to manufacture points even when the shot wasn’t there. She was a stabilizing force and her confidence continues to spread through the team, even at times when we struggled.”
Vilde hit .214 with 30 kills, nine digs and four total blocks during the tournament, while Murphy 39 digs and 11 assists in the trio of contests.
For the second-consecutive year, the Knights fell down two sets to UNC Greensboro in the opening match of the day, and it was déjà vu for both teams as UCF once again battled back to win three sets to complete the come-from-behind rally.
“This was one of those matches where statistics really don’t tell the story because that match was won on shear guts and courage and there is no line in the stat column that reflects that,” Dagenais said. “Greensboro started the match with an excellent game plan and, although we weren’t surprised by it, we had a hard time adjusting to it and they played flawlessly that whole first set.” Down two sets and trailing in the third set by three points, 18-15, the Knights rattled off a 10-4 run to send the contest into a fourth set.
“The run at the end of the third set proved to be the critical point in the match,” Dagenais said. We put some doubt in their minds as to whether they really had control or not.”
The fourth set belonged to the Black and Gold from start to finish. The squad jumped out to an 8-0 lead to open the set and never looked back, holding the lead throughout the entire set.
“In the fourth set, we opened up with a big run and I felt as though we were in complete control, but they showed their heart in coming back,” Dagenais said. “We were able to put together a good spurt at the end to close the door. The whole time we were talking about last year, where we were down 2-0 at their place and were able to come back and win. We used that history as a tool to comfort ourselves and remind the team that it could happen and that we just had stay patient and allow things to work in our favor, and we did that.”
Fisher led all players with 14 kills, while also posting her second double-double of the season with 16 digs. Angelica Crump (Atlanta, Ga.) added a career-best nine kills, while Tory McCutcheon (Milton, Ont.), Vilde and Nichole Riedel (Denver, Colo.) each posted eight kills for the Black and Gold.
Junior Rachel Vukson (Oakville, Ont.) dished out 40 assists, while Murphy and Dani Harrison (Tallahassee, Fla.) totaled 18 and 10 digs, respectively.
UCF did not have long to rest following the thrilling win against the Spartans, as it had to turn around and play South Carolina State less than three hours after the conclusion of the match.
In that contest, the Black and Gold hit .348 with 43 kills as a team. Crump led the offense with a .579 attack percentage and 13 kills, both career highs for the redshirt freshman.
Also coming up big for the Knights offensively were junior Brittanie Wallace (Austin, Texas), Vilde and McCutcheon, who tallied nine, eight and seven kills, respectively. Wallace also added 10 digs and two service aces.
Marie Reiterova (Luxembourg, Luxembourg) totaled 32 assists in her second start as a Knight.
The Knights are set to host the Courtyard by Marriott/UCF Classic at The Venue at UCF Sept. 10-11, where they will host Florida Atlantic, Baylor and Jacksonville.
Season tickets are now available for purchase for only $30 online at UCFAthletics.com or by calling the UCF Athletics Ticket Office at (407) UCF-1000. The Knights are set to host 13 regular-season matches at The Venue at UCF this season, which includes 10 Conference USA contests.