They say there is no better feeling than defeating your rival and the UCF volleyball team proved that once again as it swept USF (25-23, 25-19, 25-23) for the second time this season. The Knights (16-7, 7-3 The American) moved into second place in the American Athletic Conference standings with the victory.
Earlier this season, UCF topped the Bulls (13-11, 7-3), 3-0, on Sept. 27 in front of a record crowd of 1,669 fans at VolleyBowl VI. Friday night’s match was a tightly-contested contest as USF took the Knights to the limit in the first and third sets. However, the Black and Gold’s defense was just too strong as it tied a season-high with 14 blocks while also winning the dig battle, 62-60. The Knights hit well below their season average at just a .162 clip, but responded well by holding USF to just a .101 mark.
“This is one of those matches we’ve prepared for all year long,” UCF head coach Todd Dagenais said. “This was a match that started off with two teams being nervous. I thought we settled in a little bit quicker than they did and we were able to put pressure on them and create some of their errors. The important thing for us is that we were on the road against our arch rival who’s ahead of us in the standings and we handled the pressure of those circumstances extremely well. This was the same type of match to what we had in Houston, but we learned from that experience and applied it to tonight.”
Junior DeLaina Sarden had a monster two-way game as she racked up 13 kills on 24 swings for a .458 attack percentage. The Lawrenceville, Ga., native also picked up a season-high 9 total blocks. Sarden was backed offensively by senior Angelica Crump who blasted 13 kills of her own while shouldering the heaviest offensive load on the team with 47 attempts. Junior setter Marie Reiterova dished out 32 assists while chipping in eight digs and four block assists.
“We were very specific during timeouts with what we wanted to do when we went back out on the floor,” Dagenais said. “Any time we were able to run a set play, or communicate what we wanted our players to do, they went out and executed and I give our team a lot of credit for clearing their minds during timeouts and applying the instructions we gave them.”
Senior defensive specialist Roxy Mendez tied a career-high with a team-best 15 digs while chipping in a service ace. Junior libero Jade Hayes assisted Mendez on the back row as she extended her double-digit digs streak to 18 after digging out 13 attacks. Freshman Taylor Gallart got in on the act defensively with a career-best three block assists.
The Knights get a full week off before heading back out on the road for a pair of conference matches against Rutgers at 7 p.m. next Friday followed by a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. against UConn.