The UCF volleyball team used a productive offensive performance, hitting .423 as a team, to earn a straight set (25-18, 29-27, 25-15) win over Cincinnati in an American Athletic Conference match in Fifth Third Arena on Sunday afternoon. The Knights improved to 15-5 overall, and stand unblemished at 8-0 in The American.
“We played an incredibly efficient offensive match,” UCF head coach Todd Dagenais said “Sunday road wins are hard to come by. The team is excited about what we’ve done so far. I’m feel like we deserve to be where we are at this point.”
After trading points to open the match, UCF broke up a 6-6 tie with a kill from sophomore Kia Bright and took an 8-6 lead on a service ace from sophomore Shelby Foyer. Senior Jade Hayes served up an ace to give the Knights a 10-7 lead and prompt a Cincinnati timeout. The Bearcats came back to tie the set at 16, but a 5-0 UCF run that included kills from seniors Kaye-Alese Green and DeLaina Sarden and junior Abbie Fleener extended the Knights’ lead to five, 21-16. The Black and Gold closed out the opening set with back-to-back blocks from Bright and Sarden to win the first set, 25-18.
The Knights opened the second set with three straight points. A Sarden kill pushed the UCF lead out to 15-9, which Bright followed with an ace to give the Knights a 16-9 lead. The Bearcats battled back, matching the Knights kill for kill to cut the lead to three, 24-21, in favor of UCF. Cincinnati’s Madi Lang tied the set at 25, forcing the set into extra points. Green’s kill was answered with a kill from Emma Roberson to tie the set at 27, but Bright came up with a kill that gave the Knights a 28-27 lead. Bright teamed up with Sarden for a block that gave UCF the 29-27 set win and a two-set lead in the match.
In the third set, Sarden gave the Knights a 2-0 lead before Cincinnati came back to knot the score at 4-4. A kill by Green put UCF up 11-7 and forced a timeout for the Bearcats, but the Knights kept the momentum out of the huddle with a block from Green and Fleener. After giving the Knights a 16-11 lead with a kill, Sarden went back to serve, putting together a string of three points to push the UCF lead to 19-11. Bright slammed consecutive kills, which were followed by back-to-back Cincinnati attack errors that gave UCF the 25-15 set win and the straight set victory over the Bearcats.
“There are still some things that we need to work out,” Dagenais said. “This wasn’t a great all-around match. We were able to buckle down when we needed to. Where we are as a team–mentally, the effort, the energy, the perseverance–is everything I could ever ask for as a coach.”
DeLaina Sarden finished with 16 kills on 19 swings. Her .789 hitting percentage is the sixth-best percentage in a match in UCF history. Sarden also had five blocks and three digs.
“DeLaina found ways to get herself into gaps and the setters found ways to get her the ball,” Dagenais said. “This could be the best offensive match I’ve seen her have; she was outstanding in her decision making. I think she put up national player of the week numbers.”
Kia Bright joined Sarden with double-figure kills, finishing with 13 while hitting .440 and recording five blocks. Senior Marie Reiterova posted her second straight double-double match, recording 24 assists and 10 digs. Jade Hayes posted a match-high 11 digs for the Knights, and junior Dana Faught tallied 20 assists for UCF.